Zalabia are puffy fritters soaked in syrup that are popular in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries. The dough is usually colored red or yellow to express joy and happiness, and the fritters are sometimes sprinkled with sugar or cinnamon.
In Lebanon, it is preferred to dip their Zalabia in halvah, a mixture of ground sesame seeds and honey. In some places, Zalabia is still called by its medieval name, Luqmat el Qadi, which means "judge's mouthfuls".
For the fritters:
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 cup water
1-1/4 cups milk
3-1/2 cups flour
For the syrup:
2-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/4 cups water
1-1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp rose water
1 tsp orange flower water
For the top:
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water (110 degrees) and stir until yeast is dissolved. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Place in a warm spot for about 20 minutes or until the mixture becomes frothy. While the yeast is activating, heat the 1 cup water and the milk until it is warm -- not hot. Remove from heat. When the yeast mixture is ready, stir the milk mixture in to the yeast mixture.
Sift or whisk the flour into a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture to the flour, stirring constantly. Cover the bowl with a warm, damp cloth and set it in a warm place for one hour.
To make the syrup, combine the sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and the sugar is dissolved. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the rose water and orange flower water. Allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate.
After one hour, the dough should have risen and will be bubbly. Stir the dough until the bubbles are gone. Cover again with a warm, damp cloth and set it back in a warm place for one more hour.
Pour enough oil into a heavy saucepan or wok until the oil is at least 1-1/2" deep or heat a deep fryer. Place over medium heat until the oil is hot but not smoking. Drop the dough into the hot oil in teaspoonfuls, making about four fritters at a time. When they become golden brown on one side, turn them over to brown on the other side. Remove with tongs and drain on paper towels.
When you are finished frying the fritters, dip each fritter into the cold syrup.
In a small bowl, mix the topping sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the fritters.