Grease is the word

This Hanukka, you can find the perfect doughnut from classic jam to crazy combinations across Jerusalem.

Sufgania 521 (photo credit: Amy Spiro)
Sufgania 521
(photo credit: Amy Spiro)
T here’s a chill in the air, an umbrella is now your constant companion and there’s a certain smell wafting through the streets. Hanukka is just around the corner and that smell, of course, is doughnuts! For the third year running, I’ve traversed the streets of Jerusalem hunting down the best sufganiyot the city has to offer. From the traditional jelly to the inventive cheesecake, the crazy white chocolate ganache with pistachio crumble and amarena cherries and everything in between – I sampled them all. By the time the holiday starts, every gas station, newsstand and bookstore will be serving up sufganiyot, but in this article I could only include those places which were already selling their doughnuts in the weeks before the festival.
One of the key components of every doughnut experience is freshness. What may be an A+ doughnut just out of the fryer could be a C-grade doughnut four hours later. So the time of day you pick to enjoy your fried treats could have a big impact; on the holiday itself the turnover is fairly high. Doughnuts were judged on flavor, texture and creativity. Prices vary widely, from NIS 3 to NIS 10, though a classic jam sufganiya usually isn’t more than NIS 4 or NIS 5, while the fancy versions are the pricier ones.
There are a few places in Jerusalem that offer baked doughnuts, like Teller Bakery and Lechem Shel Tomer, if you’re interested. But since the process and end result are so different from the traditional, I couldn’t include them in the rankings. Now, on to the fried stuff! All tested establishments are kosher.
Brooklyn: A-In years past, this American-style bakery (yes, it sells real muffins!) in the heart of Mea She’arim is leading the pack. Its innovative doughnut offerings are light and fluffy with a melt-in-your-mouth dough. The strawberry frosting is toothachingly sweet, but the chocolate has a nice strong flavor. The custard filling is almost too generous, and while it has a thick, rich texture it is a bit bland. Other flavors on offer are jam, chocolate, praline and coconut, though there are sure to be more by the time Hanukka comes around. (It offers a slightly toned-down selection of doughnuts year-round as well.) NIS 6 to NIS 7 15 Mea She’arim Street
Marzipan: B+ In the coming weeks Marzipan might finally have a bigger-selling item than its famed rugelach: doughnuts. The small bakery offers a variety of fun-colored sufganiyot, from jam to chocolate, coconut, dulce de leche and more – plus plenty of sprinkles. The dough is airy with a nice balance of light vs. chewy, though it is a bit bland. The chocolate frosting is rich and flavorful while the dulce de leche is tasty and creamy. The doughnuts are on the smaller side, but they have a generous filling-todough ratio. The chocolate-coconut flavor was a particular hit among one of my dining companions; she finished it before I could take a bite! NIS 5, or NIS 10 for three 14 Agrippas Street, 5 Rahel Imenu Street and 17 Tiferet Yisrael Street
Berman: B+
Berman, a large commercial bakery with two Jerusalem storefronts, never fails to surprise me with its above-average baked goods. Their doughnut offerings have nice light airy dough, with a good balance of sweetness. The jam filling was fairly unremarkable though the chocolate was quite rich. The nougat doughnut, with a sweet glaze and creamy frosting, was a favorite of my tasting team. Varieties include jam, nougat, halva and vanilla, plus jam with chocolate frosting.NIS 5.60 each, or buy seven and get one free.
