How sufganiot can beat the coronavirus

Defeating 2020’s evil enemy with doughy festival goodness

 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
It has been 2,159 years since the Maccabees defeated the Syrian-Greek army and rededicated the Holy Temple with miraculous oil.
Now the Jewish people and the world are facing another cruel enemy in the coronavirus.
Can the foods made with oil that we eat on Hanukkah to commemorate the miracles back then help us emerge victorious now?
The owners of some well-known sufganiot bakeries in Israel’s capital assured In Jerusalem that the answer is a very delicious yes.
Despite restrictions on cafe seating and the shuttering of malls, constant threat of another lockdown and need for social distancing, Israelis have been going out of their way to get their sufganiot – or at least receive them by delivery.
ROLADIN DIRECTOR-GENERAL Noa Bachar Aharoni said her chain of 89 branches, including four in Jerusalem, overcame many hurdles to bring sufganiot to their customers this year.
“It was a complicated operation,” she said. “We had to rethink how we present our sufganiot. We have properly distanced lines, everything is behind glass and only our staff packs the doughnuts. We had a real challenge to prepare our staff.” Roladin begins planning its sufganiot a year in advance. Its pastry chefs go abroad to find and bring back ingredients. Its branch managers had to attend online workshops to learn how to make this year’s collection.
“Every sufgania has a story, and they all have different stages,” Bachar Aharoni said. “We did it somehow, meeting our deadline of launching the day after Sukkot.” Roladin expedited its new website that facilitates deliveries. The sufganiot are carefully placed in special boxes with dividers to help them arrive safely.
“We are very careful,” Bachar Aharoni stressed. “Our delivery staff are told to treat them like fragile glass or crystal.”
When opening the website, Roladin’s new slogan jumps out with an important message in English against the coronavirus: “The Show Mask Go On.”
To that end, Roladin is sending a sufganiot truck with doughnuts and a DJ called the Roladin Fun Van around the country to spread holiday cheer.
“We will have to live with corona, but if we spread joy, taste and freshness, we might be able to make people’s lives more pleasant,” Bachar Aharoni said.
This year’s collection includes the Tropezienne, with syrup, toffee, caramel, whipped cream, amaretti cookie crumbs and a caramel chaser; the Truffe with chocolate ganache, and bitter chocolate crumbs with a cocoa-walnut chaser; and Raspberry Pavlova, with red icing, whipped cream, a meringue kiss and a red fruit chaser.
In Jerusalem’s team of eight samplers, aged four to 43, were impressed by how chocolaty the Truffe was, but thought its texture left something to be desired. The pavlova was found to be dainty and have the proper amount of sweetness. But Roladin’s Pure Vanilla sufgania with layers of white chocolate, crunchy vanilla pearls and a vanilla chaser were deemed “over the top." (Meanwhile, a macaroon erroneously purchased due to its proximity to the sufganiot was found by the tasters to be lacking in the flavor-blending department.) Delivery costs NIS 30. Sufgania prices range from NIS 6 to NIS 12. The minimum order is NIS 70. Roladin is delivering sufganiot to doorsteps around the country.
Shani, the manager of Roladin’s branch at Beit Hanatziv on Hebron Road, summed it up: “As evil as the coronavirus is, good came out of it – at least for Roladin sufganiot.” DOWN THE street, the English Cake chain of bakeries faced similar challenges. Chain manager Kfir Biton said he had no idea how to guess what quantities of sufganiot would be needed because the government kept changing its rules about shopping malls.
Biton said the lines outside his bakeries have been crazy, but he appreciates that people are waiting patiently to enter. Many are also paying a NIS 25 delivery fee with a NIS 50 minimum order for deliveries, with no complaints.
“Sweetness defeats the coronavirus, because people look for what is good for their souls,” Biton said. “There won’t be mass Hanukkah lightings this year, but people will buy sufganiot for their homes and enjoy them.” English Cake’s newest flavor is Lemon Meringue, and it is a perfect addition to the 15 other sufganiot available, which include Nutella, Kadaif Pistachio, Oreo Cheesecake and Milky.
The team of testers found English Cake’s sufganiot to be beautiful but look better than they tasted.
