Jerusalem’s sufganiyot scene has been taken over by French bakeries

The French aliyah to Jerusalem has brought plenty of patisseries and boulangeries all the way from Paris to not too far from Paris Square.

LA PATISSIERE: ‘Our crème patisserie, nougat and lemon meringue flavors are especially French.’ (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
LA PATISSIERE: ‘Our crème patisserie, nougat and lemon meringue flavors are especially French.’
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
This year, when it comes to choosing that one solitary sufganiya you indulge in on Hanukkah, resist your Roladin and eschew your English Cake.
Because let’s face it: The best bakers in the world are French.
The French aliyah to Jerusalem has brought plenty of patisseries and boulangeries all the way from Paris to not too far from Paris Square.
So this year, rather than run through the eight best sufganiyot for the eight nights of Hanukkah, In Jerusalem decided to break its annual tradition and focused only on French bakeries.
The pastry chefs at these bakeries have revolutionized and perfected sufganiyot using techniques learned at the top baking schools in France, making their traditional Hanukkah doughnuts even more delectable.
The winner of In Jerusalem’s best sufganiyot over the past two years has been Kadosh on Shlomzion Hamalka Street, whose chef Itzik Kadosh was trained in France, so it made sense to try bakeries this year whose chefs studied in their native tongue.
French bakeries have been popping up all over the city, selling croissants, baguettes and brioches. But when Hanukkah approaches, their focus shifts to sufganiyot.
The irony is that in France, there are no fancy sufganiyot. They eat simple doughnuts there on the Festival of Lights, with either simple filling or none at all.
But when the students of the top French baking schools came to Israel, they had to keep up with their Israeli counterparts. So they took what they learned about baking cakes and created new sufganiyot that may look like the fancier doughnuts at Marzipan but taste like the best cakes in République Française.
In Jerusalem spoke to the owners and chefs at French bakeries across town about what makes French-Israeli sufganiyot formidable and magnifique.
Gourmandises by Yoel
Location: 10 Yoel Moshe Solomon Street, City Center
Kinds: Chestnut cream, toffee apple, lemon, caramel, Ferrero Rocher, pistachio, chocolate vanilla, crème patissiere, strawberry
Price: NIS 15 for fancy sufganiyot, NIS 6 for simpler ones
Owner Livnatt Affriat and her husband, chef Yoel Affriat, opened up their French restaurant downtown six years ago after he studied at the famed Lenôtre culinary institute in France.
She said their sufganiyot are superior because they are handmade and their ingredients are all natural. The chestnuts come from France, where the French use them to bake their traditional Mont Blanc dessert in the winter; their chocolate hails from Belgium and their vanilla sticks from Madagascar.
“It was very important to us to keep everything French,” Affriat said. “We bake lighter and with less sugar. There is a unique balance to ensure that one ingredient does not overwhelm another. It’s like why you eat croissants here and not at Aroma.”
Affriat pointed out that her lemon sufganiyot have real lemons they squeeze themselves, which she says makes all the difference in taste. She contrasted French baking with Israeli and American, revealing that ketchup and low-fat milk are unwelcome at their restaurants.
“Israelis and Americans don’t think about cakes and pastries like we do,” she declared. “Americans want too much on top and make things too sweet. We are more gentle, in order to get it just right. Americans eventually learn to appreciate how we do it.”
A sampling of the sufganiyot displayed attractively in the restaurant entrance proved her point. The apple filling inside the toffee apple sufganiya tasted like apple pie, with just the right amount of cinnamon mixed in with real chopped apples.
The vanilla sufganiya did not look memorable at first glance but was exceptionally light and fluffy, fresh and creamy. When eating the meringues on top of the lemon meringue sufganiyot, it is recommended to close your eyes and imagine you are really in Paris.
La Patissiere
Location: 17 Keren Kayemet Street in Rehavia and 90 Hahoresh Street in Ramot
Kinds: Chocolate, walnuts, cassis, pistachio, lemon, coffee, crème brûlée
Price: NIS 12 for fancy, NIS 6 for simple
The closest French bakery to Paris Square, La Patissiere was opened two-and-a-half years ago by David and Netalie Binisti after they opened their factory store in Ramot five years ago. She studied at the Olivier Bajard International Pastry School in Perpignan, France, under Bajard, who has won the Dessert-making Craft World Championship.
Franck’s Delights
Location: 7 Shatner Street, Givat Shaul
Kinds: Chocolate, pistachio, caramel, lotus, raspberry, crème patissiere (a fancy vanilla) with strawberry
Price: NIS 8-12
Owner and chef Franck Asuli studied at the Lenôtre and Ferrandie schools in France. He opened up his simple factory bakery in Givat Shaul 20 years ago and briefly also had a bakery in the Talpiot industrial zone.
Asuli could not be reached, because he is in France, but his manager Itzik, who is from Paris, described why he thinks French bakeries should top the list.
“Israel and France both do what they are best at,” he asserted. “Israel has the IDF, and we have bakeries. We each do what we have learned is important to our people.”
Itzik said his clientele includes many Americans who have become regular customers.
“We are special because of our experience in 20 years of service,” he said.
Le Moulin Doré
Location: 44 Emek Refaim Street, German Colony
Kinds: Crème patissiere, chocolate, Paris-Brest (nut cream), caramel, Tropézienne cream (vanilla), strawberry
Price: NIS 5-9
Co-owner Michael Cassar, who also studied at Lenôtre, said his bakery/restaurant offers flavors of sufganiyot unavailable elsewhere in Jerusalem at unbeatable prices.
“We were inspired by popular cakes in France,” he said. “Our baking is special because it comes from our cultural life in France.”
Location: 12 Beit Hadfus Street, Givat Shaul
Kinds: Pistachio, coffee, chocolate, vanilla, Ferrero Rocher strawberry, caramel
Price: NIS 12 for fancy, NIS 8 for simple
Owner Orel Elkaim had a bakery in the 11th arrondissement in Paris before making aliyah and opening his Holy City version two years ago. He boasts that Mayor Moshe Lion and Interior Minister Arye Deri come to his bakery every week, in part because everything he sells is parve, including the sufganiyot.
“We are completely parve, but everyone thinks we are dairy,” he confided. “Israelis are shocked when we tell them we are parve. Butter is a recent addition to France, because it can be done without it just as good. We know how to mix special creams that do not have milk.”
Gagou De Paris
Location: 14 King George Avenue, City Center
Kinds: Jelly, dulce de leche, chocolate, praline, sprinkles, crème brûlée, crème patissiere
Prices: NIS 6
Yehuda Journo opened the first kosher restaurant in France in 1970. He made aliyah with his family in 1988, making Gagou De Paris the oldest French bakery in the city. The youthful-looking Journo still comes to the bakery every morning at age 70.
His son David spoke candidly: “We sell French brioches and croissants, but I admit, the sufganiyot are completely Israeli.”