Many of the signature dishes of Hanukkah involve either cheese or frying in oil... Or both! Since I like to have it all, I created these fried sweet cheese and almond dumplings — a luscious dessert — featuring both ingredients. Happily, they are easy to make, requiring no special equipment other than a deep fat thermometer.
Basically, these are blintzes in wonton wrappers. The filling consists of ricotta, cream cheese, eggs, sugar and spritzes of lemon and vanilla, all combined with almond paste. In the olden days, it would have featured farmer's cheese, not ricotta, but the former isn't easy to find in today's supermarkets. If anyone in your home is allergic to nuts, just leave out the almond paste.
As noted, the filling is encased in wonton wrappers, which can be found alongside the grocer's Asian produce, or in the dairy or frozen foods sections. They're a great and versatile item, but they tend to dry out quickly. Be sure to always keep them covered in plastic wrap, unwrapping only a few at a time as you stuff them. This recipe won't require a whole package of wrappers. If you carefully wrap and freeze the unused ones, they'll be good to go in a future recipe.
Shaping the wrappers into triangles is the only time-consuming part of this recipe. You want to be sure to seal the edges of each triangle tightly so that the filling doesn't spill out into the hot oil. The glue is provided by the white of a single egg. If one of your triangles should happen to split as it fries, just lift it out gently, park it on the side until you've finished frying the sealed wontons, then give it another shot in the oil. I discovered that split triangles seem to reseal themselves as they rest.
As always with deep-frying, be sure that your pan is deep and filled with no more than 2 inches of oil, and that the temperature is maintained at 325 F. Also, don't crowd the pan with too many wontons at once; it'll make the temperature dip and you'll end up with soggy triangles.
The raspberry sauce is a speedy little delight made from defrosted frozen raspberries that are crushed, then flavored with a bit of sugar. You're welcome to swap in blueberries, strawberries, finely-chopped peaches, or any of your favorite fruits. If you have the time and inclination to refine this part of the recipe, you can puree the berries, then put them through a sieve to remove the seeds before adding the sugar. Whatever you do, don't skip the sauce; it provides a tart balance to the sweet wontons.
Fried sweet cheese and almond dumplings
Start to finish: 1 1/2 hours
Makes about 36 wontons
1 cup thawed frozen raspberries
2 tablespoons plus 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar, divided
1 1/2 ounces almond paste
4 ounces cream cheese
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 large egg, separated
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Hefty pinch table salt
36 square (3-inch) wonton wrappers
Vegetable or canola oil, for frying
In a small bowl, use a fork to mash the raspberries, then stir in 1 to 2 teaspoons of the sugar, or to taste. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, use a fork to mash the almond paste. Add half the cream cheese and mash until fairly smooth. Add the remaining cream cheese, the ricotta, remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, the egg yolk, lemon zest, vanilla and salt, then mix well (there will still be small lumps of almond paste left in the mixture).
In a small bowl, use a fork to beat the egg white. Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment and sprinkle with cornstarch.
On a cutting board or work surface, arrange several wonton wrappers. Mound 2 level teaspoons of the filling in the middle of each wrapper, then use a pastry brush dipped in the egg white to moisten the edges of the wrappers. Fold one of the corners of each wrapper over the filling until it meets the opposing corner and forms a filled triangle. Press the edges together to form a tight seal, then gently transfer the filled wrappers to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining ingredients. For a video demonstrating this technique, go to https://youtu.be/dETWExFTWKU .
In large, deep saucepan over medium-high, heat 2 inches of oil to 325 F.
When the oil is hot, use a slotted spoon to carefully lower 4 to 5 dumplings into the oil. Fry, carefully turning them several times, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Use the slotted spoon to transfer them to paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining dumplings. When they are all cooked, you can return them briefly to the hot oil in batches, for about 15 seconds, to reheat before serving. Serve hot with the raspberry dipping sauce.
Nutrition information per dumpling: 80 calories; 40 calories from fat (50 percent of total calories); 4.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 70 mg sodium; 7 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 2 g protein.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals" and has written three cookbooks, including "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners."