Sweet Gnocco Fritto (Fried Cinnamon Raisin Bread Bites)
Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser
Prep Time: 50 minutes Resting and Rising Time: 55 minutes Cook Time: 50 minutes
These tasty tidbits are a wonderful change of pace from the usual doughnut bites! Traditionally, these fried bread pieces are plain and served with savory fillings, but a few recipes suggest that you serve them with honey. With a few culinary twists and turns, they easily became am even more delicious treat. They are yummy on their own and not overly sweet, and in the honey syrup— me-oh-my-oh—they are luscious! Perfect for Chanukah or Rosh Hashanah.
The Bread Bites
¾ cup (150 grams) dried currants (see Kitchen Tips)
¾ cup Sambuca, Ouzo, or other anise-flavored liqueur (see Kitchen Tips)
2 (¼-ounce packets/4½ teaspoons/14 grams) active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk (between 95 to 105°F, see Kitchen Tips)
4½ cups (612 grams) bread flour, plus about 1 tablespoon for dusting
½ cup (102 grams) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground roasted cinnamon or ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon (2 grams) kosher salt
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter, melted
4 to 5 cups olive oil or canola oil or an even mixture of both
The Honey Drizzle
½ cup (168 grams) honey
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons water
- Combine the currants and anise liqueur in a small, nonreactive pot and heat over medium heat until it reaches a hard boil. Turn the heat off, cover, and set aside for 15 to 20 minutes while you prepare the dough.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the yeast and warm milk and mix gently to combine. Let stand for 5 minutes while you put the dry ingredients together.
- Combine 4½ cups bread flour, the sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
- Drain the currants, reserving the liquid in a cup. Reserve the currants in a small bowl and set aside.
- Add half the flour mixture to the mixer and mix to combine. Add the melted butter and mix again to combine. Add the remaining flour mixture, ½ cup at a time, mixing at low speed between additions, just until all of the flour mixture is incorporated. Change to the mixer’s dough hook attachment. Increase the speed to medium-high and knead for 7 minutes, until a dough has formed and it pulls away easily from the side and bottom of the mixer bowl. Add the drained currants and mix for about 1 minute, just to combine.
- Transfer the dough to a large, clean mixing bowl. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and set aside, in a warm (but not hot) spot in the kitchen for 40 minutes. It will not quite double in size—like a usual bread recipe is—and that is just fine.
- When the dough has risen, dust a work surface with the remaining 1 tablespoon flour. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Divide the dough in half. Wrap half in plastic wrap and set aside. Place the other half on the floured surface, and roll out to about ¼ inch thickness. Using a pizza cutter or a long, sharp knife, cut it into 2-inch to 2½-inch wide diamond shapes and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Cover the sheet with a kitchen towel and set aside for 10 to 15 minutes while you heat up the oil.
- Heat the oil in a deep saucepan (the oil should be about 3 inches deep) and affix a kitchen thermometer to it or use an instant-read thermometer. Heat the oil until it reaches 365°F (see Kitchen Tips).
- While the oil is heating, place a cooling rack onto a rimmed baking sheet. Make the honey drizzle by combining the reserved liquid from the currants with the honey, cinnamon stick, and water in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until it boils. Reduce the heat to a simmer, simmer 3 to 5 minutes, turn off the heat, and set aside. With a slotted spoon, remove and discard the cinnamon stick.
- Repeat the cutting process with the remaining dough and set aside for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Add the first batch of bread bites to the oil, 4 to 8 at a time, making sure not to crowd the pan and that they do not touch one another. (The number will depend on the size of your pan.) Cook, turning occasionally with a kitchen spider or heat-proof slotted spoon, for about 4 minutes, until they are a warm brown on both sides and have puffed up. As they are done, transfer them with the kitchen spider or slotted spoon to the prepared cooling rack. Fry the remaining dough in batches. Drizzle with the warm honey sauce or pour it into a serving bowl as a dip. Serve the bread and honey drizzle immediately.
- If you wish, you can use ¾ cup (123 grams) raisins, dark or golden or a mixture of both, but you will have to chop them a bit or they will be too big.
- There are many anise-flavored and infused liqueurs. The one you chose will lean the recipe in other global directions with ease. Looking to go to Greece? Try Ouzo. Looking to head to France? Try Pernod Anise or Pernod Ricard Pastis. Looking for an exotic and long-ago-banned liqueur? Try absinthe.
- Yeast is a little living creature, and it needs special handling. You need warm water or milk to activate it and get it started eating and bubbling, but if the liquid is too warm (more than 110°F), you’ll kill it and it simply won’t work at all. Salt is also not its friend, so don’t add until it has some yummy carbs to eat first.
- If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, you can heat the oil over medium heat and carefully drop in a small piece (about an inch square) of bread. If it turns brown all over and floats to the surface in 60 seconds, the oil is about 350 to 365°. If it browns sooner, the temp is higher: 20 seconds and it’s somewhere between 382° and 390°F; 40 seconds and it’s between 365° and 382°F.