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Kosher Pastry Oven prepares for Hanukkah crowds

By Kristi Tousignant
The Gazette
Sunday, December 5, 2010; 12:37 AM

Spin the dreidel. Light the menorah. Eat a doughnut - but not just any doughnut. It's Hanukkah.

As members of the Jewish community in Kemp Mill light candles each night to commemorate the holiday, many also will devour jelly-filled doughnuts from the Kosher Pastry Oven in Silver Spring.

The bakery began selling its traditional Hanukkah doughnuts at sundown Wednesday, the start of Hanukkah. The doughnuts, or sufganiyot, are available until the end of Hanukkah on Dec. 9.

Owner and baker Arie Eloul makes the puffy pastries only during Hanukkah. The treats have a devout following. Sometimes customers wait in line for an hour to buy them, Eloul said.

The first day of Hanukkah, and Friday, the Sabbath, are the busiest days, he added.

"Friday is going to be crazy," Eloul said. "Friday is usually busy without those doughnuts."

For many, the Pastry Oven's doughnuts are as integral to the Festival of Lights as gift-giving and dreidel-spinning. The bakery is in the Kemp Mill Shopping Center, which has a kosher market and pizzeria.

"This is the one time of year you can get the doughnuts," Eloul said. "You take them home and eat them with the kids and the family and open nice gifts. That's how to spend the whole week of Hanukkah."

The tradition surrounding the balls of fried dough stems from the use of oil during Hanukkah rituals. In the Hanukkah story, only enough oil was available to keep the eternal flame in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem lighted for one day. Instead, the flame miraculously lasted eight days, which was enough time to make new olive oil. The oil's role in the story is celebrated with food fried in oil, such as potato pancakes, called latkes, and doughnuts.

Last year, the bakery sold about 18,000 doughnuts during the season. They sell for $1.50 each, according to the bakery's Web site.

"People wait all year and then go crazy," said Tali Schulman, marketing director for the bakery. "People come in throughout the year and ask, 'Do you have those jelly doughnuts?' "

Eloul, who runs the bakery with his wife, Shula, starts with a dough mixture that he describes as cake-like. No dairy products are used, to keep the doughnuts kosher. He combines flour, sugar, yeast, margarine, egg yolks and nondairy cream, rolls the dough into balls and lets them sit overnight.

The next morning, he drops the dough balls into sizzling oil, lets them cook and expand, then places them on a baking sheet. He then fills each with raspberry jelly and dusts them with powdered sugar.

"The sooner you eat them, the better," Schulman said.

For the first time, Eloul is offering doughnuts in other flavors this year. He will make custard, caramel and chocolate-filled doughnuts along with the jelly ones. In Israel, it has become common to make the doughnuts in such trendy flavors as tiramisu and white chocolate, said Eloul, but he prefers to keep it simple.

"When it's tradition, don't change it," Eloul said. "There is one type that everyone knows. You cannot change it."

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