As family traditions go, I gotta say, this one takes the cake. Or the doughnut.
Proper doughnuts are one of the many American luxuries I gave up when I was dragged to moved to Israel. Among other delicacies: Pirate’s Booty, Velveeta, real hot fudge, everything at Costco.
My husband spent the first several years of our Aliyah making a concerted effort to minimize the effects of the relocation. That included importing the electric yellow jarred “cheese” and attempting to identify an acceptable Dunkin’ Donuts clone. Enter Machane Yehudah at Chanukkah. Seven years ago, on the second night of Chanukkah, I asked him to pick up some sufganiyot to take to a party. A typical male, he gets overwhelmed by many choices and demanded that I be more specific about vendor preference. It occurred to us that making an intelligent sufganiya selection was going to take some work. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I was in. A tradition was born.
Every year at Chanukkah, even though we no longer live in Jerusalem, we fight traffic, pay ridiculous parking fees, and march through the shuk in judgement. One year, we simply couldn’t fit a shuk visit into our schedule, so we pulled the kids out of school for a day – just to make sure we didn’t depart from our tradition. The much-anticipated results of this years annual Sufganiya Shuk Tour are as follows:
On the open road of the shuk, on the left side as you head from Agripas to Yafo (don’t you love how Israelis give directions? I’ve become Israeli-ified when it comes to directions. No one knows street names or addresses. I even reference landmarks that no longer exist, like the Tnuva factory. I think you automatically earn an Israeli passport for stuff like that.)
These guys are my regular pitot providers. What they lack in variety, they make up for in booming voice talent. You can hear “pitot cham chamesh b’eser” all the way to the bottom of the open road. Last year, they were the reigning jelly champions, so we were excited to peruse their offerings. Their dough is almost unmatched. It’s light, it’s airy, it doesn’t leak oil all over your hands. Their Achilles heel, however, is that they’re cheap on the jelly. They’ve improved their dough-to-jelly ratio over the years, but alas, they continue to opt for low quality jelly… a tragic mistake that cost them the Jelly Category title this year.
Everybody raves about the fancy sufganiyot at English Cake. And I’m a sucker for fancy. I’m one of those pathetic Pinterest users who adorns the Thanksgiving table with runners and candles in complimentary seasonal colors. Don’t judge.
English Cake was last year’s winner in the Fancy Category. But this year, they should be ashamed. Yes, my Sufganiya Snob side clucks its tongue. While they are beautiful and alluring, the dough is dry. Perhaps they were overcooked? We tried 6 different varieties (including cream cheese frosting, of which I am normally a big fan) but the disappointing dough left us parched. And the dough-to-jelly ratio ratio was reprehensible.
Fail, English Cake. Fail.
As every Taglit participant knows, Marzipan Bakery reeks of intrigue and mob ties. And largely undercooked, gooey chocolate rugelach that is often double wrapped and brought in droves, via arguably oversized carry-ons, back to Brooklyn. It’s mostly pronounced “ruggle” (rhymes with muggle) “uch” with a hamishe bridge and tunnel accent. Marzipan is often regarded as Mecca for tourists, right after the Kotel. So march into Marzipan we did, with high expectations, considering they were the reigning champion 3 years ago. We selected a few (ok, six) and cleaned our palates in preparation.
Oh, the jelly. Oh, the dough. Droolworthy. Yes, that’s a word. I’m a writer. I can create words. Not only are they scrupulous about a consistent and properly balanced dough-jelly ratio, they pony up for the quality jelly. A true winner in every sense of the word and the gold medal in the Jelly Category for 2014.
Now, technically, Brooklyn Bakery is not in the shuk. For this reason, we have never before included it in our Annual Sufganiya Shuk Tour. But it’s my tour, so I can make up the rules as I go along. So there.
My father in law, who frequents shops in Mea Shearim, vehemently suggested made me include it this year. I hadn’t planned on venturing into that neighborhood, so when I jumped out of the car and asked my husband and kids to wait 5 minutes so I could grab a taste, I stuck out like a – well, like a woman wearing jeans and a bright pink sweater in Mea Sheraim.
The staff, however, didn’t bat even one eyelid. I explained that they were a recent addition to our Sufganiya Tour and a very kind gentleman (presumed to be one of the owners?) promised, with a smile, that he’d give me a selection of his 6 best.
The man. Was not. Kidding.
Hands down, Brooklyn Bakery was the winner of the Fancy Category this year. The custard (custard! Not jelly, not frosting, not cream) filling his sufganiyot is unmatched on this side of the pond.
I have been baking all my life. Everyone in my vicinity knows that cake, pie, mousse, cupcakes, frosting – really anything butter-based…. can be found in my kitchen, year-round. These were parve, and I have a long and infamous history of mocking parve desserts.
Mock no more.
Brooklyn Bakery has earned its place on our Annual Shuk Sufganiyot Tour, even though it’s a bit of a hike from the shuk and I get the stink-eye on my way there.
Tomorrow is the last day of Chanukkah. I recommend that you close your laptop, tell your boss you need an hour, and hightail it down to Brooklyn Bakery for his custard filled sufganiyot before you have to wait another year to experience the custard ecstasy.