I shun sugar and white flour. I don’t do dairy. Saturated fats? Forget about it.
Yet here I am stuffing my face with insanely sweet, buttery donuts in the Tel Aviv Hilton. I may feel queasy later. For now, I am letting each heavenly morsel linger lusciously on my hypocritical tongue.
Hanukkah is the excuse for my brief detour off the healthful eating trail. Sufganiyot are part of the Hanukkah experience in Israel. And if I’m going to indulge in one (or two), I may as well choose a gourmet confection over a 3-shekel supermarket jelly donut.
Besides, this is a work assignment.
I am here with my ISRAEL21c colleagues, Nicky Blackburn and Viva Sarah Press, to sample the new decadent filled donut varieties concocted by the Hilton’s young pastry chef, Idan Hadad.
Hadad’s kosher fried fluffs of calorie-laden goodness are available in the Lobby Lounge through the end of the holiday – one with a hot drink costs ₪36.
Today we lucky journalists are sampling four flavors: cheese, crumble and mascarpone Chantilly; coffee cream with coffee Chantilly; pistachio cream and raspberry coulis; and salted caramel with white chocolate Chantilly. (Chantilly, Hadad explains, is flavored whipped ganache.) Each is topped with a tantalizing chocolatey garnish.
The white linen napkins provided with these babies will never be white again, believe me. But if eating sufganiyot is a messy affair, imagine making them.
In the days before and during Hanukkah, Hadad and one of his 12 assistant pastry chefs start mixing the donut dough — enriched with butter, vanilla and brandy — at 5 in the morning. The sufganiyot are fried at 6; decorated and ready to serve by 7.
Hadad, 26, came up in the business the hard way. At 15, he worked as a dishwasher and vegetable peeler in a Nahariya restaurant. He went to cooking school in Haifa, worked in a hotel kitchen in Eilat, and did three separate stints in French pastry schools including the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Pâtisserie.
He says he’s a perfectionist and enjoys detailed work.
“I like to go outside the box and create something that will make people say ‘Wow.’ I think about what flavors and textures I can combine. Creating something new makes me happy,” says Hadad, who dreamed up a whole new holiday cake collection for the Tel Aviv Hilton. Think lemon pie with Italian meringue; think exotic mango mousse with passionfruit crème and coconut.
Keep dreaming those sweet dreams, Idan. They taste scrumptious in reality.
Happy Hanukkah from ISRAEL21c.