Israel: Sufganiyot is Hanukkah Tradition

The traditional foods of the Jewish winter festival of Hanukkah incorporate oil as a reference to the oil of the lamps of the ancient Temple of Jerusalem. Especially in the well-known story of the Maccabee Jews reclaiming Jerusalem from the Syrian Greek forces that occupied the land over 2000 years ago, those lamps symbolize everlasting hope.

To capture that hope and the sweetness of Hanukkah, people celebrate the holiday all over the world with Sufganiyot, fried doughnuts filled with custard or jam. While you could just drop by your favorite bakery and pick up a box of Berliners, why not go the extra mile this year and make fresh Sufganiyot at home?


1 package dry yeast

4 tablespoons sugar

3/4 cup lukewarm milk or warm water

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 eggs, separated

2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened

Fruit preserves (any flavor)

Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Start by adding half of your sugar and all of your yeast to the warm milk or water, giving it time to activate (start bubbling). Add salt, egg yolks, cinnamon and remaining sugar to the mixture, then sift in flour. Combine all elements until you have a dough. Don’t forget to save your egg whites in the refrigerator, you’ll need them later.

This is the messy part: Kneading dough, especially when it’s as sweet and gooey as doughnut dough. Consider kneading the dough while wearing kitchen-safe gloves to avoid losing a lot of dough to the dreaded “clumping effect” on your hands. When the dough can form a ball, add your softened butter or margarine to it then continue to knead until everything is combined. Place your ball of dough in a clean bowl, cover it with a towel and let it rise in the refrigerator, preferably overnight.

Roll your risen dough until it’s around 1/8 inch thick, then cut it into 2-inch rounds. The easiest way to do this if you don’t have pastry cutters is to use a juice glass. You should get 24 rounds out of your dough, enough for 12 doughnuts. Add 1/2 teaspoon of your preserves to 12 of the rounds then cover them with the other 12 rounds, gently crimping the edges. Seal the married rounds with your saved egg whites and let your doughnuts-to-be rise in a cool place for 30 minutes.

When it’s time to fry, you’ll need 2 inches of oil heated to 375 degrees in a heavy pan. Don’t overcrowd the pan so your oil doesn’t lose too much heat at once. Turn your doughnuts to brown on both sides. Let the finished doughnuts cool on a rack suspended over paper towel or newspaper to get rid of any excess oil. You can also sprinkle the finished doughnuts with powdered sugar, though this is optional.

All that’s left is to serve your Sufganiyot, perhaps after your Latke and Applesauce dinner. Happy Hanukkah and have a sweet New Year!

Photo: Paul Muses

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