English Cake: B+
English Cake also likes to experiment with its doughnut varieties, with its newest offering this year a sufganiya topped with whipped cream and berries.Other varieties include jam, dulce de leche, custard, halva, plus chocolate and sprinkles. The dough is light and airy though the jam is a touch too sweet; the chocolate frosting has a rich, authentic flavor and the halva filling is a strong, balanced flavor.NIS 5 to NIS 7Six locations in Jerusalem Gagou de Paris/Yehuda
Bakery: B+The French know their croissants and macarons, but they’re not too bad with doughnuts either (beignets, anyone?). This bakery right in the center of town offers nice, large-sized doughnuts filled with either jam or dulce de leche (or “American-style” with a hole in the center and no filling). The sufganiya is slightly crisp on the outside and chewy inside, and the two fillings are both tasty.NIS 6 to NIS 7 14 King George Avenue
Nechama: B The Nechama bakery is known for churning out halla all night long, but for the next couple weeks it will have to make room for all its sufganiyot as well. The dough on its doughnuts had a good level of sweetness and a decent texture: it was a bit chewy but not too heavy. There wasn’t much jam, but it was a more natural-tasting one than most. The chocolate filling was fairly generous, and had a rich, dark flavor – more adult oriented than kid friendly, despite the sprinkles. Other varieties for sale include dulce de leche, custard and a jam-custard combo.NIS 4 to NIS 7, with discounts for multiplesFive locations in Jerusalem
Hataboon: B+ A bustling storefront for every soldier, university attendee, American yeshiva student and tourist who passes through the Central Bus Station, Hataboon is one of the few places I’ve seen selling doughnuts year round. Of course, for the Hanukka season, it ramps up its offerings, with glazed, jam, dulce de leche and chocolate varieties. The dough has a nice balanced sweetness level, with a slight chew but still not too heavy a dough.NIS 5 to NIS8 Central Bus Station, second floor
Roladin: B Without a doubt, Roladin is the Jerusalem bakery that pulls out all the stops for Hanukka.Each year it dreams up the craziest offerings, though it has been offering its “chaser” doughnuts – with injectable fillings – for three years now. The two new chasers this year are raspberry and rosewater to inject into a “malabi” doughnut with white chocolate, coconut and caramelized cashews; and a chocolate-Nutella chaser for a chocolate, creme anglaise, praline and walnut doughnut. Also new this year is the “cherry mania,” with a white chocolate ganache and pistachio crumble that is topped with a cherry, and the “biscotella,” topped with crushed Oreo cookies and whipped cream. Unfortunately, like last year, the dough had a mild chemical aftertaste, though it was mostly masked by the fillings and toppings, particularly the mounds of cookies and cream in the biscotella, which was a favorite among my tasting team. Its basic doughnut was also nice and the jam filling was tasty, though the dough is a touch dense.NIS 4.50 to NIS 10.5012 Hillel Street and the Mamilla Mall
Kurtosh: B Since this Hungarian pastry shop first opened, it has continually expanded its repertoire, and of course it sells sufganiyot for the holiday season, with jam, dulce de leche, pastry cream and chocolate offerings. The dough is a bit heavy without much distinguishing flavor, but the caramel filling was nice and generous, with a rich, authentic flavor.NIS 4.50 to NIS 63 Lunz Street
Ne’eman: B Ne’eman, the most ubiquitous bakery in Jerusalem, obviously pulls out the big guns when it comes to Hanukka. From the classic strawberry jelly to cheesecake, Ferrero Rocher, chocolate eclair or mille-feuille, there will be something for everyone. Since the first year I reviewed doughnuts, Ne’eman has made serious improvements, and this year its dough was lighter and airier, but lacked much flavor. The jam was fairly standard, and there wasn’t too much of it. I even tried their cream and fruitfilled doughnut, which had a nice flavor but is a bit of an odd choice for a doughnut filling, especially since the fruit makes the surrounding dough a bit damp.NIS 4 to NIS 1020 locations across Jerusalem
Avichayil: B It wouldn’t be hard to miss this storefront in Geula, which looks from the outside like it might have closed 20 years ago. But walk a few steps below ground level and you’ll be hit with the smell of trays and trays of freshly baked pastries. This time of year there are sufganiyot atop those trays: jam or dulce de leche. The dough is sweet with a slightly yeasty taste, and while the outside is lightly crisp, the inside is on the dense and chewy side. The doughnuts are skimpy on jam – which is very artificial tasting – but generous with the dulce de leche, which, while sweet and creamy, lacked a strong caramel flavor.NIS 3 for jam and NIS 3.50 for dulce de leche8 Pri Hadash Street