In Israel, Chanukah season is already here

After more than three weeks of feasts, prayers and days off from work and school, Israel’s busy holiday season — from Rosh Hashanah through Simchat Torah — finally ended earlier this month.

But, it turns out, another holiday was just beginning: Chanukah.

To be sure, Chanukah doesn’t begin this year until the evening of Dec. 6. But just as in the United States, when the end of Halloween now means the beginning of the Christmas season (remember when that day used to be Thanksgiving?),  in Israel, the conclusion of the High Holidays — and sometimes, even during the High Holidays — means the start of the Chanukah season.

Welcome to Chanukah creep.

Of course, in Israel, Chanukah isn’t the Jewish Christmas. It’s a relatively minor holiday, celebrating an ancient Jewish kingdom; adults still have to work. Chanukah gifts aren’t a thing, either, so there are no crowds mobbing the mall for last-minute shopping.

But one thing that’s huge in Israel during Chanukah is sufganiyot, the oily jelly doughnuts that are traditionally eaten here rather than latkes, the holiday favorite among Jewish-Americans. Savvy businesses have noted Israelis’ love of the pastries and are marketing them to the hungry masses months in advance.

In September, right after Rosh Hashanah ended, the Israeli bakery chain Roladin rolled out its first batches of sufganiyot.

Roladin is famous in Israel for getting creative with its sufganiyot, including variations with syringes filled with jelly (or another gooey treat), ensuring each bite has that perfect ratio of fried dough and filling. Last week, a branch of the bakery in Tel Aviv showed off a variety of flavors — the traditional jelly-filled sat on display trays alongside dulce de leche; meanwhile, an employee carried a tray from the kitchen filled with chocolate-sprinkled versions.

The bakery starts sufganiyot so early, a spokeswoman said, simply because people like them — in fact, they’ve been getting an early jump on the doughnuts for 26 years.

“People come in for it, for sure,” she said. “We have the sufganiyot with the most innovative flavors. The inspiration comes from French desserts.”

Others have followed Roladin’s lead. A sweet shop in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market plans to start selling the doughnuts this week. And a bakery in the Jerusalem Central Bus Station sold its first sufganiyot on Thursday, presented in layered rows on its front counter.

“In the United States, they sell jelly doughnuts all year round,” said Ramon Mendesona, a ceramics artist with a stall in Tel Aviv’s Nachalat Binyamin craft market. “Why should we save them just for Chanukah?”

After all, Mendesona and a couple other artists in the craft market sell menorahs and for them, Chanukah season never ends. Tourists buy them year-round. Israelis, they said, begin buying menorahs a month or so before the holiday.

Fortunately, for Israelis with sweet tooths, the selling of sufganiyot is in full swing. One fan of the early doughnut push is Elie Klein, a public relations professional who from 2010 to 2012 ate an average of 100 sufganiyot a year. Like a marathon runner, Klein got friends to donate money for each sufganiyah he consumed — and ended up raising $40,000 for various charities.

While Klein has had his fill of doughnuts for a while, he said he still loves seeing them in bakery windows.

“The fact we’ve turned it into something so huge, this seasonal food, it’s pretty amazing,” he told JTA.

Stan’s Donuts Mixes Flavor and Fame

O.J. Simpson dropped in all the time. Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft were regulars, as were Robert Blake and Jayne Mansfield. Steve McQueen pedaled up on his bicycle.

Now the star clientele at Stan’s Corner Donut Shoppe in Westwood tends to be more on the intellectual side. UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale usually comes in Sundays, and UCLA Nobel Laureate Louis J. Ignarro (“You just missed him,” owner Stan Berman said) walks in for his breakfast fix.

Whether old-timer or first-time tourist, they can’t help salivating at the sight of Stan’s display counter with its 75 varieties of fresh-baked doughnuts.

Will it be the chocolate cinnamon cheese, the blueberry cinnamon log, the apple fritter or the coconut twist? Or, if you really want to impress your date, how about Stan’s piece de resistance, Reese’s peanut butter pocket, with an option of fresh bananas and chocolate chips mixed in?