“The Milky doesn’t taste like Milky and the cheesecake doesn’t taste like cheesecake,” was one complaint.
English Cake has a deal – whether you come or get it delivered – that if you buy five, you get one free.
Marzipan Sufganiyot (Marc Israel Sellem)Marzipan Sufganiyot (Marc Israel Sellem)
NEXT DOOR to English Cake on Rivka Street, Bourekas Ima bakery owner Moti Binyamin points out order after order waiting to be delivered to those not joining the enormous lines outside. Bourekas Ima started delivering when the pandemic began, including gluten-free sufganiot.
“Sweetness confuses the corona,” Binyamin said. “That is why we try to be even more courteous and helpful: because of the difficulties people are enduring.”
Bourekas Ima enables orders via WhatsApp. The delivery fee is NIS 30, and the minimum purchase is NIS 150.
Flavors include Chocolate Mekupelet, Nougat, Toffee and Halva. As in past years, our team of tasters found that the basic dough of simple sufganiot was ideal at Bourekas Ima if you are looking for classic sufganiot without the fanciness, chasers and pyrotechnics.
Gourmandises  (Marc Israel Sellem)Gourmandises (Marc Israel Sellem)
LAST YEAR’S In Jerusalem sufganiot spread featured the Gourmandises bakery on Yoel Solomon Street and other French patisseries and boulangeries. Six months after the article was published, the combination of coronavirus and high rent made Gourmandises close down, but owner Livnatt Affriat and her husband chef Yoel opened a temporary location at 45 Jaffa Road just for sufganiot season, and their old customers have come back. They also have deliveries in special boxes divided into eight in honor of the eight days of Hanukkah.
The eight they send are Crème Brûlée, White Chocolate and Coconut, Mascarpone and Strawberry, Coffee Cream, Pistachio, Lemon Meringue, Chestnut and Candy Apple. Together, they cost NIS 120.
“A lot of customers in the US have ordered for their children or grandchildren here, because they can’t visit them in Israel this year,” noted Livnatt. “Some people have ordered for their son’s entire yeshiva. We try to make it sweet for their families when they are not here.” Affriat said she is optimistic due to the mild winter and her success in getting out word on social media of her new location .
“We know how to find a way to succeed,” she said. “Corona killed us, but we found a way to come out on top. This is our Jewish culture, to find something new.”
The Gourmandises Facebook page requests that orders be made a day in advance. The minimum order is NIS 100 and the delivery charge is NIS 25.
Our tasters found the sufganiot at Gourmandises and Kadosh on Shlomtzion Hamalka Street downtown (see below) to be “in another league,” “a work of art,” and “worth going out of your way for.” KADOSH IS the one premium sufgania you cannot get delivered. Co-owner Keren Kadosh decided to buck the trend and refuse to deliver.
“We invest so much in decorating and piping our sufganiot by hand,” Kadosh explained. “To make deliveries worth it they would have to be done with motorcycles, and there is no chance that sufganiot will arrive whole to our customers looking the way I want them to look.” Kadosh said deliveries would have required in-transit refrigeration and were therefore too complicated: “Sufganiot need to be maintained and guarded to keep looking good, because we eat with our eyes.” Kadosh was closed for 70 days due to the coronavirus, during which time Keren and her husband, chef Itzik Kadosh, led workshops, wrote a book about sufganiot and learned how to make a special new Hanukkah creation called the Abu Dhabi, with dried dates from the United Arab Emirates, nougat, cocoa and nuts.
Their flavors also include Pineapple, Passion Fruit and Chestnut. Each costs NIS 18, making it a luxury that does not encourage customers to buy too many of them.
Kadosh said being located between the Old City and the Mahaneh Yehuda market made her more open-minded to more tastes from around the world. At Kadosh, they even dare to mix the taste of the French creme patisserie with dates from the Emirates.
“We do all we can to get through this period as easily as possible,” Kadosh said. “We miss our customers, and we love hosting people. So we hope vaccines will come soon and this will be our last holiday without lots of people. We hope the sufganiot bring the vaccines and then beat the coronavirus.”
Yakir Feldman contributed to this story.