Frying Up Jelly Donuts for Hanukkah: The Story of Sufganiyot

Photo by Avital Pinnick

Many Jewish holidays revolve around eating specific, traditional foods: matzah for Passover, hamentaschen for Purim and challah bread for Shabbat. On Hanukkah, Jews celebrate the miracle of the long-lasting oil that lit the sacred lamp in an ancient temple. Rabbi John Rosove of Temple Israel of Hollywood explained the significance of oil for the holiday. "The oil of Hanukkah refers popularly to the oil in the Temple that miraculously lasted eight days during a seize in the time of the Maccabees when it was only enough for one." Accordingly, Hanukkah celebrations revolve around the miracle of oil, and the menu features fried foods. Crispy fried potato pancakes take center stage at the beginning of a Hanukkah dinner, and in Israel and elsewhere, jelly donuts, called sufganiyot, are the most popular Hanukkah food.

In the book "The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food," Gil Marks says the earliest record of jelly donuts were in "one of the first cookbooks to be run off Johannes Gutenberg's revolutionary printing press. [T]his tome contained what was then a revolutionary recipe: the first record of a jelly doughnut, 'Gefüllte Krapfen'. This early version consisted of a bit of jam sandwiched between two rounds of yeast bread dough and deep-fried in lard." Marks explain that "In the late 1920s, the Histadrut, the Israeli labor federation, decided to champion the less widespread jelly doughnut as a Hanukkah treat rather than levivot (latkes)."

When searching for the best Israeli style sufganiyot in Los Angeles, all roads lead to Eilat Bakery. Everyone we asked, from chefs to rabbis, recommended Eilat. Their Fairfax Avenue and Pico Boulevard locations are ready to fry donuts around the clock if necessary to meet demand. At Eilat, jelly donuts are made with a yachan flour yeast dough that is not very sweet. A burst of tangy raspberry jelly inside and a dusting of sugar on top provides the sweetness They will be making traditional Israeli style glatt kosher jelly donuts (filled with the traditional raspberry jelly, as well as chocolate and custard varieties) until the end of Hanukkah.

For delicious jelly donuts that are not necessarily kosher, VG's in Cardiff also came highly recommended. They make donuts filled with strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, and lemon. Primo's, Stan's, and Bob's offer their version of a regular jelly donuts all year too.



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