If some folks boast of their descent from a long line of old-world rabbis, the 74-year-old Berman can claim generations of Russian Jewish bakers, going back at least to his great-grandfather.

His father and uncle ran two bakeries in Philadelphia, and even joining the Marines during the Korean War couldn’t interrupt Berman’s career. The Marines, in a rare instance of fitting the right peg into the right hole, sent him to bakery school, and he served his country as pastry chef at the Camp Pendleton NCO (noncommissioned officers) Club.

While in the service, he met his future wife, Ina, at the old Westside Jewish Community Center at Beverly Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, which then doubled as a USO club.

Ina worked at Hughes Aircraft and had an apartment in Culver City. After they married, Berman daily drove 90 miles each way between the apartment and Camp Pendleton.

Berman opened Stan’s Donuts in 1964, renting the present 200-square-foot store for the bakery, counter display and small indoor and outdoor tables seating 15.

As word of Stan’s delicacies spread, his clientele expanded beyond its UCLA student base. Strategically located across the street from the art deco Bruin and Village movie palaces, the shop quickly attracted some Hollywood luminaries.

“When ‘Love Story’ opened across the street, Ryan O’Neal used to sit here and count the house,” Berman reminisced.

Berman’s local reputation leaped into national prominence in 2001, when Forbes magazine published an eclectic list of “50 of America’s Best,” including best yachts, best hammocks, best spin doctors and so forth.

Forbes pronounced Stan’s as the best doughnut shop in the whole wide world, praising the product as “the kind that slide down your throat before you can reconsider your gluttony.”

Immediately after the article was published, Berman got a call from a corporate vice president in Texas, who insisted that he needed a shipment of a dozen of Stan’s finest right away.

“That put me in the FedEx business,” said Berman, who now ships all across the United States. At the shop, Berman typically sells 150-200 dozen doughnuts a day to approximately 200 walk-ins, mostly for take-out.

Berman, whose demeanor and speech pattern couldn’t be anything but Jewish, is not what you would call the rigidly observant type. His store is open from 6 a.m. to midnight, 365 days a year, although, “on Kol Nidre, my wife insists that we go to the synagogue,” he said.

When Berman started out, he used to come in a 2 or 3 a.m. but has since slowed down. He still mixes all the dough, using soybean shortening, and creates many of the specialty doughnuts but leaves the rest to a small, veteran staff.

He and his wife also take time off for travel, including two trips to Israel.

In the doughnut business, “you’re affected by every trend,” noted Berman, and acknowledged that since the low-carb craze took off, sales have been down 10 percent. But he expects to survive all fads, personally and professionally.

“I really never expected to live past 60, but I get so much joy out of the business, I’ve made so many wonderful friends that I want to stick around another decade till the shop’s 50th anniversary,” he said. “After that, we’ll see? Maybe one of my sons will take over.”

Full disclosure: After the interview, Berman presented The Jewish Journal with a dozen complimentary doughnuts. The evidence has since disappeared.

Stan’s Donuts is located at 10948 Weyburn Ave., Westwood.For more information, call (310) 208-8660, or visit .

Time to Eat the Doughnuts

Q: What’s better than a piping hot Krispy Kreme doughnut?

A: A piping hot kosher Krispy Kreme doughnut — and just in time for Chanukah, which has a holiday tradition of eating fried foods like doughnuts.

Ever since the franchise expanded beyond its Southeast roots, Krispy Kreme has been held up as an example of the ultimate doughnut treat. Now observant Jews can finally discover what all the fuss is about, since the Southern California version of the popular pastry received kosher certification this month through Kosher Supervision of America (KSA). The certification includes all varieties, from the original glazed to the chocolate-iced and custard-filled.

"We certify the doughnuts, not the establishments because they are open for Shabbat," said Rabbi Tzemach Rosenfeld, a KSA mashgiach, who noted that the doughnuts and the prepacked beverages are kosher as well.

Roger Glickman, president of Great Circle Family Foods, the Southern California developer of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, said his company had been deluged with requests for kosher certification since Krispy Kreme shops first opened here in 1999. He said the company has always used kosher ingredients, but needed to wait until there was greater demand for the product to invest in the certification process, and now that there are 21 stores and grocery distribution, it is time.

