That Hanukka filling

Trying doughnuts from all over town can be tiring, so ‘In Jerusalem’ has done the legwork for you.

Roladin's doughnuts (photo credit: AMY SPIRO)
Roladin's doughnuts
(photo credit: AMY SPIRO)
In honor of my fourth year in a row testing and tasting sufganiyot for this column, it seemed time to try something a little different. After the past three years I have a pretty good idea of what each bakery has to offer, so I thought I’d do a little crowdsourcing for this year’s reviews, and stage a blind taste test for a crowd of Jerusalem Post employees.
Well, I put 20 Jews in a room and got about 45 opinions, so it proves what I’ve been saying all along when it comes to Hanukka doughnut tasting: Everyone’s preferences are unique, so you had better try them all! Doughier or cakier, denser or airier, tons of filling oozing out or just a taste – there’s something for everyone in the capital.
Still, some offerings were much better-received than others, and a few got near-unanimous thumbs-downs.
Instead of letter grades, I offer four categories: Highly Recommended; Recommended; Recommended with Reservations; and Not Recommended.
Almost all the bakeries will expand their flavors and varieties when the holiday actually begins, so I suggest you gather your family and do your own sufganiya tour and tasting! All tested establishments are kosher.
Brooklyn Bakery
As its name would suggest, Brooklyn Bakery fashions itself as an American-style oasis in the sea of ultra- Orthodox Jerusalem. With oversized muffins, black-andwhite cookies and generous cinnamon buns, many a homesick yeshiva or seminary student could drown their sorrows here. And while they offer doughnuts year-round, they go all-out for Hanukka, churning out thick-glazed yeasted sufganiyot with white, chocolate, strawberry and coffee frostings, or custard, jam and chocolate pudding fillings. These are “tall and airy,” noted one taster, while another called them “thick and substantial.” Though the glazes are very sweet, the not-too-sweet dough balances them out, “complementing the dough.”
NIS 6 each
15 Mea She’arim Street
Gagou de Paris/Yehuda Bakery
This Parisian patisserie had a lot of supporters, including a couple who termed it the best of the bunch. They praised its freshness, “good filling” and great toppings. More than one said the texture was chewy, and a few said it was a bit bland. Aside from the classic jam and dulce de leche, the bakery offers doughnuts filled with pastry cream and topped with frosting or crisp chocolate shells and sprinkles or nuts.
NIS 5 to NIS 10 each
14 King George Avenue
While Berman supplies baked goods to tons of other storefronts, I’ve always been surprised at their quality and freshness from their own stores, and my tasting panel agreed. They called the offerings “soft,” “fresh,” and “melt-in-your-mouth delicious.” Several enjoyed the jam and one called the chocolate filling “brilliant,” and while everyone agreed the fillings were plentiful, some thought they were even too generous. Offerings include jam, dulce de leche, mocha, chocolate and vanilla.
NIS 4.70 to NIS 5.80 each
42 Agrippas Street and 24 Beit Hadfus Street
In my estimation, Nechama has always been a quiet contender, not one of the flashier names or most wellknown, but churning out consistently tasty offerings.
This year was no different, as tasters praised its “light and sweet” dough, and “almost overly generous filling” with a rich, chocolatey taste. The jam one, by contrast, had very little filling, though it was “very sweet.” Other options include custard and a custard/jam mix, though additional flavors are likely to arrive along with Hanukka.
NIS 3 to NIS 6 each
Five locations across Jerusalem
Oren Becker
I love discovering new bakeries, and this little spot popped up inside the shuk just about a month ago, from acclaimed pastry chef Oren Becker – whom I was lucky enough to find behind the counter. Aside from French macarons, mini-tarts and elaborate bags of fancy cookies, Becker has created a unique array of doughnut flavors that seems likely to change regularly, from peanut butter to fig jam, halva and classic chocolate to dulce de leche.
