A sufganiyot traditionalist weighs in

Sufganiyot from Ne'eman (Yitz Motzen)
Sufganiyot from Ne'eman (Yitz Motzen)

I am going to reluctantly wade into the very contentious debate that arises every Chanukah season-who has the best sufganiya?  Why is this a reluctant entry into an ever-popular debate?  To start, endless lists already exist!  From filling to topping, texture to taste-everyone wants something different! And variables abound!  A donut from the same bakery on a different day might be vastly different than another.

So why bother wading in at all?  I take my sufganiya eating pretty seriously, as you will find.  I am a traditionalist. Almost every list I’ve seen compares the various new flavours that come out each year. It’s very hard to compare apples to oranges or crème brulee to pistachio to lemon meringue to Baba Au Rhum (an actual flavour from Roladin)! I only comment on the “traditional” jelly filled sufganiyot.  Variety, variety, variety!  I am metabolically gifted (thanks Ema) and multiple days filled with multiple donuts put me in a unique position for fair representation. I try to compare A LOT of different bakeries. I have gotten up to 20 or so different bakeries some years.  This year, I had sufganiyot from 17 different bakeries and ate 23 sufganiyot total. (So far – 1 more day to go:-) I may or may not have had 9 in one day. I refuse to confirm.

I generally consider four points:

  1. Consistency of the dough – I’m looking for light, airy and fluffy. Not heavy.
  2. Taste of the dough. Not too sweet…but shouldn’t taste like bread.
  3. Filling to dough ratio. In the perfect sufganiya, there will be jelly in almost every single bite.
  4. Taste/quality of the jelly

One final point. I can’t expound on the intricacies of sufganiyot without a mention of my biggest pet peeve. “Top load” vs “side load”.

Self-explanatory.

Top load!   (Yitz Motzen)

Top load is evil. Nobody should ever make a sufganiya and then destroy it by filling the jelly from the top. It will never be a top contender in my book. And if you need a visual – I have visuals!  As I mentioned – an ideal sufganiya should have jelly in almost every single bite. Impossible with a top load.  Half the sufganiya will be just the dough and then you will get to the jelly and it will explode all over.  A law should be passed in the Knesset to make it illegal! End rant.

Top load – where’s the filling???   (Yitz Motzen)

My jelly journey included three main runs this year. Emek Refaim, the Shuk, and Mea Shearim. And also two bakeries in Talpiyot. I didn’t get to do a Ben Yehuda run this year…alas Covid.  (In case you want to ask me about a specific place, these are the ones I had: Marzipan, Ben Ami, Dulce de Paris, Le Moulin Dore, Ne’eman – not from the chain, Ne’eman – the chain, Bourekas Ima, English Cake, Angel’s, Berman, Chaba, Duvshanit, Calderon, Avichayil, Nechama, Brizel, Ya’aleh, and Teler)

Ne’eman – the chain. I got these the first day from the location in Hadar Mall. Every year, they have consistently made a very solid good sufganiya. Not the most incredible, but just all around good. I had 3 from them this year. They are all over so it makes it easy to find one.

EMEK:

I don’t like being negative so I won’t tell you about the awful sufganiya I had here. I will just say that some places should stay in their lane and never fry a sufganiya again.

Marzipan – I’m a big believer that you go to a bakery and get what they are great at. Marzipan – famous for their amazing chocolate rugelach. But their jelly sufganiyot? TOP LOAD!!! WHY????

Ne’eman (NOT part of the chain of Ne’eman bakeries): This bakery won in 2 categories. The consistency of the dough was fantastic. Light and airy and everything great about sufganiya dough. And they had the most abundance of filling as well. The taste of the dough and the jelly was just ok though.

SHUK:

Pay attention in the shuk. There are a few places that are actually all one bakery with a few ‘branches’. The easiest way to determine that is to check the name on the Teudat Kashrut. So I ended up “only” having 5 sufganiyot even though it appears as if there are more bakeries in the shuk.

Berman – though they sadly make TOP LOAD sufganiyot so they automatically won’t be the best one I had, they did have the best tasting dough!

Chaba – this bakery has what appears to be the main bakery actually across the street from the shuk on Yaffo Street. I remember one time coming there with my oldest son and we got to see how they made them and filled them. They have at least 1, but I think even 2 branches in the shuk. This was not the best sufganiya – but overall, it was a solid good sufganiya.

MEAH SHEARIM:

In past years I have been disappointed in my Meah She’arim run. In addition, a few places that are supposed to have great sufganiyot, haven’t had when I’ve been in the past. Namely Brooklyn Bakery, and Uri’s Pizza which had ribat chalav but not jelly. This year, I had my niece who is studying near there for the year, pick up sufganiyot for me.

Most of them were sadly below average. But. BUT. She also came armed with the winner for this year! A bakery called Avichayil. It can be found at Pri Chadash 8, off of Yeshayahu Street. It was tasty, it was full of jam, it was a great sufganiya. I would love to try one fresh out of the proverbial frying pan. That’s definitely going to be my plan for next year.

BOTTOM LINE:

Ne’man on Emek: Best consistency and amount of filling.

Berman: Best tasting dough

Avichayil: Best over all this year. We have a winner!

I hope that this was helpful to at least some of you. Feel free to disagree in the comments.

About the Author
Yitz Motzen has been involved in education his whole life. From a building and Torah camp in Virginia, programming in Australia and South Africa, youth programming in Upstate NY and formal education in the United States and Israel, Yitz is passionate about education and loves interacting with people from all over the world and from different backgrounds. Born in Israel, raised in Montreal, and now back in Israel, Yitz lives with his wife and 3 kids in Yerushalayim.
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