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What Is a Sfenj?

B. Chisholm
B. Chisholm

Sfenj are doughnuts which are a well-known dish sold by many Moroccan street vendors. Enjoyed as a breakfast or tea time snack by young and old, recipes differ slightly between cooks but share the fact that the batter is unsweetened and does not contain milk or eggs. They are generally enjoyed while still hot and are eaten with mint tea, a traditional Moroccan drink.

The basic ingredients used to make sfenj are flour, yeast, salt and water. The yeast is dissolved in warm water and the dry ingredients sifted into a bowl. A hollow is made in the middle of the dry ingredients where the liquid is added slowly and mixed in. The mixing may be done using a spoon or the hands. The resultant batter should be relatively sticky and not allow shaping.

Sfenji are commonly eaten with a hot beverage.
Sfenji are commonly eaten with a hot beverage.

The sfenj batter is then left to stand for at least three hours to allow the yeast to rise, although some cooks leave the mixture in the fridge overnight. The batter should have doubled to tripled in size once the yeast has risen fully, and should be light and filled with air bubbles.

Sfenji is deep fried in very hot oil. To prevent sticking, the chef's hands should be wet while dividing the dough into plum-sized sections which are then flattened out slightly and the finger pushed through to make a doughnut shape. They are cooked until golden brown and crispy on the outside and then removed from the oil and placed on a paper towel to remove excess oil.

Street vendors all over Morocco and other North African countries sell sfenj, fresh out of the frier. They use skewers to remove the doughnuts from the oil and serve immediately. Some people dip the freshly cooked, slightly cooled sfenj in normal or icing sugar, turning the savory dish into a delicious sweet treat.

There are many variations on the basic recipe including orange flavored sfenjs. In this recipe, orange juice is added to the batter. The freshly-cooked doughnuts are dipped in powdered sugar and orange zest. These are very fragrant and are often served at special occasions or on holiday days.

Most commonly the ritual of eating sfenj, whether for breakfast or as a snack, is accompanied by the drinking of a hot beverage. Morocco is known both for its strong, fragrant coffee and mint tea served in small, decorated glasses.

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    • Sfenji are commonly eaten with a hot beverage.
      By: Warren Goldswain
      Sfenji are commonly eaten with a hot beverage.