Sufganiyah (Hebrew: סופגנייה or סופגניה [ˌsuf.ɡan.iˈah]; plural: sufganiyot, Hebrew: סופגניות [ˌsuf.ɡan.iˈot]; Arabic: سوفغنية) is a round jelly doughnut eaten in Israel and around the world on the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. The doughnut is deep-fried, filled with jam or custard, and then topped with powdered sugar.
|Place of origin||Israel|
|Main ingredients||Dough, jelly or custard, powdered sugar|
The Hebrew word sufganiyah is a neologism for pastry, based on the Talmudic words sofgan and sfogga, which refer to a "spongy dough". The word has also been compared to the Modern Hebrew word for sponge (sfog, Hebrew: ספוג; isfanj, Arabic: إسْفَنْج). Sfenj, a Maghrebi doughnut, comes from the same root.
A popular Israeli folktale holds that the word "sufganiyah" comes from the Hebrew expression "Sof Gan Yud-Heh" ("סוף גן יה"), meaning "the end of the Garden of the Lord" (referring to the Garden of Eden). According to the legend, when Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden by the Lord, He cheered them up by feeding them sufganiyot. No known commentator on the Tanakh supports this interpretation.
On Hanukkah, Jews observe the custom of eating fried foods in commemoration of the miracle associated with the Temple oil. The tradition of eating deep-fried pastries on Hanukkah was considered ancient even in the time of the 12th-century rabbi Maimonides, whose father, Rabbi Maimon ben Yosef, wrote that "one must not make light of the custom of eating sofganim [fried fritters] on Chanukah. It is a custom of the Kadmonim [the ancient ones]". These sofganim were likely syrup-soaked fried cakes, akin to modern zalabiya in the Arab world. Pastries similar to sufganiyot were prepared in the Jewish diaspora before the advent of the state of Israel. These were called bimuelos by Sephardi Jews, and ponchiks (Russian: Пончик) by Ashkenazi Jews.
Until the 1920s, sufganiyot and latkes were of comparable popularity in Palestine during Hanukkah. The Histadrut, Israel's national labor union formed in 1920, pushed to replace the homemade latke with the sufganiyah as Israel's quintessential Hanukkah food in order to provide more work for its members. Commercial bakeries began selling sufganiyot days and weeks before Hanukkah began, lengthening the employment period. Their effort was successful, and sufganiyot became the most popular food for Hanukkah in Israel. Some sources report that something similar happened with sfenj and sufganiyot, though this is less well-supported. By the 21st century, more Israeli Jews report eating sufganiyot on Hanukkah than fasting on Yom Kippur.
The ponchik-style sufganiyah was originally made from two circles of dough surrounding a jelly filling, stuck together and fried in one piece. Although this method is still practiced, an easier technique commonly used today is to deep-fry whole balls of dough, and then inject them with a filling through a baker's syringe (or a special industrial machine).
Modern-day sufganiyot in Israel are made from sweet yeast dough, filled with plain red jelly (usually strawberry, sometimes raspberry), and topped with powdered sugar. They cost about $0.30 each. More expensive versions (priced at up to $3 per sufganiyah) are stuffed with dulce de leche, chocolate cream, vanilla cream, cappuccino, halva, creme espresso, chocolate truffle, or araq, and topped with various extravagant toppings, from coconut shavings and tiny vials of liquor to meringue and fruit pastes. In 2014 one Jerusalem bakery produced sufganiyah dough saturated with flavored vodka.
Bakeries and grocery stores build excitement for the approaching holiday by selling sufganiyot individually and by the box; they have become a favorite for school and office parties. Angel Bakeries, the largest bakery in Israel, reportedly fries up more than 25,000 sufganiyot every day during the eight-day Hanukkah festival. Each batch uses 100 kilograms of dough and makes 1,600 sufganiyot. Local newspapers add to the excitement by rating the "best sufganiyah in town".
The Ministry of Defense buys upwards of 400,000 sufganiyot for its soldiers each Hanukkah. As the troops overwhelmingly prefer jelly-filled doughnuts, the Defense Ministry purchases 80% with jelly filling and 20% with chocolate filling.
In 2016, Israeli bakeries began downsizing sufganiyot to appeal to health-conscious consumers, following an anti-junk food campaign by Health Minister Yaakov Litzman. The usual 100-gram (3.5 oz) size, packing 400 to 600 calories (1,700 to 2,500 kJ), now appears in 50-gram (1.8 oz) size with different fillings and toppings, earning the name "mini."
Savory sufganiyot, though rare, do exist. Versions include:
- Panzerotti in Italy, filled with mozzarella and tomato sauce.
- Lachmazikas in Spain, filled with everything from lamb and mushrooms to whitefish, ricotta, peppers, and herbs.
- Sambusa-inspired savory sufganiyot, filled with lentils and peas, are popular among Iraqi Jews in Israel.
- "SufganiKing," sold by Burger King in Israel for Hanukkah 2016: a hamburger, complete with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and ketchup, inside an enormous sufganiyah, though this "sufganiyah" was merely unfilled, sweetened puff pastry. The "SufganiKing" sold for NIS 14.90 ($3.87).
Sufganiyot from a bakery in Jerusalem
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