The certification opens up several fundraising options for the Jewish community. Glickman said already he has been contacted by a number of Jewish day schools inquiring about the partnership program that makes doughnuts available to nonprofit and community organizations at a deep discount. The organization then arranges a "Doughnut Day" during which they sell the doughnuts at a substantial markup. The company also has a program using "partnership cards," which are sold to the nonprofit organizations for $5 and are typically resold by the organization for about $10. The bearer of the card can then redeem it for 10 dozen original glazed doughnuts.

Rosenfeld said the response he’s received since the certification has been tremendous.

"There is something unique about a Krispy Kreme," the rabbi said, adding that although he doesn’t indulge in them himself, "The feedback I get from the people is they just melt in your mouth."

Deep Fry Diversity

The historical foundations of Chanukah are well documented, in the Apocrypha’s First and Second Books of the Maccabees and "The Jewish War" and "Jewish Antiquities," written by the Jewish historian, Josephus, in the first century of the common era. As these sources relate, in the year 167 B.C.E. the king of Syria, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, decreed that only pagan gods could be worshiped in the temples, and the practice of Jewish rituals, including circumcision and Sabbath observance, was outlawed under penalty of death. Although many Jews, looking to assimilate into Hellenic society, acceded to Antiochus’ decrees, an elderly priest named Mattathias and his five sons (the middle son would become known as Judah Maccabee or "Judah the Hammer") bitterly opposed them and, after raising a rebel army, headed to the hills.

Thus began a bloody three-year guerrilla war against both the Syrian armies and the local Jewish assimilationists that culminated in the liberation of Jerusalem and the cleansing of the Temple there.

It’s not hard to understand why, at a time of Roman rule, the rabbis may have felt obliged to play down the idea of rebellion against an imperial army and focus attention instead on the holiday’s spiritual qualities.

An especially fortunate outcome of the shift in emphasis is that down through the centuries Chanukah has developed into a celebration not merely of resistance to tyranny but also of foods cooked in oil. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a more festive holiday, or one to be more happily observed, than that which prescribes the eating of fried foods.

Of these foods, certainly the most well-known is the potato latke, which in the United States has come to bear the same relationship to Chanukah as roast turkey does to Thanksgiving: The holiday is unthinkable without it. Latkes are of Eastern European origin (the word itself is Yiddish, of Slavic derivation), and their prominence at Chanukah is a result of the overwhelmingly Ashkenazic composition of American Jewry; among Sephardic Jews, potato latkes are about as common as Easter eggs. By no means, though, have the Sephardim had to forsake the pleasure of fried foods on Chanukah — far from it. The fried doughnuts called sfenj, for instance, are a North African Chanukah delicacy. Lightened with yeast, the doughnuts are glazed with a sugar syrup flavored with cinnamon and orange, as is often the case with Sephardic cakes and pastries. (Sfenj are also to be found in Israel, but even more popular there are the jelly doughnuts called sufganiyot, introduced in the 1930s by immigrants from Germany, where the new year is celebrated with jelly doughnuts.)

Fried doughnuts are really just more elaborate versions of fritters, and yeast-raised fritters doused in syrup are a Chanukah tradition throughout the Sephardic world, from Europe and North Africa to the Middle East. In Italy, the holiday is celebrated with fritters made from pureed squash, or from a more traditional yeast dough filled with raisins and anise seeds and finished with warm honey. Across the Mediterranean in Greece, a yeast dough is used to turn out fried puffs called loukomades; anyone who has ever visited the Café du Monde in New Orleans will recognize them as beignets, though loukomades are topped not with a half-inch of confectioner’s sugar (the tell-tale white powder on the shirtfront instantly identifies a recent cafe patron) but with crushed nuts and the omnipresent Sephardic sugar syrup.

