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The History of Sufganiyot (Jelly Doughnuts)

Sufganiyot is the Hebrew word for the jelly doughnuts that are traditionally eaten during Hanukkah. But how did they get their start? Like latkes, sufganiyot are deep-fried in oil as a reminder of the miracle of the oil, which lasted for eight nights instead of just one. According to food historian Emelyn Rude, the tradition of eating fried foods like doughnuts during Hanukkah was first mentioned in writing by a Spanish rabbi in the 12th century. However, jelly wasn’t added to the fried doughnuts until the 16th century, when sugar became inexpensive and Europe underwent a pastry revolution. At that time, Jews in Poland began adding jelly to the fried doughnuts they made during Hanukkah. Over the centuries, this became a popular tradition, but according to Jewish cookbook author Joan Nathan, it didn’t take off on a massive scale until the creation of modern Israel.  At that time, Jewish leaders sought to form a national identity. Naming and further popularizing certain food traditions, such as enjoying sufganiyot during Hanukkah, was one way that they sought to achieve that goal. Today, the tradition of eating sufganiyot during Hanukkah remains strong. Similar jelly doughnuts are also enjoyed by a large cross-section of the population at doughnut shops throughout the year.

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