Sufganiyot: Jelly Donuts for Hanukkah

Day Three 12 Tastes of Brooklyn
Ostrovitsky-sufganiyot1581

Sufganiyot in the window of Ostrovitsky Bakery in Midwood.

dec8POTATO LATKES FRIED IN HOT OIL may be the iconic dish to eat at Hanukkah, but we hold a special place in our heart for sufganiyot, the deep-fried jelly-filled donut that Israelis go crazy about during this holiday. In The Book of Jewish Food, author and food scholar Claudia Roden tells us that the “Austro-Hungarian peasant carnival doughnut, which became a “royal” delicacy at the French court of Marie Antoinette has been adopted in Israel to celebrate Hanukkah because it is fried in oil”—oil to commemorate the miracle of a small flask of oil keeping the flame in the Temple alight for eight days. Like many famous dishes, though, its origins are the subject of Talmudic debate. 

But never mind about that. How do I get my hands on some? The answer you’ll hear from Brooklyn connoisseurs will more likely than not be Ostrovitsky Bakery in Midwood. “We make thousands of them at Hanukkah,” the bakery owner tells me when I pay a visit, “thousands. We’ve been doing it every Hanukkah for 18 years.” To get a jump on the lines that will later form out the door, I bring home a supply to do a little early taste-testing with my friends. Our verdict: Maybe you could almost feed a family with one of them…but Hanukkah only comes once a year. Sweet, scrumptious.

Mile-End-Sufganiyot

Sufganiyot, in The Mile End Cookbook: Redefining Jewish Comfort Food from Hash to Hamantaschen. (Photo by Quentin Bacon)

Mile End Delicatessen in Boerum Hill has developed quite a fan club, too, for its sufganiyot, but sadly there will be none this year, co-owner Rae Bernamoff tells us. Sad for us, maybe; she certainly has bigger problems: Mile End’s central commissary kitchen, where it does all its baking (and curing and smoking and pickling) was flooded during Sandy. It’s in a Civil War era building on Pier 41 in Red Hook and “as with most of the waterfront,” she said, “the high tide surge pushed about four feet of water into our space. We’re still rebuilding.”

mile-end-book-coverAs a consolation, and to show solidarity, head to the deli itself for what sounds like a gut-busting $16 “surf and turf” latke special:  two open-faced latkes—potato, celery root and parsnip pancakes—one topped with chopped liver, pickled eggs and gribenes (chicken or goose skin cracklings), the other with creamy whitefish salad with trout roe.

And if your heart is really set on some Mile End sufganiyot, then you’ll have to make them yourself. You’ll find the recipe in the very appetizing The Mile End Cookbook, by Noah and Rae Bernamoff. Latkes, too, and a lot more dishes “redefining Jewish comfort food.”

One more stop: Brooklyn Larder in Park Slope also has tasty jelly donuts (along with a full Hanukkah catering menu) but shhh, don’t tell anyone, they’re baked not fried.

Ostrovitsky Bakery
1124 Avenue J, Midwood
718-951-7924
The bakery is Shomer Shabbos: closes before sundown on Friday, reopens on Sunday. 

Mile End Delicatessen 
97A Hoyt St, Boerum Hill
718-852-7510 

Brooklyn Larder 
228 Flatbush Avenue, Park Slope 
718-783-1250

Photograph (top) by Basia Hellwig. Date stamp typographic design by Joy Makon Design. The font is Bauhaus, by Ed Benguiat and Victor Caruso, ITC, 1975.

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