A sufganiyah (Hebrew: סופגנייה or סופגניה; plural, sufganiyot: סופגניות) is a round jelly doughnut eaten in Israel and around the world on the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. The doughnut is deep-fried, filled with jelly or custard, and then topped with powdered sugar. At Hanukkah, Jewish people observe the custom of eating fried foods in commemoration of the miracle associated with the Temple oil.
The Hebrew word sufganiyah and Arabic word sfenj derive from the words for sponge (sfog, Hebrew: ספוג;isfanj, Arabic: إسْفَنْج).
There is a long North AfricanJewish tradition of associating sfenj (the smaller, deep-fried donuts) with Hanukkah. In Israel, where Central and East European Jews mingled with North African Jews, the Yiddish ponchkes (similar to the German Berliner, the Polish pączki, or the Russian ponchik) became part of this tradition.
The ponchke-style sufganiyah was originally made from two circles of dough surrounding a jam filling, stuck together and fried in one piece. Although this method is still practiced, an easier technique commonly used today is to deep-fry whole balls of dough, similar to the preparation of sfenj, and then inject them with a filling through a baker's syringe (or a special industrial machine). This method has resulted in nowadays' Sufganiyot to be identical to the German Berliner.
Bakeries and grocery stores build excitement for the approaching holiday by selling sufganiyot individually and by the box; they have become a favorite for school and office parties. Angel Bakeries, the largest bakery in Israel, reportedly fries up more than 250,000 sufganiyot every day during the eight-day Hanukkah festival. Each batch uses 100 kilograms of dough and makes 1,600 sufganiyot. Local newspapers add to the excitement by sending out food critics each year to rate the "best sufganiyah in town."
As a result of the national hubbub, some purveyors have elevated the basic filling recipe to an art form. The least expensive version (priced at about $0.30) is filled with plain red jelly, while more expensive versions (priced at up to $2 per sufganiyah) are piped with dulce de leche, chocolate cream, vanilla cream, cappuccino, and even araq. In recent years, Israeli bakeries began downsizing sufganiyot to appeal to health-conscious consumers. The usual 100 grams (3.5 oz) size, packing 400 to 600 calories (1700 to 2500 kJ), now appears in 50 grams (1.8 oz) size with different fillings and toppings, earning the name "mini".