Hanukkah starts tonight and sufganiyah season has been in full swing for the past several weeks. With an estimated 24 million of these deep-fried, jelly-filled holiday treats consumed in Israel each year, it’s no surprise that the dash for donuts starts long before the eight-day Festival of Lights begins.

Many bakeries aim for over-the-top creative flavors, fillings and toppings like mountains of sprinkles, cream and candies. But at Bakery, the French-inspired confectionery shop by the owners of Tel Aviv’s trendy Brasserie and CoffeeBar, the focus remains on taste and tradition.

“It’s like going back to basics,” says Adi Perry, Bakery’s brand director, of their approach to sufganiyot. “When you eat something traditional, it should be about the memories. The original sufganiyah was simple.”

And that’s what Bakery plans to deliver this year – 40,000 handmade sufganiyot in classic strawberry, caramel and chocolate. (Note: Bakery’s products are not certified kosher.)

Classic sufganiyot at Bakery, Tel Aviv. Photo: courtesy

Bakery, part of the R2M Group, opened in 2002 with the idea of enabling customers to enjoy baked goods from the group’s restaurants as well as Hotel Montefiore, Delicatessen and Rothschild 12.

During Hanukkah, the factory on Yad Harutzim Street works 24/7 to supply each of the five Bakery branches across Tel Aviv with a constant fresh supply, including four drop-offs every day beginning at 9am.

Each sufganiyah weighs 60 grams, yet no two are the same. “Our team makes each one by hand,” Perry tells ISRAEL21c. “Nothing is perfect; some are rounder than others, and that’s the beauty.”

It’s the only time of year you’ll see a frying machine in the bakery’s kitchen, whose ovens typically churn out French classics like croissants, brioches, eclairs and its famous St. Honoré cream puffs. Even in this refined French bakery, the sufganiyot are fried in oil to remember the Maccabees’ victory over their oppressors and the oil that miraculously burned for eight days.

Special pastry syringes are brought into the kitchen to infuse each sufganiyah with its sweet, gooey filling (strawberry is the most popular). Head pastry chef Ram Zilberman keeps to the same recipe each holiday season.

Bakery is hardly the only Israeli purveyor of sufganiyot. Oodles of filled donuts are churned out each Hanukkah season by nearly every bake shop in the land.

Among the most popular are those made by the Roladin chain (67 branches, most of them kosher). This year, Roladin offers 12 flavors filled with anything from vanilla-flavored mascarpone to mango-pineapple cream. Another favorite is English Cake, with 14 kosher branches and a menu of 14 sufganiyah varieties this year including Napoleon and Oreo cheese.

Hanukkah donuts by Roladin. Photo by Hadas Parush/FLASH90