Fritters in syrup (zalabia)

Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Yields Makes 96 fritters
Fritters in syrup (zalabia)

Sugar syrup


Place the sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan and simmer until it is thick enough to coat a spoon, about 15 minutes. Add the rose or orange blossom water and simmer a few seconds longer, then remove from the heat and let come to room temperature. Cover while you make the fritters.



Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the half cup of hot water and let stand until it froths, 10 to 15 minutes. Place the flour in a large bowl, mix in the yeast liquid and the salt, then gradually stir in the remaining 2 1/2 cups water and beat vigorously on medium-high speed with an electric mixer until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Cover with a dish towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour, then beat the batter another 10 minutes, and let it rise again for 30 minutes. Beat the batter again for 10 minutes, then let it rest a final time for 30 minutes.


Make the fritters in batches, using 2 skillets at once, if you prefer, to speed up the frying: Fill a deep, nonstick skillet a little more than half full with oil and heat to 375 degrees. Drop little balls of batter by the tablespoon into the oil; you may find it easiest if you dip the spoon in oil first, then fill it with batter using another spoon so that the batter rolls off easily. Wipe the spoon with a damp paper towel after making each ball. Fry the balls, turning them with a slotted spoon to brown them all over, until crisp, golden and puffed, about 7 minutes. Do not crowd the skillet; 6 at a time is a good number. The batter is light and produces irregular, rather than perfectly round, shapes. If the oil is not hot enough to begin with, the batter tends to flatten out.


Lift the fritters out with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels and dip them in the cold syrup for a few seconds (if you prefer, you may leave them longer to soak up syrup). Set them on a wire rack with wax paper underneath to drain. They are at their best hot but are also good cold.

Variation: Instead of dipping the fritters in a sugar syrup, pour a honey syrup over them; make it by heating honey with about half its volume of water. You can also sprinkle the fritters instead with powdered sugar and cinnamon.

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