Vanilla Bean Sufganiyot with Halva, Cookie Butter, Praline, and Chocolate Variations

Would it be unwise to divulge that I don't care much for sufganiyot? I've skipped making these Chanukah doughnuts myself because I was always underwhelmed by the dense, doughy, oily pastry. I never had one that was just so even though I've tried many in the name of holiday cheer. There's always hope that sometime soon I'll fall on the doughnut that questions my opinion. In Israel, the craze starts well before the actual holiday. I held off a single bite despite the enticing flavors and creative combinations. When I finally did have one it reinforced my resolve that doughnuts just might not be my thing.

And then this one came along. And trust me, it's just perfect. I wanted to try a recipe myself before I cast off doughnuts so I researched many and settled on a brioche-type of dough because it isn't as sweet and has the loveliest texture from all that butter. I added a vanilla bean which is worthwhile if for nothing more than the subtle aroma it adds to the dough and those black flecks are fancy. I believe a good quality vanilla extract should do as well. If you have everything prepped in place, the dough comes together quickly and sans mixer. I cut them more petite so they're approachable and to have more of them. I skipped the creamy filling because I didn't want things to get cloyingly sweet. But I played around with the toppings and halva became a new favorite. I made a few batches and each one made turned me into a fan of these fluffy, plump rounds. Promise you'll find the time to try them.

A few thoughts about working this dough. The longer it rests the higher the gluten content, and that's always a good idea for any dough. Yeast-based pastries scare some people because they're notoriously temperamental. It's true, they are. But just go with it. It took my dough closer to 2 hours to swell and that's normal depending on so many factors, just don't ask me for the science behind why. If you're yeast isn't too old then a little patience plus a short prayer, and things will turn out just right.

Vanilla Bean Sufganiyot (Doughnuts)  

yields about 16 doughnuts



1/2 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon instant yeast

2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

1 large egg, at room temperature

1/4 cup/50g granulated sugar

seeds from 1 vanilla bean pod*

3-4 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

oil, for frying


1/4 cup halva spread 

up to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

shredded halva, for garnish

*if you do not have a vanilla bean, simply use 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the milk until lukewarm. Remove from heat and whisk the yeast into it as well as a pinch of sugar. Let it proof for 5-7 minutes or until bubbly and active. If it doesn't actively bubble, continue with the recipe since the yeast is instant.

In another large bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Pour in the yeast mixture and stir gently. Carefully pour in 3 cups of flour and salt and knead until a soft dough forms. Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until incorporated. If the dough is sticky, add more flour until you get a smooth, shiny dough. Transfer to an oiled bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Let it rest and rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1-2 hours. I sometimes turn on a small flame on my stove and place the bowl nearby though this time my dough didn't rise like I'm used to. 

If you are ready to fry, then continue. Otherwise you can refrigerate the dough for up to 24 hours. 

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll it out until it’s about 1/2 inch thick. Cut out as many doughnuts as you can using a cup or if you’re fancy and well equipped, a doughnut cutter. Re-roll the remaining dough and repeat. Transfer the doughnuts to a baking tray and loosely cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel to let it rise for another 45-60 minutes. 

In a large saucepan or dutch oven, place a thermometer and heat 1 liter of oil until it reaches 350F. Make sure you pay close attention to the temperature. Extra tip, add a small piece of carrot to the oil, it keeps the oil from browning. Gently place 2-3 doughnuts into the pot and fry for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Transfer to a paper-towel lined baking tray as you work your way through the rest of the batch.

For the glaze,

Place a glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Add the halva spread (or any other topping) and melt while stirring constantly. Once melted carefully remove the bowl from the fire to let cool slightly. Dip each doughnut into the halva and place a few strands of shredded halva. Have one and then share.

For the cookie butter, melt the 2 tablespoons in a double boiler, like above. Dip each doughnut and sprinkle a few flecks of Maldon salt.

For the praline, melt the 2 tablespoons of praline paste (or Nutella-type of spread) in a double boiler, like above. Dip each doughnut and sprinkle a few cacao nibs.

For the chocolate, melt the 2 tablespoons of chocolate spread in a double boiler, like above. Dip each doughnut and place a few strands of shredded halva.

And for the classic sufganiyot: simply dust with powdered sugar and serve with strawberry jelly. We like to pile it on so I don't squeeze into each one individually. But you can, just transfer to a piping bag, poke a hole into the doughnut and squeeze in until a bit of jelly pops out.