These are them: classic, pillowy sufganiyot brimming with strawberry jam, belied only by the bit poking out from their sugar-dusted tops. Sufganiyot, Israeli jelly doughnuts, are a canonical Chanukah food, not the only Jewish doughnut (there are lots, all deserving of love), but a major player. Strawberry jam is the traditional filling, although sufganiyot, like hamantaschen, are subject to all sorts of creative reinterpretation. The Israeli bakery chain Roladin is known for its inventive, over-the-top sufganiyot, and when the first ones of the season appear, it's a harbinger of wintry-ness on the order of pumpkin spice at Starbucks. So, what exactly is a bakery-style sufganiyah? Pretty and domed, yes; non-greasy, hopefully; but I think it comes down to two critical markers: one, bakery sufganiyot have a telltale white line around their middles, the sign of a perfectly fried sufganiyah, and two, they're light and airy, so that they crinkle when you you press your finger in the center, like so:
Admittedly, making bakery-style sufganiyot at home is something of a project, requiring yeast dough, two rise times, and some fussy oil-temperature modulation. They are, however, among the most rewarding of kitchen projects, unbelievably good when fresh and hot, and not a bit greasy (really!).
Sufganiyot step by step: Ingredients
Which kind of flour to use
The biggest secret for getting a bakery style result? Cake flour. It's fine and soft, which gets translated into super puffy, tender sufganiyot. If you don't want to track down cake flour, the recipe includes a substitution: use all-purpose flour and replace part with cornstarch (or another starch you've got on hand, like tapioca or potato).
Which kind of yeast to use
Sufganiyot can be puffed by baking powder, and homestyle sufganiyot are often made that way. For the kind of sufganiyot you'd get at a bakery, though, yeast is required. I've used Saf Instant Gold Yeast here, which is an instant yeast formulated for enriched doughs. You can also use active dry yeast--just use volume as your guide; you want the dough to double in volume during the first rise, and increase about 80% after shaping (that is, not quite doubled).
All the dairy, parve possible
For bakery style, you're going to want all the dairy: butter and warmed milk. You can make this particular recipe parve by replacing the dairy milk with nut or oat milk and the butter with margarine. (I'm still working on a great parve sufganiyot recipe that doesn't rely on dairy substitutes. Stay tuned.)
Flavoring the dough
Traditional flavorings include brandy and orange or lemon zest. I've used orange zest and juice in the recipe below, but feel free to substitute the zest of one lemon and use water in place of the orange juice. Brandy is optional, but such a wonderful throwback. I use Clear Creek kirchwasser cherry brandy, which is a good-quality kosher brand that I can find at my local liquor store.
Which oil to use
For high-heat frying, you'll want to select an oil that tolerates a heat of 350F / 175C without smoking. You're going to be using a lot of the stuff--the whole bottle, maybe two--so take that into account. You likely will be able to reuse the batch of oil for at least one more frying session, so it's not quite as wasteful as it seems. For deep drying, I use grapeseed or canola oil.
About the filling
The traditional filling for sufganiyot, I'm guessing because that's what everyone was using in Poland and Russia back in the day, is berry jam. You'll heat it slightly, then blitz it in the food processor to make it easier to pipe into the doughnuts. Is this fussy and sticky? Yes. Is it worth it? It really is, I promise. You can absolutely fill these sufganiyot with whatever you or your people like best: regular or chocolate pastry cream, dulce de leche, lemon curd, you can't go wrong. (Except Nutella, it's too gloopy.)
Sufganiyot step by step: Making the dough
Yeast dough for sufganiyot is started off in the stand mixer (you can, of course, used hand power and a sturdy wooden spoon instead). It's then finished by hand kneading. By the time you get it in your hands, it's fairly workable, and this step makes a big difference in the final product.
Before you start mixing the dough, cut up your butter into pats and warm up your milk--the microwave is fine. The steps are pretty straightforward:
- To begin, you activate the yeast right in the stand mixer bowl with a bit of water and sugar.
- When it's foamy, you whisk in the remaining wet ingredients. To that, add half the flour and the sugar, and let the mixer combine it for you with the dough hook.
- Once the dough's come together, you'll slip in the pats of butter, one tablespoon at a time, until it's mostly incorporated.
- Then, the rest of the flour goes in, a little at a time, till the dough starts to pull away from the bowl and climb up the hook.
