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Sufganiot at Roladin.(Photo by: PR)
Defying the government with sufganiot
The search for the perfect doughnut in Jerusalem.
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman probably gave a huge boost to the nation’s bakeries when he recently urged the public not to eat sufganiot, the often-fried doughnuts that are traditionally enjoyed on Hanukka.

While some who are careful with calories may heed the minister’s request, it is doubtful his warning was actually news to anyone. Sufganiot were fattening before Litzman, and they will be fattening when he is a distant memory.

It is far more likely that Litzman’s preaching against sufganiot will have the opposite effect. No statistics on sufgania consumption were available to In Jerusalem by press time, but there are plenty of Israelis who like to defy their government, and there is no tastier way than to enjoy a sufgania – or eight for that matter.

Burger King provided a new way of celebrating Hanukka this year with its SufganiKing, a Whopper hamburger with savory doughnuts in place of buns. The company said the burger “proves that miracles still happen.”

But Burger King still has no branches in Jerusalem, so they are ineligible for a review of doughnuts in In Jerusalem, unless a real miracle happens and they come to the capital in time for the holiday.

Thankfully, there are plenty of bakeries providing sufganiot in Jerusalem. None of them have meat like Burger King, but there are enough parve and dairy delights for everyone to enjoy.

Like Christmas lights that go up on the day after Halloween in America, sufganiot have already been served in many Jerusalem bakeries since the day after Simhat Torah. So shouldn’t people be sick of them by now? Absolutely not – in part because of the sheer variety of sufganiot available. A survey of the capital’s bakeries found that there are more than 40 different kinds of sufganiot to choose from. To try them all on Hanukka requires eating five every day! Then again, there are plenty of traditionalists who prefer the basic sufgania that there has always been in the Land of Israel, perhaps going back to the days of the Maccabees: A strawberry jelly doughnut topped with powdered sugar.

Those are available in every bakery and most grocery stores.

Discount king Rami Levy is even taking a loss by selling them for 90 agorot to draw customers into his supermarket.

To facilitate a fair comparison, the only sufganiot tasted for this article were strawberry jelly and the second-most common flavor, ribat halav (literally jelly of milk), which is often mistranslated as caramel. A better translation is the Spanish dulce de leche, which has been adopted into English as well.

Every bakery surveyed had dulce de leche except Brooklyn Bakery, which is completely parve. All of the bakeries had doughnuts with holes in them, which may be very good, but they are not sufganiot, so they are not listed below among the kinds of sufganiot.

Because both variety and the taste of the simple sufganiot are important, In Jerusalem’s annual review of sufganiot has two winners this year. Roladin wins for having the most impressive variety of sufganiot.

But when it comes to the basic jelly or dulce de leche sufganiot, this year’s reviewers preferred Bourekas Ima, a simple family-owned and -run bakery in Talpiot that is not a chain and whose doughnuts are reasonably priced and baked with love.

Because of Hanukka’s focus on children, the lucky reviewers selected included five children aged four to 10 and two grownup children in their 30s. They reviewed eight bakeries to give you one to choose every day of the holiday.

Location: Rivka Street, Talpiot
Kinds: Jelly, dulce de leche, chocolate, vanilla, halva, walnuts
Prices: NIS 4 to NIS 7
Review: The consensus No. 1 among the reviewing team, who found the texture of the sufganiot to be denser, the dulce de leche richer and creamier, and the jelly “tremendously good.” The six-year-old said they “taste like cake,” and she likes cake.

Location: Six bakeries throughout the city plus Modi’in and Mevaseret Zion
Kinds: Jelly, dulce de leche, praline, chocolate, banana-coffee-toffee, whipped cream, sprinkles, raspberry and cream cheese, pavlova with cream cheese, halva pistachio, and St. Honoré, which has cream cheese and is covered with caramel.
Prices: NIS 5 to NIS 11
Review: The reviewers found the pastry to be “fluffy and flavorful,” the dulce de leche to be “intense” and the jelly to be “tangy.” They all put Roladin’s doughnuts first or second.

Location: 14 grocery stores throughout the city, including Super Moshava, Super Deal
Kinds: Jelly, dulce de leche, crème pâtissière (vanilla)
Prices: Varies by the store
Review: Herby’s is a Beit El-based bakery that delivers throughout the country. Its dulce de leche sufganiot appeared to be real caramel and were much better than any of the other bakeries’. While one of the reviewers called the pastries tasteless, all agreed that they were less oily than the others. Asked why they did not taste oily, Herby said “I make the dough as fast as I can, so it will soak up less oil. I know what I’m doing!”

Location: Mea She’arim Street
Kinds: Jelly, chocolate pudding, custard with chocolate, custard with white chocolate
Prices: NIS 6 to NIS 10
Review: The frostings on the doughnuts were the best of any bakery. Without calling into question the kosher certification of a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) bakery, their doughnuts are so good that it is hard to believe they are parve. But they were a bit too oily, so they did not score higher. It is best to be in touch with the bakery before coming, because they have been suffering from doughnut shortages due to a lack of bakers. Perhaps they can make a Hanukka miracle and make a little go a long way.

Location: Eight throughout the city, plus Beit Shemesh, Gush Etzion, Modi’in and Mevaseret Zion
Kinds: Jelly, dulce de leche, chocolate, Nutella, Ferrero Rocher, pistachio kadaif, Napoleon, Milky, Oreo, cheesecake, mekupelet (chocolate flake), and Mozart, which is nougat and white chocolate.
Prices: NIS 5 to NIS 8
Review: For doughnuts that look so pretty, English Cake received surprisingly poor reviews. They were described as “boring,” having “no flavor at all” or “tasting packaged.” Fillings were seen as “drippy.” The eight-year-old even called the jelly doughnut “horrible,” which is shocking to hear from a kid about a doughnut.

Location: King George Avenue, downtown
Kinds: Jelly, dulce de leche, chocolate, praline, sprinkles, crème brûlée, and crème pâtissière, which is a fancy vanilla.
Prices: NIS 5 to NIS 7
Review: This French bakery is profiled every year and the bakers are thankful for the American clientele brought in by In Jerusalem. Their fillings are excellent, but the pastries themselves are not impressive. People come from all over for their crème brûlée and crème pâtissière sufganiot, but special flavors were not reviewed.

Location: 13 throughout the city, Modi’in, Reut, and two in Beit Shemesh
Kinds: Jelly, dulce de leche, chocolate, vanilla, Oreo, halva, rolls of chocolate
Prices: NIS 5 to NIS 7
Review: The six-year-old said the sufganiot “taste like honey,” but other reviewers called them “weird” and said they have a funny texture. The jelly was pronounced “gross” and the dulce de leche “not distributed well.”

Location: 18 throughout the city, plus Beit Shemesh, Modi’in, and two in Ma’aleh Adumim
Kinds: Jelly, dulce de leche, chocolate with halva, chocolate with candy, click, mekupelet, cheesecake, vanilla and cherry, nougat with Ferrero Rocher, lotus, and Queen of Hearts, which has candy hearts.
Prices: NIS 4.50 to NIS 9
Review: There was nothing good to say about these sufganiot, which were so oily that the reviewers chose not to finish them and all voted them the worst. “It tastes like french fries but not in a good way,” one of the reviewers said. The oil created an inedible crust and made hands sticky. There was not enough jelly, and the dulce de leche tasted plain. When people make faces upon eating the first bite, it is not a good sign. But the four-year-old said “I liked everything,” so there is hope for Neeman.
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