Sfenj is a fritter-like Moroccan doughnut made from a sticky, unsweetened leavened dough. Once it has risen, handfuls of dough are shaped into rings and deep fried until golden and crispy with a chewy, fluffy interior.
- In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in a little warm water and set aside to proof for 10 or 15 minutes.
- In a large bowl or, combine the flour with the salt. Add the water and yeast mixture, and stir vigorously with your hand or a heavy wooden spoon until smooth. The dough should be too sticky to knead or shape, almost like a thick batter.
- Cover the bowl with a towel and leave the dough to rise for three to four hours, until double or triple in bulk.
- In a wide, deep pot, heat an inch or more of vegetable oil over medium heat until hot.
- Set out a bowl of water. Dip your hands in the water, then pull off a piece of dough about the size of a small plum. Use your fingers to make a hole in the ball of dough, stretch the hole wide to make a ring, and place the dough in the hot oil.
- Repeat with additional portions of dough, until you've added as many sfenj as will fit comfortably in your pot. Wet your hands as necessary to keep the dough from sticking as you work with it.
- Fry the sfenj until golden brown, turning once or twice. Remove the cooked sfenj to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
- Repeat the shaping and frying until you've used up all the dough.
- If desired, garnish the hot sfenj by dipping in granulated sugar or by dusting with powdered sugar.
- Serve the sfenj hot or warm; they lose their texture and appeal when cold.
- Sfenj will not stay fresh very long at room temperature. It's best to freeze leftover sfenj and then reheat in the oven when needed.
The dough for sfenj should be quite sticky. Allow 3 to 4 hours rising time.
Sfenj is best enjoyed piping hot or warm, so if they've cooled before serving time, do reheat them briefly in the oven. They may be served plain or dusted with sugar, for breakfast or tea time. Moroccan Mint Tea is the typical beverage of choice.
In Morocco the task of making sfenj is usually left to street vendors, who cook your order on the spot, often using skewers to remove the freshly made sfenj from the oil. For extra crispy texture, some customers request that the cooked doughnuts be flattened or smashed and returned to the oil for a second frying.