- At this point, you'll knead it by hand for a few minutes, then cover it tightly and leave it to rise in a warm place for an hour or so.
For rising, I use a dough-rising bucket from King Arthur, which enriched yeast doughs adore. Totally optional, but I'm plugging it as a nice kitchen item to have if you enjoy baking with yeast.
Sufganiyot step by step: Shaping and rising
Shaping sufganiyot is pretty easy, but the dough doesn't re-roll as well, so aim to get the most out of that first flattening. Roll it out so it's about ¾" / 2cm thick and use a cutter about 2 ½" / 6.5 cm round. You should be able to get 10 to 12 sufganiyot the first time out, which leaves you with just 4-6 to get on the next roll-out. Now you'll leave the shaped sufganiyot, covered with a kitchen towel in a warm spot. I use the the inside of the (turned-off) oven with the light on. The light will raise the temperature slightly but more than you'd expect inside the oven, making a good rising environment for your darlings. They'll need something like 45 minutes to an hour to nearly double in size.
Sufganiyot step by step: Frying
You can use a dedicated deep fryer, a heavy pot such as a Dutch oven, or a wok to deep fry the sufganiyot. A deep fryer makes the job easy because it regulates the oil temperature for you. That being said, you can fry perfect sufganiyot in a regular pot, as long as you monitor the temperature, ideally with a thermometer. Here are my recommendations for getting a good fry on these babies:
- Heat your oil to 350F / 175C. I tried these at different temps and this was by far the winner.
- At this temperature, a sufganiyah takes exactly one minute on each side to get to light golden. You can flip them over with a slotted spoon or a spider or even the smallest of a set of mesh strainers (this is what I use for dairy). I highly suggest setting a timer for 1 minute because it's easy to miscount and a few seconds on either side are critical with sufganiyot. (Okay Google/Alexa/Siri, set a timer for 1 minute...)
- Look for your sufganiyah to be a light to medium golden color. By the time they're visibly browned, they're too well done. Less is better than more.
- To keep your finished sufganiyot from getting soggy, you'll want to drain them on a cooling rack (same as you use for cookies) set over paper towels. Sufganiyot should actually be completely dry to the touch and very light.
- Keep in mind that placing the doughnuts in the oil will bring down the temperature significantly. Don't be tempted to crowd them in--two or three at a time, tops. Though this requires more batches, it's easier to monitor and turn the doughnuts.
Sufganiyot step by step: Filling
After frying, you've got one more hurdle to go: getting the filling inside your doughnuts. It's definitely tricky to fill them evenly and neatly, but here are a few tips that make it easier:
- First, don't skimp on the jam (as I am always tempted to do, because I have a deep-seated fear of wasting anything, for which there is a politically incorrect term in Israeli slang that you can insert here if you know it). It's easier to handle the piping bag if it's filled most of the way. If you're filling the entire batch of sufganiyot, plan to use a whole jar. You can always empty the extra back in. Just saying.
- Okay, now that we're all set in the jam department, you'll want to warm your jam slightly to make it easier to pipe. I zap it for a few seconds in the microwave in a glass measuring cup.
- Next, pour that warm jam into a food processor (with the regular metal blade) and pulse it a few times to smooth out any lumps. You will want to skip this step, but don't.
- Now you're ready pour the jam into a piping bag fitted with a ¼" / 6mm tip. You'll note that this is a pretty small tip. That's because you've warmed and blitzed your jam, so it's all thin and flowy. You did both those things, right? Right. Other options are using a squeeze bottle or a disposable zip-top bag that you'll snip the end off of after filling it. If using a zip-top, poke a hole with a chopstick or skewer first. (When I was a kid, my scientist parents used to bring home syringes from the lab for filling sufganiyot; they work, if you use big enough ones.)
- You can fill your sufganiyot from the side or the top, your call. I feel like halfway down the top dome is high tradition, but that's just my minhag.
While we're frying, how about some latke recipes?
- Classic Potato Latkes - classic for a reason, my friends. I'll leave the dicey sour cream vs. applesauce decision to you.
- Carrot Latkes - the gateway latke beyond potato.
- Griddled Zucchini Latkes with Labaneh and Za'atar- if you've had it with the oil, these are all lightened up and a bit different.
