Israeli Food: Donuts

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It all started with a Doughnut? Or donut? Both. If you want to get technical, the correct spelling is doughnut. The word was shortened to donut in the US, allowing these fried balls of dough to be more marketable and easier to use in advertising (think Dunkin Donuts). More proof that our society is getting lazier with age.

An even older version of the word is doughnaught which means “dough zero”. Did they used to be made out of solely jam and frosting?
Anyway, for the sake of this piece of writing, I’ll stick with donut.

Sufganiyot, a traditional food for Hanukkah which will be seen across Israel during December, by Avital Pinnick on Flickr
Sufganiyot, a traditional food for Hanukkah which will be seen across Israel during December, by Avital Pinnick on Flickr

The Hebrew word for donut, is Sufganiya, derived from the Hebrew word for sponge (sfog) because of its sponge-like texture.

Coming up soon, all around the world the festival of Chanukah (Hanukah) will be celebrated. Instead of one day of presents, we get 8 crazyy nights. In a months time, the streets will be lit up with Menorahs while the bakeries are already bursting with colourful designer donuts throughout the past month.

Chanukah is one of those festivals where the focus is all about the miracle. The Miracle of Lights. Coincidently it falls out around the same time as Christmas, but really has nothing to do with it. Oddly enough, it also happens to be one of the festivals that no one seems to remember the actual story. So here it is in short:

In 165 BCE, a small group of Jews rebelled against the Syrian-Greek King Antiochus. At the time, the King had banned many Jewish practices and introduced idol worship in the Jewish temple. Antiochus and his army were destroyed by this small band of rebels (known as the Macabees), and the defiled Temple was brought back to its original state. Chanukah literally means dedication – referring to the re-dedication of the temple in J.town following the Jewish victory over the Syrian- Greeks.

At this point of the tale you may be thinking, where do lights fit in? When the Macabees were attempting to re-purify the temple, they planned to light the Temples Menorah with ritual oil for 8 days. To their dismay, they discovered that there was only enough oil for one day. They lit the Menorah, regardless of this, and hey presto – the small amount of oil lasted for 8 days! And that – is the miracle of Chanukah. So we celebrate this festival with lots of oil – oil in the Menorah and oil in our foods. Donuts just happen to be one of the many oily foods we enjoy.

Where to get your donuts?

Depends whether or not you are looking for top-of-the class donuts, or classic old-school sufganiyot.

Try out Roladin, English Cakes and Neeman Bakery if you’re curious to know what bamba flavoured, cappuccino, chalva or vodka/chocolate infused donuts taste like. If you prefer the more traditional version, where else to go – but Machane Yehuda, where you will find donuts that cost a lot less and unsurprisingly filled with jelly or caramel.

How to make your own at home?

It’s hardly worth the time and effort (and amount of oil) where there are so many donuts readily available. But. If you are feeling adventurous here goes:

1 tbsp yeast
4 tbsp caster sugar
150ml/5¼fl oz milk, warmed
225g/8oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
¼ tsp salt
50g/2oz butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
300ml/10½fl oz vegetable oil, for deep-frying
jam/jelly/caramel/chocolate/chalva/peanut butter – whatever filling you prefer!

Mix the yeast with half a teaspoon of the sugar and two tablespoons of the warm milk. Place in a warm place to rest for 15 minutes, or until frothy.

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Stir in one tablespoon of the sugar.

Make a well in the flour and pour in the yeast mix, the rest of the milk, the melted butter and the egg. Mix to make a dough and then knead, cover the bowl and leave to stand for 45 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.

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