Millennia ago, the miracle of Chanukah was discovering a jug of unused oil. This year, the miracle may be shutting one’s mouth to the sweet seasonal treats served throughout the Steel City. Between the anticipated glut of doughnuts and latkes, there are plenty of ways to get a fried food fix.
“This community loves their jelly-filled doughnuts and Munchkins,” said Brian Goetter, general manager at Dunkin’ Donuts in Squirrel Hill.
Between Dec. 12 and Dec. 20, apart from the fruit-filled ring-shaped treats, which occupy a regular space on the racks year-round, the Forbes Avenue vendor will offer jelly-infused Munchkins.
Chanukah’s eight-day period brings a rise of in-store purchases; however, the real surge is in catering. Single orders historically range from 10 dozen to 60 dozen jelly doughnuts and yield “anywhere between a $6,000 to $7,000 increase in sales,” said Goetter.
With some orders already placed, Goetter anticipates baking roughly 677 dozen doughnuts — solely for catering purposes. Given the volume, preparing the excess cakes will require a night baker’s assistance and an additional 30 to 40 man hours, he said.
Lest one believe that the excitement is only among eaters, Goetter added: “That’s my biggest eight days of catering through the whole year.”
Elsewhere in the neighborhood, customers can consume alternative varieties of fried foods.
At Murray Avenue Kosher, potato latkes will again be available. The annual offering of such nosh dates back “more than 20 years,” said Saul Markovic, the Squirrel Hill store owner who added that another staple will return.
“We will have plenty of doughnuts,” said Beth Markovic, also an owner of the grocery. With shipments arriving Dec. 7 from Ohio and New York, the mix of meal and oil will include “the standard jelly doughnuts, and caramel filled and chocolate and custard and plain, and any kind of doughnut that somebody would want.”
For those more interested in creating their own Chanukah cuisine, Pittsburghers are going global for grub this year.
Alice Sahel-Azagury, originally of Paris, discovered an intriguing recipe for sfenj, or “Sephardi doughnuts,” as she called them.
Posted in a private Facebook group consisting of more than 26,000 members, the dish is served not only during Chanukah, but also upon the arrival of a baby’s first teeth, in deference to a North African tradition, said Sahel-Azagury.
Similarly searching East for insight is Etti Martel, formerly of Jerusalem, who will again turn to her mother’s recipe for sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts).
The once handwritten formula that Martel has employed and routinely tweaked for years calls for one tablespoon of brandy or cognac and two cups of strawberry jelly among other interesting ingredients.
When asked what distinguishes the design for these doughy delicacies, Martel answered, “It’s the original Israeli one” and that the results are “very fluffy, not heavy like the American doughnut.”
More locally, Mimi Botkin does not plan on making much for the upcoming festival of lights.
“I love the concept of cooking, I’m just not really good at the realities,” said the Temple Sinai member, who recalled a particularly fond Chanukah memory. “My mother was making latkes and almost once set the kitchen on fire because she got the oil too hot.”
Recognizing her own lack of culinary capabilities, Botkin explained that she gingerly allows others to metaphorically jump into the holiday flames.
Despite a reluctance for augmenting amounts or fidgeting with friers, the local writer is looking forward to a deluge of dwarfed desserts in coming weeks.
“I love Munchkins. I’m not big on jelly doughnuts, I like the chocolate ones more,” she said. “But don’t get me wrong, I will never turn down anything that is sweet. The only doughnut I probably wouldn’t eat is a horseradish one.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at areinherz