(Just in time for Hanukah, here's a special encore presentation of one of my - er - tastier columns.)
I know they’re bad for me. But I can’t resist.
I’m talking about donuts, of course. Whatever shape, size or variety, I go do-m’shuga-nut over them. And at this time of year, as Hanukah season descends upon us, Israel is overflowing with that uniquely Jewish version, the sufgania.
Sufganiot (that’s the plural) are a very simple but tasty version of the classic donut. Start with fried dough, don’t even bother digging a hole, then inject jelly or caramel (my preference) directly into the middle. Finish off by coating the creation with plenty of powdered sugar.
Sufganiot season starts earlier every year, in some cases kicking off just after Sukkot in October. By December, they are ubiquitous. At my eleven year-old daughter Merav’s class Hanukah party, I watched in awe as a large white van from a local bakery drove up to the school gates, opened its doors and revealed platter upon platter of white frosted mass-produced tempting and scrumptious sufganiot.
There are sufganiot in the kitchens at work, sufganiot at kiddush in shul, and sufganiot at the checkout counter of every supermarket from here to Haifa.
All of this reminds me of when our family was in the North America two summers ago and I became obsessed with finding the ultimate donut:
A Krispy Kreme.
I had heard that this chain serving hot and fresh donuts had taken the region by storm and was even trading on the stock market (look it up here)!
I had also heard their donuts were to die for. And I had never had one.
So the running theme of the summer was Dad’s obsession with finding that illusive Krispy Kreme. But on highways from Toronto to Cleveland to Chicago, our holy grail eluded us. It wasn’t until I was out shopping late one night, in a forlorn suburban mall in the middle of nowhere, that I chanced upon a freestanding Krispy Kreme franchise, beckoning to me from the middle of the nearly-empty parking lot.
Apparently, the big deal about Krispy Kreme is that when the sign outside is lit, that means hot donuts are rolling off the assembly line that’s a prominent feature in every store.
The sign was lit.
I approached the store and, through the windows, I could see hundreds of just-baked lightly browned donuts rolling out of the ovens, then floating down a river of boiling oil before being tenderly flipped and arriving at the end of their journey: an earnest Krispy Kreme employee offering free samples to us, the lucky consumers who had timed our arrival just right.
I sampled. I smiled.
Maybe it was because it was hot. Or because I had waited so long for this moment. But I declared to my fellow consumers, and maybe to God herself, that these were the absolute best donuts I had ever tasted.
I proceeded to buy a couple dozen for my wife Jody and the kids.
As much as I fawned over the Krispy Kremes last summer, I still have a special spot in my heart for the Krispy's more humble Israeli cousin. I think it must be the scarcity: you just can’t run out to get a hot sufgania in the middle of July. You won’t find one. You really have to wait for Hanukah to come near.
Which gives me an idea: why not create a year-round sufgania phenomenon. We’d have to modify the formula a bit. Turn it more into a full meal. And stuff the sufgania with more than jelly
How about spinach, broccoli and zucchini? Creating something more like a quiche.
Or fill it with chopped meat or schwarma or chicken schnitzel. We could replace the tired boring pita and the no-longer-trendy baguette with the hottest new trend: the fried dough sandwich!
From Beersheva to Binyamina,, this could be all the rage. Think of the entrepreneurship. The satisfied customers. The profits.
Shuki’s Falafel, move over. Here comes Brian’s Donut Quiche!