Dov Noy, the dean of Israel’s folklorists, tells a Bukharran fable about sufganiyot. The first sufganiya — from sof, “end,” gan, “garden,” ya, “of God’s” — was given to Adam and Eve after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. This sweet doughnut had three characteristics: it was round like the wheel of fortune, it had to be looked at not for its external qualities but for what was inside, and it could not be enjoyed the same way twice. According to Dr. Noy, this fable had to have been created at about the beginning of the twentieth century, since sufganiya is a new Hebrew word coined by the pioneers.
The sufganiya may be the fruit of the merger of the pfannkuchen, the jelly-filled pastry favored by Austrians and Germans, and the sweet, spongy cookie called sufganne, a fried dough popular along the Mediterranean since the time of the Maccabees.
According to Hebrew dictionaries sufganiyot comes from the Greek sufgan, meaning “puffed and fried”. The closest Greek sweet to the Israeli jelly doughnut rolled in sugar is a doughnut called zvingous. In Ladino, zvingous are called boumwelos. These fried doughnuts, unlike sufganiyot, are dipped in a honey syrup and rolled in crushed walnuts and almonds or nuts and cinnamon. Zvingous and sufganiyot are descended from one of the oldest sweets known to mankind — the Greek loukomades, a sweet fritter dipped in honey-and-sugar syrup. Loukomades were originally wheatcakes fried on an iron grill, then covered with grape-derived molasses and often used for feasts of the gods. The honey syrup used today as a coating on the zvingous was borrowed from the Turks; the cooking method has changed to deep-frying.
Every bakery in Jerusalem, no matter the ethnic origin of the baker, makes these jelly doughnuts for Hanukkah. They used to consist of two rounds of dough sandwiching some jam, and the jam always ran out during the frying. Today, with new injectors on the market, balls of dough can be deep-fried first and then injected with jam before being rolled in sugar. This is a much easier, quicker way of doing them. And no jam escapes.–Joan Nathan
Jelly Doughnuts Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 1 H, 15 M
- 1 H, 45 M
- Makes 24 2-inch-wide doughuts
- 2 scant tablespoons (2 packages) active dry yeast
- 4 tablespoons sugar, plus sugar for rolling
- 3/4 cup lukewarm water or milk
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
- 2 large egg yolks
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter or pareve margarine, at room temperature
- Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- 1/2 cup plum, strawberry, or apricot jam
- 1. Sprinkle the yeast and 2 tablespoons of the sugar into the water or milk and stir to dissolve.
- 2. Place the flour on a work surface and make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture, egg yolks, salt. cinnamon, butter, and the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Knead well, about 5 minutes, working the butter or margarine into the dough and kneading until the dough is elastic. You can also use a food processor fitted with the steel blade to do this, processing about 2 minutes.
- 3. Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise overnight in the refrigerator.
- 4. Sprinkle flour on the work surface. Roll out the dough to an 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 2-inch cookie cutter or floured drinking glass, cut out circles. Let the dough circles rise 15 minutes more.
- 5. With your hands, gently form the dough circles into balls.
- 6. Pour 2 inches of oil into a heavy pot and heat until very hot, about 375°F (190°C).
- 7. Slip the doughnuts into the oil, 4 or 5 at a time, using a slotted spoon. Turn them when brown, after a few minutes, to crisp on the other side. Drain on paper towels.
- 8. Using an injector available at cooking stores, inject a teaspoon of jam into each doughnut. Then roll all of them in granulated sugar and serve immediately. You can make larger sufganiyot if you like.
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Jelly Doughnuts Recipe © 2004 Joan Nathan. All rights reserved.