In Greece, olive oil is still used for deep-frying, but this practice is no longer very widespread because olive oil’s smoke point — the temperature at which it begins to smoke, imparting an unpleasant flavor — is lower than that of many other types of oil, while its pronounced flavor tends to overwhelm sweet foods. Far more often, now, deep-frying is done with other types of oil, including sunflower oil (as in Turkey, where there has been a relatively recent transition from olive oil, a Spanish legacy), corn oil, peanut oil, and, in North America, canola oil. Still, whichever oil is used, the principle behind deep-frying remains the same. The heat of the oil causes browning in the natural sugars with which it comes into contact resulting in intense flavor, and if the oil is hot enough, steam will be produced inside the food, which pushes outward from the center and prevents the oil from being absorbed. Though surrounded by liquid, the food remains crisp. It is a culinary miracle worthy of celebratio, at Chanukah time or anytime else.

Sfenj (Yeast Doughnuts)

In Morocco, sfenj are a popular street food, often eaten for breakfast. Among North African Jews, they are traditionally made for Chanukah celebrations.

For doughnuts
1 package (about 2-1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoons salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons. vegetable or peanut oil
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/4 teaspoon orange-flower water
1/4 cup finely chopped almonds (optional)
Vegetable or peanut oil for deep-frying

For syrup (optional):
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon orange-flower water
Dash of vanilla
Confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling on top of Sfenji (optional)

For syrup (if using), mix all of the syrup ingredients together in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cook about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, mix the yeast with the warm water and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Let stand until the mixture becomes frothy — about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, the remaining sugar and the salt. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, oil, orange zest, orange-flower water, the chopped almonds (if using) and the yeast mixture. Make a well in the dry ingredients and carefully pour the liquid in. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the liquid until a uniform dough is formed. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is soft, about five minutes, adding flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Place in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with a towel. Let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 13-inch width. With a cookie cutter or the rim of a large glass, cut out rounds about 3 inches in diameter. Use your thumbs to punch out a hole in the center as you pull up each dough round. Place the dough rounds on lightly oiled baking sheets, cover with towels and let rise until puffy, about 45 minutes.

In a large, heavy pot, heat at least 2 inches of oil to 350 degrees. Drop the doughnuts in small batches into the oil (do not crowd the pot, as it would make the oil temperature fall) and fry until golden brown on both sides, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Remove with a slotted spoon or wide skimmer and let drain on wire racks.

Dip the warm doughnuts in the cooled syrup (let glaze harden slightly, then dip a second time) or sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes about 12.

This article appears courtesy of The Forward.

Krispy Kreme

The clown blowing balloons in the parking lot is working at breakneck speed, trying her best to keep the crowd entertained. The wait in line is at least an hour. And cars have snaked around the building and up Van Nuys Boulevard, sitting in the hot sun for as many as three hours.

All this for the chance to buy a couple dozen doughnuts? Well, yes. It’s Krispy Kreme doughnuts we’re talking about here.

Not since the gas lines of the 1970s, perhaps, has a commodity been in such high demand. With the arrival of North Carolina-based Krispy Kreme in Southern California, it seems people can’t get enough of the sweet stuff the company’s been selling for 62 years.

The Van Nuys location, one block north of Sherman Way on Van Nuys Boulevard, opened Sept. 28 and is the second in Southern California. A La Habra location opened in January.

Both stores, complete with a drive-thru and live display of the doughnut production process, are owned and operated by Great Circle Family Foods –the exclusive developer for Krispy Kreme in Southern California. Roger and Wendy Glickman and Richard Reinis (Wendy’s father) head the company, which formed in January 1998 as they began negotiations to buy franchise rights.

So, you might ask, are the doughnuts kosher? According to the Glickmans, they could very well be.

The 50-pound bags of doughnut mix and the tubs of filling are certified kosher. But a rabbi has not inspected the premises. To take that extra step, say the Glickmans, is something they’re looking into. For now, they’ve got their hands full, with 125,000 doughnuts selling daily to 15,000 customers between their two locations.

The couple, who live in Beverlywood with their 3 1/2 year-old son Elliot and 1-year-old daughter Amanda, are somewhat overwhelmed by the public’s huge response. But then they remember that Krispy Kreme mania also struck them.

The Glickmans home had been in Philadelphia. Roger was working as the director of real estate for Sony Retail Entertainment, and while on business in the South, discovered the doughnuts that would change his life.

