Celebrate Hanukkah with jelly-filled donuts at Scott's Generations in Phoenix | Phoenix New Times
Navigation

Holidays

For 30 years, this Valley baker has made jelly-filled doughnuts for Hanukkah

Sufganiyot are eaten during the eight-day Festival of Lights. At one Valley bakery, making the sweet fried treats is tradition.
Scott's Generations offers sufganiyot, raspberry jelly-filled doughnuts dusted with sugar, for Hanukkah.
Scott's Generations offers sufganiyot, raspberry jelly-filled doughnuts dusted with sugar, for Hanukkah. Sara Crocker
Share this:
To get ready for Hanukkah, Scott Snyder’s days begin around 3 a.m. He wakes up early to work on a special pastry he only makes once a year for the holiday, which begins at sundown on Thursday. He’ll fry, fill and dust dozens of doughnuts, or sufganiyot, with crystal sugar early each morning of the eight-day celebration. He sells these treats at his Phoenix restaurant, deli and bakery, Scott’s Generations.

Though he’s admittedly not big on sweets, making sufganiyot is a tradition he’s carried on for more than 30 years at the restaurant. He now sees customers who he met as children come in to order the doughnuts with their children.

“It’s special for me to be a part of people’s celebrations,” Snyder says.

The doughnuts have been made for centuries to mark the Festival of Lights, but are a lesser-known sweet counterpart to the latke, which are more well-known in the United States. But, just like potato latkes, the yeasted dough for sufganiyot is fried in oil – an act that commemorates the story of Hanukkah, when one night’s worth of oil lasted eight.

“The foods that are traditional for this holiday are anything cooked in oil to remember the story of the miracle of the oil," says Valley Rabbi Bonnie Sharfman.
click to enlarge A jelly-filled doughnut on a plate at Scott's Generations.
Sufganiyot have evolved from plain fried dough to being filled with jelly and topped with sugar. For his rendition, Scott Snyder fills them from the top with raspberry jelly and dusts them with crystal sugar.
Sara Crocker
Sufganiyah, the name for a single doughnut, comes from the Talmudic words sofgan and sfogga, which refer to a "spongy dough." Sharfman points out that historically people fried things that were staples of the cuisine in their area, with potatoes being more common in Europe and fried balls of dough eaten in areas of the Middle East and North Africa, where wheat was first cultivated. Now, cuisines and traditions intersect.

Sufganiyot took on their current makeup, with jelly fillings and sugar, around the 16th century. Prior to that, sugar was costly. Plantation-produced sugar from the Caribbean changed that, allowing the sweetener along with fruit preserves to proliferate.

The first record of a filled doughnut dates back to a German cookbook published in 1485 and translated to Polish in 1532, according to food writer and cookbook author Davit Leite. Polish Jews adapted the recipe, which called for frying in lard, and fried the dough in schmaltz or oil. Sufganiyot became a popular treat during Hanukkah in some parts of Poland, according to Leite, and then in Israel, where the pastries continue to be a staple of the celebration.

Today, the base of a sufganiyah is generally the same – a yeasted dough that is fried. The fillings and toppings can vary. They generally are sweet, but savory versions have been made as well. Snyder has his own take on the pastry, too.

“I do raspberry (jelly). I like to fill them from the top, not on the side. I use crystal sugar, not powdered sugar or glaze,” he says. “That’s just the way I was brought up eating them, so that’s how I make them.”

Snyder's grandmother made sufganiyot at home during Hanukkah, and they were smaller and more akin to a doughnut hole, he says.
click to enlarge The pastry case at Scott's Generations is filled with bagels and pastries.
Among Scott's Generation's offerings for Hanukkah are potato latkes and sufganiyot.
Sara Crocker
At the restaurant, he makes large, filled doughnuts. People can get sufganiyot from Scott’s Generations during Hanukkah, starting on Thursday. While Snyder says he aims to have the jelly doughnuts available every day during the holiday, the best way to guarantee getting the pastries, which are sold individually or by the dozen, is to call the restaurant. Snyder asks for 24 hours notice.

In addition to sufganiyot, Scott’s Generations will offer latkes throughout Hanukkah, as they do year-round. The restaurant’s holiday menu includes Logan's Latkes – three jumbo potato pancakes served with applesauce and sour cream, for $9.99. Scott’s will also serve other traditional holiday items, such as brisket, roasted chicken, glazed carrots and matzo ball soup. Scott’s is one of several places around the Valley offering sufganiyot and other foods for Hannukah.

For his family's celebration, Snyder says his sister, who he calls the "queen of Hanukkah" because of her love for the holiday, will host.

“This year her theme is ‘Pajama-kah,’ so everybody’s supposed to wear pajamas or sleepwear,” he says. “Mostly we’re having breakfast food items that she’s preparing, but I always do the latkes and the sufganiyot.”

Scott’s Generations

742 E. Glendale Ave., #142
602-277-5662
KEEP NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. Your membership allows us to continue offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food, and culture with no paywalls. You can support us by joining as a member for as little as $1.