Bakery-Style Sufganiyot - Israeli Jelly Doughnuts (dairy)
- Stand mixer fitted with dough hook, optional
- 2 ½" / 6.5cm cookie or biscuit cutter
- Deep fryer, or Dutch oven and a kitchen thermometer
- Spider or slotted spoon, for removing doughnuts from oil
- Piping bag fitted with ¼" / 6mm roundtip, or disposable zip-top bag with one corner snipped off
- Food processor fitted with a metal blade, for thinning jam, optional
- 2 ¼ tsp instant yeast, see note to use active dry yeast instead - 8 g or 1 packet
- ¼ cup granulated sugar, plus 1 Tbsp
- 4 cups cake flour, see notes for substitution - 500 g (½ kilo)
- 1 egg
- 2 egg yolks
- ½ cup milk, warmed slightly
- 1 small to medium orange - zested and juiced
- 2 Tbsp brandy - optional
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 6 Tbsp butter, cut into pats and softened to room temperature - 75g or ¾ stick
For deep frying:
- 4-8 cups high-heat oil, such as grapeseed or canola, depending on the size of your fryer - 1-2 L
For filling and topping:
- 1 ½ cups strawberry jam, see note for other ideas
- powdered sugar - for dusting
Mix the dough and let rise:
- In the stand mixer bowl, whisk together 1 Tbsp of the sugar with 2 Tbsp warm water. Whisk in the yeast and leave until foamy, about 5 minutes.
- Add to the mixer bowl the egg, egg yolks, warmed milk, orange zest, orange juice, brandy (if using), vanilla, and salt. Whisk to combine.
- To the bowl, add 2 cups (250 g) flour and ¼ cup sugar. Mix on lowest speed with dough hook until combined, about 2 minutes.
- With the mixer running on low, add the pats of butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Bits of butter are fine; they will get worked into the dough as more flour is added.
- After all the butter is incorporated, the dough will be wet and sticky. With the mixer running on low, gradually add in the remaining 2 cups (250 g) flour, until a smooth and shiny dough forms. It should begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl and climb up the dough hook--if not, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
- When the dough is well combined, raise the speed to 2 and knead by machine for several minutes. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and knead, adding more flour as needed, until no longer sticky, about 5 minutes.
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand until supple and smooth, several more minutes.
- Grease the mixer bowl or a dough bucket, place the dough inside, mist with more oil, and cover tightly. Leave to rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 1 hour.
Shape sufganiyot and let rise a second time:
- Line two sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone liners and set aside,
- Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until about ¾" / 2 cm thick. Using a round cutter about 2 ½" / 6.5 cm in diameter, cut out rounds of dough. Twist the cutter to release the round and form a firm edge for the doughnut and place it on the prepared sheet pan. You should be able to get 10 to 12 doughnuts out of the first rolling-out.
- Reroll the dough once more and cut out the remaining sufganiyot. You can either form the remaining dough into bites, or roll it a third time.
- Cover the sheet pans with kitchen towels and leave in a warm place to rise for another 45 minutes to 1 hour, until almost doubled in size.
Deep fry the sufganiyot:
- Heat the oil in a deep fryer or heavy pot until it reaches 350°F / 175°C. While the oil is heating up, set up a cooling rack by your fryer with paper towels underneath, to hold the sufganiyot after frying.
- When the oil is hot, place 2-3 doughnuts into the oil. Fry for about 1 minute per side, until light golden and puffed. Turn and fry for another 1 minute or so on the second side. Remove with a spider or slotted spoon and drain on the cooling rack. Continue with the remaining doughnuts when the oil is back up to heat.
Fill the sufganiyot:
- Set up a piping bag with a ¼" / 6mm round piping tip. Set it inside a tall drinking glass and fold down the top. (Alternately, use a squeeze bottle or disposable zip-top bag, waiting to snip one of the bottom corners until you've filled the bag.)
- Measure out the jam and warm it slightly in the microwave or on the stovetop, until it just becomes runny.
- Empty out the warmed jam into a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse several times to make the jam smoother and easier to pipe.
- Fill the prepared piping bag with jam (or another filling of your choice).
- Working one (cooled) sufganiyah at a time, gently poke a hole in the top or side of the sufganiyah with the tip of the piping bag or with a tool like a chopstick or skewer.
- Fill, using medium-firm squeezes of the piping bag, until the jam just peeks out of the hole.
- Dust with powdered sugar and serve as soon as possible.