“He fell in love with them,” says Wendy. “He was obsessed with doughnuts.” (His favorite is the Original Glazed.)

Then Wendy became hooked. She says she ate one Krispy Kreme doughnut per day while pregnant with her daughter. She opts for the creme-filled varieties — “the most fattening.” Meanwhile, son Elliot favors the Chocolate Iced with Sprinkles, while daughter Amanda tends to like the Traditional Cake.

The couple, who originally met when they both attended Crossroads, negotiated to buy the franchise rights and moved out to California to set up shop in June 1998. They joined Wilshire Blvd. Temple, where their son attends pre-school.

There are 15 Krispy Kreme varieties to choose from, though the yeast-raised original glazed are best known. They’re light and fluffy, fried in vegetable shortening, and best of all, they’re hot and fresh. During “Hot Light Hours,” a neon “Hot Doughnuts Now” sign lights up in the front window to announce that fresh batches are ready. At the Van Nuys store, these hours are from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Once inside, customers can watch through a window as the stainless steel doughnut machine churns out about 250 dozen doughnuts per hour. “We’ve been cleaning nose prints off the glass all day!” says Roger, laughing.

He explains that the bags of doughnut mix arrive from the Krispy Kreme distributor in North Carolina, and his staff combines the mix with water and yeast to form the dough. It’s then placed in a pressurized machine that forces the dough through cutters to create round doughnut shapes. Human hands never touch the dough.

Once the doughnuts are formed, they’re whisked onto trays into an airtight box where the dough rises. The doughnuts then travel along a conveyor belt and float across the fryer, like little bobbing life preservers. They are flipped automatically when they reach the middle, and are never submerged in the vegetable shortening. Cooking takes just 110 seconds, 55 seconds per side.

The doughnuts’ journey is not complete, though, until the conveyor belt takes them to the waterfall of white glaze that drizzles over their new golden brown skins. The glaze sets as the doughnuts reach what Roger calls the “retail curve” – an actual curve in the conveyor belt where the staff stands waiting to box the doughnuts up for customers. You can’t get any hotter or fresher than this.

The Original Glazed becomes the base for the Chocolate Iced and Chocolate Iced with Sprinkles varieties. Several women in one corner of the store smooth the icing on with thick spatulas, while others work on the fillings, which include blueberry, raspberry, lemon and cinnamon apple. There’s something for everyone, and that’s likely why the crowds keep coming.

The Glickmans say they plan to open 42 Krispy Kreme locations in Southern California. Two more are scheduled to open in November — one in the Block at Orange in Orange County, and one in Ontario Mills in the Inland Empire.

“We’re a car culture here,” says Wendy. “All of our Krispy Kremes will have to be drive-thrus. It’s a matter of finding the right location.”

And for the holidays, add the Glickmans, they may decide to offer doughnuts with holiday color-themed sprinkles. Can we expect “Hanukkah” doughnuts with a blue-and-white motif? Well, the Glickmans laugh, we’ll have to wait and see.

Krispy Kreme is located at 7249 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys. (818) 908-9113.

Eclectic Chanukah & Inept Bachelors

The grocery aisles are starting to fill with Thankgiving items, which can only mean one thing: Chanukah can’t be far behind. This year, the holiday’s first night falls on Dec. 3, which gives you more than enough time to add a few new or improved dishes to your eight-day repetoire. Rob Eshman, Managing Editor of the Jewish Journal, cookbook author and former chef and caterer, will teach, “An Eclectic Chanukah Menu” at The Seasonal Table Cooking School on Thurs., Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m. in West Los Angeles. His menu includes Traditional Crunchy Latkes, Braised Sonoma Lamb with Pomegranate Glaze, Israeli Couscous with Winter Vegetables and Homemade Harissa; Coffee Meringue with Espresso Zabaglione and Deep Chocolate Sauce.

Eshman will also teach “Bachelors in the Kitchen,” a fast-paced, participatory primer for bachelors (and single women) on how to do away with takeout and create fast, easy dishes on your own. That class will take place Thurs., Oct. 28 at 6:30 p.m. The 2 1/2 hour classes are $55 each. Call (310) 454-4220 to register. — Staff Report