A new immigrant checks out the festival of bites

Thank goodness then that Jewish tradition has blessed us all with sufganiot to enjoy at this time of year.

 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
With the nights drawing in early and the cold causing us all to pull our coats tighter against the wind, this is the season to treat ourselves to something a little bit decadent to usher in a little cheeriness. Thank goodness then that Jewish tradition has blessed us all with sufganiot to enjoy at this time of year.
As a new olah experiencing my first Hanukkah in the land of miracles – and therefore a taste-tester fresh to the sufgania scene – I have been assigned to share my first impressions of what’s tasty. Here is my report:
IN CENTRAL Jerusalem we are spoiled for choice, but that doesn’t stop there being a queue outside Kadosh on Shlomtzion Hamalka Street, just off Jaffa Road. This café pâtissier is styled much like a French café with decadent pastries laid out on glass platters in the window, but everyone is here for only one thing: the rows of sufganiot laid out in front of the bar. The waitress takes us through the cream-filling options: Chestnut, Chocolate, Cherry, Forest Fruits, Caramel and more besides, all topped off with a bite-sized delight to match.
The Cherry is yummy, just the right ratio of crème to doughnut to satisfy without being too heavy. The Chestnut is even better, rich, warm, velvety and perfectly matched by a little toffee square. We lick our fingers guiltily, shiver against the cold – coronavirus restrictions mean seating is now outside – and move on to our next destination.
Gagou de Paris is another French patisserie, this time on King George Street, again just off Jaffa. Whereas Kadosh has embraced sufganiot and made a feature of them, Gagou de Paris is more sanguine, sticking to what it does best: beautiful jewels of French pastry sparkle like seasonal lights in the dark of the early evening. The glazed fruit tarts are almost too beautiful to resist, while the croissants filled with crème pattisier and fresh sliced strawberries look positively sinful, but it is sufganiot that we are here for, and they have those too.
Rather than embrace the trend for an array of flavors, Gagou has maintained its focus on the classic take done well, and so it is a ruby red jam that makes our fingers sticky rather than the flavored creams on offer elsewhere. The jam is perfect: a tart edge sets the sugary sweetness off nicely, perfectly complimented by the springy dough that encases it. The dough again is just what it should be: solid without being weighty, with that decadent fried crispiness on the outside that makes a good doughnut so delightful. As ever, the final joy comes from licking the sugar dust from one’s fingers.
Marzipan on Agrippas is always a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds; I’ve had their crème pâtissier-filled sufganiot before, an experience that can only be described as divine. But I limit myself to feasting only with my eyes today and pull my coat close to me against the cold – while I still can.