Recipes for the Soul: Bimuelos & Bola
Try a selection of sweet dough recipes whose Jewish inspiration is drawn from the East End to the Middle East
Bimuelos are the Sephardic version of Chanukah doughnuts – fluffy dough fritters soaked in a honey and rose syrup.
Makes around 40
Ingredients: 350g plain flour; 7g instant yeast; 1 tsp salt; 200ml milk; 1 egg, beaten; 1 litre groundnut or sunflower oil, for frying, plus extra for greasing.
For the syrup: 200g sugar; 125ml honey; 250ml water; 1 tbsp rose water
In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast and salt. Make a well in the centre and gradually add the milk and the egg until a sticky dough is formed. This can all be done by hand with a wooden spoon, but it’s easier in a freestanding mixer if you have one.
Tip the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with oiled cling film and leave somewhere warm for about an hour, until doubled in volume.
Meanwhile, make the syrup. Bring the sugar, honey and water to the boil in a pan. Bubble for 5 minutes or so until the consistency is syrupy. Add the rose water and set aside.
About 10 minutes before you want to cook the bimuelos, start heating the oil in a saucepan until a thermometer shows between 185°C and 190°C, or a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns brown in 40 seconds.
Gently drop spoonfuls of the batter into the hot oil. Do not overcrowd the pan. Turn after 30 seconds and remove when the bimuelos are golden and puffy and float in the oil.
Drain on kitchen paper, then place on a serving dish. Pour the syrup over the bimuelos and serve immediately.
Place on the lined sheet, then bake for 20 minutes, until they are a deep tan colour and crispy on the outside. Cool on a wire rack, then eat.
The word ‘bola’ is used to describe various Sephardic cakes and pastries, in particular a richly fruited yeast cake often eaten on Jewish holidays. When the Jews of Spain were expelled in the fifteenth century, many moved to Holland, and from there to England in the seventeenth century, and bola became an Ashkenazi as well as a Sephardic favourite. My paternal grandmother, Booba, could trace her roots back to those Dutch settlers and used to make a cake similar to this one, which is flavoured with ginger, candied peel and ground almonds and is based on a recipe by the great Jewish cooking legend, Florence Greenberg. I’ve added chocolate because it goes well with preserved ginger.
Ingredients: 175g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing; 125g ground almonds; 125g preserved ginger, chopped into small pieces; 85g candied mixed peel, chopped; 85g dark chocolate chips; 25g soft light brown sugar; 2 tsp ground cinnamon grated zest of 1 orange.
For the dough: 450g plain flour, plus extra for dusting; 10g instant yeast; 2 tsp ground ginger; 1 tsp salt; 1 tsp caster sugar; 50g unsalted butter; 250ml lukewarm milk; 2 eggs, beaten.
Grease a 22cm round cake tin with butter.
First, make the dough. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, yeast, ginger, salt and sugar, then rub in the butter. Add the milk and beaten eggs, mix to a soft dough, then knead it for around 10 minutes by machine, or 15 minutes by hand, until you have a smooth and elastic dough.
Roll out the dough and spread it with half the butter. Fold the top third over and the bottom third up to enclose the butter, then roll it out again. Repeat with the rest of the butter. Divide the dough in half and roll each piece into a circle, 22cm in diameter. Line the tin with one of the circles.
In a bowl, mix together the ground almonds, ginger, candied peel, chocolate chips, sugar, cinnamon and orange zest. Cover the dough in the tin with the filling and place the other circle of dough on top. Cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave to rise for around 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6.
When the bola is risen and puffy, bake for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, boil all the ingredients for the syrup in a saucepan for about 10 minutes.
Brush the bola with the syrup, then return to the oven at 160°C/Gas 2 for another 20–30 minutes, until well risen and golden. Drizzle over the remaining syrup, cool for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Serve in wedges.