Don’t look at the Chanukah doughnuts (sufganiyot) but rather what is inside them. The Chanukah tradition of eating fried doughnuts is more popular than ever, but the traditional jelly inside the doughnut is often replaced by more exotic ingredients, ranging from pistachio to melon vodka.
Israelis gobble up about 20 million calorie-rich fried doughnuts every Chanukah, and Jews around the world munch millions more.
Bakeries each year try to come up with flavors that challenge Baskin-Robbins. Flavors this year include chocolate, banana luti, blueberry, caramel and halva, made from sesame.
The oil used for frying doughnuts symbolizes the miracle 2,000 years when the victorious Maccabees found enough pure olive oil in the restored Second Temple to burn for one day in the holy Menorah. The oil lasted instead for eight days, when new oil was able to be prepared according to Jewish law.
The high cholesterol and high-fat content in the doughnuts has prompted many bakeries to come up with more healthy doughnuts, usually made with white flour. Health food faddists now can find doughnuts made with skim milk or water, artificial sweeteners instead of sugar, low-fat butter, sugarless jelly and whole wheat flour.
The “healthy” doughnuts are baked instead of fried, leaving happy eaters without the symbol of oil but with the taste of the holiday tradition.
“Traditional” health food addicts still can use olive oil in other ways, such as a dressing on salads or as a dip with pita or for challah at the Friday night Sabbath meal.