Baptism by Fryer

A misbegotten first attempt at making sufganiyot

It was 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday and I had already been on the phone with tech support for five hours trying to get wireless internet hooked up in my new apartment. Despairing that I would never again have email access at midnight and beaten down by incomprehensible lingo, I took deep breaths to quell frustration while intermittently intoning, “it’s time to make the doughnuts.” Hanukkah’s on the horizon, after all, and I had decided Sunday would be the day I’d try my hand at making sufganiyot, the jelly-filled treats that, for me, conjure up the eight-day celebration even more than latkes.

As a child and later, as a young woman, I lived in Jerusalem. I remember at Hanukkah time the sweet aroma of fresh doughnuts beckoned from nearly every downtown street corner. It was the one time of year I could imagine abandoning the glazed version, a favorite, for its oozing, interior-filled relative. I can still picture the intersection of King George and Jaffa Streets, where I descended from a bus on the way home from sculpture and Hebrew classes to savor those golden, sugary confections. Even after a week, their allure was hard to resist.

The exact origin of these doughnuts and their association with the Jewish tradition is uncertain. Leviticus makes reference to “unleavened cakes mingled with oil”; Joan Nathan tells of a Bukharan fable in which Adam and Eve partake of these delights after getting the boot from the Garden of Eden; and there is the obvious symbolism of oil-reliant food, since Hanukkah celebrates the miraculous single day’s worth of oil that kept a menorah lit for eight. But in Platonic terms, it’s simply fried dough—aka zeppoli or beignet or loukamades or, in this case, sufganiya.


A comedienne’s special kind of holiday cheer


From Hairspray to Garden State, Jackie Hoffman is often cast in character roles. But starting tonight, she is the star of the show. In Chanukah at Joe’s Pub, she’ll indulge in the same brassy humor she brought to bear in an earlier podcast and offers here three segments from her holiday extravaganza.

Introduced by Blake Eskin.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.