Every culture has its own delicacies and sweet treats. Israel's take on doughnuts is called sufganiyot (pronounced Soof-GAA-NEE-yote) — and it's a game changer. Best described as a hybrid between a beignet and a fluffy doughnut, these pastries are fried in oil and typically filled with a raspberry jam or vanilla pastry crème. They're not overly sweet like most doughnuts are, though.
While sufganiyot are typically made around Hanukkah and other Jewish holidays and served alongside staples such as latke and chocolate babka, no one said they can't be enjoyed year-round.
Hanukkah arrives Dec. 18 to kick off eight days of celebrations, scrumptious meals, and family reunions, and making sufganiyot at home is a good way to celebrate the occasion.
We've outlined everything you need to know about the dessert, and what you need to make it at home.
What Exactly Is Sufganiyot, and How Did It Originate?
Derived from the Hebrew word for "sponge," sufganiyot were brought over by Jewish Polish immigrants to Israel in the early 20th century and have since been embraced in Israel and other countries that observe Judaism.
Traditionally, a variety of fried foods are made during Hanukkah to commemorate the miracle of oil that lit a temple menorah (a seven-branched candelabrum): Though the small amount of oil was expected to burn out in just one day, the flame persisted for eight — becoming a symbol of the undying faith of the Jewish people, especially during hardship.
Some digging led me to find that a sufganiyot recipe first appeared in the German cookbook titled "Kuchenmeisterei" – “Mastery of the Kitchen.” in 1485. Back then, the recipe called for two circular pieces of dough and jelly made into a sandwich, which isn't quite a doughnut. By the 19th century, sufganiyot were known as Berliners, or Bismarcks, in Germany and had become popular throughout Europe.
In the 1920s, sufganiyot underwent a makeover in Israel and have since evolved to incorporate all kinds of fillings and toppings, including custard, coconut shavings, dulce de leche, meringues, chocolate, Nutella, and even spiced spirits such as arak.
@therealmelindastrauss These are a type 1 diabetics worst nightmare 😂 I took a lot of insulin to try these! #sufganiyot #donutday #jewishtiktok #hanukkah #jewishfood ♬ GOOD VIBES - Ellen Once Again
How to Make Sufganiyot at Home
It might seem intimidating to tackle sufganiyot at home, as they require dough that rises and deep frying, but you'll be able to make them like a pro by following this recipe from Once Upon a Chef.
Start by mixing warm water and active yeast slowly in a small bowl until they become foamy. Add egg yolks, oil, and vanilla. In a large bowl, prepare your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, and nutmeg) and whisk. Combine the dry and wet, mixing into a sticky dough. Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise for at least one hour (preferably longer to ensure dough has fully risen).
After your dough has risen, use a pizza wheel or knife to cut it into 2-inch squares. Sprinkle with flour to prevent sticking. In a Dutch oven or deep pot, heat oil until to 350 degrees. Fry the dough until golden brown (about one to two minutes on each side). Set aside to let cool, and use a knife to puncture each pastry for the filling.
Use a piping bag or squeeze bottle to pipe a filling into each sufganiyot, sprinkle with confectioner's sugar, and you are ready to enjoy! Serve with hot cider or cocoa for an ultra decadent pairing.