The changing of the clocks and the wearing of winter coats can only mean one thing: It’s time for Chanukah. And Chanukah means it’s time to exceed our usual calorie quotas for a week or so.
With apologies to those who prefer to focus on the wonderfulness that is the latke, I’m really more focused on the sufganiyot. Every year seems to bring an expanding number of varieties as the specimens get more and more elaborate. And while every year seems to bring more vendors to the market, a clear frontrunner has arisen over the last few years.
Chaim Zorger opened Sesame, a bake shop and cafe, in Flatbush in 2016 and decided to start making sufganiyot for Chanukah of 2017. A second location opened in Boro Park in 2019, right around the time when their name was becoming ubiquitous in the fervent discussion around deluxe sufganiyot. Before last Chanukah, the decision was made that the sensation that was Sesame sufganiyot really needed to branch out from the borough of Brooklyn. That led to the fortnight-long seasonal pop up locations that Sesame now operates in both the Five Towns and Lakewood.
Sesame is known for outstanding, but not outrageous. Their sufganiyot don’t have massive piles of things stacked six inches high atop the base. They’ve got a filling (usually a generous amount), a coating of some kind (powdered sugar or icing), something sprinkled on top (sprinkles, crumbs, chocolate chips, etc.), and that’s it. They’ve actually reduced their flavors from last year as they focus on creating the most well-curated menu you can find.
So what’s the craze all about if it’s not crazy additions stacked to the sky?
The dough is probably the star of the show. The Sesame dough is on the heavier side of the sufganiyah spectrum, but considering the texture, that’s a good thing. When you bite into one, you’ll be slightly reminded of one of those challahs that’s only 95% baked. The chewy, spongy, and moist dough is tasty, but not too sweet to allow the fillings and icings to accomplish that goal.
The fillings may all be different, but one thing that is almost always the same is that there’s an ample amount inside your sufganiyah. A common pet peeve for devotees of the donut is how evenly filled their pastry is. Given that all of these are filled by hand, variability is certainly an issue, but Sesame uses the preferred method of filling from the side and their staff is very good at what they do.
The only downside to Sesame sufganiyot is how small your window is to acquire them. While some places have their sufganiyot available for as many as three or even four weeks, Sesame only has their full menu available for two. Some might think that the popularity would cause them to have greater availability. In fact, it’s the opposite.
Sesame has their staff making sufganiyot 24 hours a day (Shabbat has never been more necessary) for those two weeks producing tens of thousands of sufganiyot. That kind of system is hard to sustain for as long as they would like to, so the dates are limited to two weeks. Also, they don’t pick-up their phone, so don’t even try. You can contact them via WhatsApp if you’d like to place a large order, but there’s a ten dozen minimum.
By the time you read this article, Sesame will have their full menu available. But with more than a dozen options, which ones do you get? Lucky for you, I was invited to try them all. So, here’s a countdown with a seasonally appropriate numeral that will help you fill one of those iconic black and yellow boxes.
Top 8 Sesame Sufganiyot
Let’s start with a classic.
While other varieties may have cropped up on the scene, make sure you grab at least one of the originals. It’s a regular jelly donut with powdered sugar and some colored icing so you can tell it apart from the others.
Yes, it’s basic. Yes, get one anyway.
This is an entry filled with cookie butter. “Lotus” is a product name of Biscoff, but the brand is unrivaled and “Lotus” is shorter. Anyway, this sufganiyah also features Lotus-flavored frosting and Lotus cookie crumbs on top.
I really like Lotus flavoring, so this works for me. But be warned that this isn’t for the faint of heart.
This was the biggest surprise for me. It turns out that the pistachio cream filling wasn’t too strong (despite its deep green color) for someone who doesn’t love pistachios. It also has pistachio frosting and small pieces of nuts on the top.
The nuts provided a nice crunch and the earthy flavor was a very interesting contrast to many of the other offerings. As one of the more unique choices, if this interests you, make sure you get one.
An interesting twist on the classic jelly donut, this is a sufganiyah with blueberry filling, a powdered sugar outside, and a few streaks of blue icing to denote its contents.
The deep, slightly acidic blueberry flavor is a real treat and provides a nice change of pace while still having the classic powdered sugar outside that might remind you of a simpler time when there weren’t quite as many choices to make in this space.
With chocolate glaze and some pearls of both milk and white chocolate on top, this sufganiyah is filled with the dairy chocolate hazelnut spread that has become a fairly popular ingredient in desserts recently.
Much like the Lotus, be prepared to bite into something that has a sizable amount of filling and therefore isn’t subtle at all. But if you love Nutella, you’ll love this.
- Dulce de Leche
You might also call this “dairy caramel” or “ribat chalav” depending on where you’re from, but whatever you want to call it, this sufganiyah is great. Dulce de Leche is made by heating milk and sugar together until they caramelize. This makes for a creamy caramel flavor which goes perfectly in a donut.
While they also offer a pareve caramel, I’d suggest this one as the creaminess works beautifully with the chocolate icing and chocolate chips.
- Peanut Butter
There are plenty of people who rank peanut butter as their favorite food in the world. And I think one of them may have designed this donut.
With a super sticky peanut butter filling that is capable of welding your jaw shut for the foreseeable future, make sure that you have a beverage on hand. The peanut butter filling is paired with… you guessed it, peanut butter frosting.
- White Chocolate
The best way to describe the filling of this sufganiyah is that it defies the laws of matter. It is somehow the texture of melted chocolate while at room temperature.
The donut also sports white chocolate icing to boot. Sure, the flavor is a strong one, but if you’ve ever wanted to dunk a donut is white chocolate fondue without the risk of burning yourself on a heat source… well, this is your chance.
Sesame – Boro Park
5024 13th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11219
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Sesame – Flatbush
1540 Coney Island Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11230
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Five Towns Pop Up
346 Central Avenue
Lawrence, NY 11559
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Lakewood Pop Up
1797 Avenue of the States
Lakewood, NJ 08701