The tasters seemed to recognize an attention to detail and quality, though feelings were mixed. One called the dough bready and another compared it to halla, while several agreed there was very little filling. Still, most enjoyed the texture and taste of the offerings, noting a “nice crunchy topping” and “nicely flavored jam with a hint of lemon,” with one calling it simply “perfect.” The small size and low price of these sufganiyot makes it hard to not want to try them all.
NIS 4 each
37 Etz Haim Street inside Mahaneh Yehuda
Roladin Everyone knows where to go for the flashiest, craziest sufganiyot in town: Roladin. The bakery tries to outdo itself every year with innovative offerings, and things get so busy it has to hire extra seasonal staff for just the week of Hanukka. This year, its new creations include a milk chocolate-filled doughnut with a caramelized pretzel topping and a chocolate “chaser”; a berry ganache-filled doughnut with a fruit glaze and white chocolate curls; and a “banana-cotta” doughnut complete with caramelized walnuts and meringue kisses, in addition to nine other flavors. But is all the hype backed up with flavor? Most liked the texture and flavor of the dough, but thought they skimped on filling. While many tasters liked the jam filling, several thought the cream fillings were lacking, one calling it “industrial-tasting.” Yet most appreciated the creative offerings, and with a new feature this year offering a mixed box of mini-doughnuts, it’d be hard to say no to trying all of the flavors.
NIS 5 to NIS 10 each
Five locations across Jerusalem
I’ve never thought much of this ubiquitous Jerusalem bakery’s offerings, and the opinions from my tasters weren’t much of a surprise: “pretty generic,” “decent,” “not a fan” and “nothing memorable.” Still, a couple enjoyed the “soft dough” and thought it light and crispy. Offerings include berry jam and dulce de leche, chocolate, vanilla, glazed, halva and even kanafeh.
NIS 5 to NIS 10 each
A dozen locations in Jerusalem
English Cake
For me, English Cake has been hit or miss in the past, and its offerings this year got mixed reviews: from “soso,” to “not great,” “very average” and “classic, very cakey.” Still, many were happy, finding a balance in the sweetness level, doughiness and flavor of the overall product. Offerings include jam, dulce de leche, halva, vanilla and chocolate, with a variety of different toppings.
NIS 6 each or three for NIS 15
Four locations across Jerusalem
If you can tear yourself away from Marzipan’s iconic chocolate rugelach, you may be slightly underwhelmed by its doughnut offerings. Tasters called them “chewy,” “too doughy” and “nothing special,” though others said they were “nice, cakey,” and “simple, but in a good way.” The panel was also divided on the chocolate filling, with one calling it “weird,” another “too sweet” and a third “too industrial-tasting.” Flavors on offer include jam, dulce de leche and chocolate, with a variety of different toppings.
NIS 5 each
44 Agrippas Street and 5 Rachel Imenu Street
The Bakery
Formerly known as Hataboon, this bakery is one of the few that sell doughnuts all year round, though of course their goods expand for the holiday season.
I used to enjoy their offerings, and even ranked its burekas among the best in the city. But every since its hamantaschen made me gag I’ve been less of a fan, and sadly wasn’t able to change that opinion with this year’s sufganiyot. My tasters and I literally found raw dough in the center of one doughnut, and the dulce de leche had a terrible “metallic” taste, said one tester, who also noted they were “not fully baked” (though they meant fried). The jam-filled doughnut fared slightly better; though “not very generous” on filling, it was fully cooked and didn’t have an unpleasant taste. It couldn’t erase the memory of the other doughnut, though.
NIS 6 to NIS 10 each
Central Bus Station, second floor
Angel’s I have never been impressed with Angel’s baked goods, even skipping them on my doughnut tour last year. Unfortunately, this year did nothing to sway me otherwise, and my testers agreed: “not very fresh,” “too dry,” “bland” and “odd taste, almost metallic.”
The most fawning praise dubbed it “a regular jelly doughnut.” I only saw jam and dulce de leche varieties for sale, but they are slated to add chocolate and vanilla by the time the holiday arrives.
NIS 4 each
Eight locations in Jerusalem