Sweet, oily, and yummy!

Sweet, oily, and yummy!

Today our focus is on the sufganiyot (Sg. sufganiya), the symbol of the world renowned Hanukkah festival. They are sweet and greasy donuts filled with jam and covered with icing sugar.

What is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is as well the festival of oil as the festival of light. Although this is not a biblical-religious festival, it is still celebrated every year by most Jews. According to legend, the origin of the festival can be traced back to the Jewish year 3597 or 164 BCE. In that year, the second temple in Jerusalem was consecrated and inside it was the menorah, a seven-branched candelabrum that must shine at all times of the day and night. However, there was only one consecrated barrel of oil, which originally could only last one day to light the candles. A miracle happened and the oil lasted for eight days, during which the Jews had enough time to make new oil. To remember this miracle hanukkah is celebrated every year and it is a festival for both the religious and the non-religious.

This festival is all about oil and that’s the reason why you eat fried food on Hanukkah. Whether savoury or sweet, these days are greasy and delicious, and one should definitely not diet during this week. 

Origin and meaning of the sufganiyot:

The origin of the sufganiyot lays in Germany because the first recipe of the so-called „Berliner“ or also „Krapfen“ was found in a german cookbook named „Kuchenmeisterei“ from the year 1485. In Germany, this sweet pastry is eaten during the carnival season. Presumably, this cookbook has been translated into Polish in 1532, and this is how the recipe started to be spread throughout Europe. Due to the Second World War, the Jews had to flee and spread all over the world. They took this recipe with them and they carried it to Israel so the original Berliners suddenly became sufganiyot and symbol of Hanukkah. 

Where does this name come from?

Like many words in Hebrew, this word has a specific meaning and origin. There are many different, sometimes more sometimes less comprehensible explanations.

On the one hand, there is a folk tale that says that the good Lord gave Adam and Eve sufganiyot to amuse and strengthen them after their banishment from the garden of Eden. This explanation is certainly not really meant seriously, yet I find it very funny and worth mentioning. On the other hand, there is also a somewhat well-founded explanation. The Hebrew word סְפוֹג („sfog“) means sponge and the suffix -ia is used to form the diminutive. So this pastry is called „little sponge“ (sufganiya).

How should a good sufganiya be like?

There are already big differences in the consistency of the dough. From soft, fluffy, and juicy to rubbery and dry. The frying oil also plays a very important role, because the dough naturally takes on the flavour of the oil. A sufganiya should not be too greasy and should not taste too intensely of oil. Furthermore, there are also many different ways to fill the sufganyia. Traditionally, it is filled with red jam. Most sufganiya are not really „filled“, but the jam, vanilla, or chocolate cream are on top of the sufganiya rather than inside. Personally, I love it when the sufganiya is stuffed with the filling but that is also a matter of taste. In recent years, there has been a big hype about sufganiyot and now there are many bakeries that sell very expensive and extravagant sufganiyot.

For those who find it too unhealthy, there is also a healthy version of baked and not deep-fried sufganiyot. I got a taste of this healthy version through a friend who baked her own sufganiyot, especially for Hanukkah.

If you’re coming to Israel for Hanukkah, definitely be prepared for it to be greasy and delicious. But it also means that you certainly won’t lose weight… 

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