Israeli baker Zehavit Kaidar-Heafetz is taking sufganiyot in creative directions from her kitchen in Johns Creek, close to the Alpharetta line.
The owner of Baking Smiles (“When you see me, you see a smile usually”), who has lived here with her husband and three school-age sons for 5½ years, launched her home business two years ago at the urging of friends by making the Chanukah doughnuts. The standard Israeli-style treats were a hot item, but they weren’t enough to satisfy her need to make her customers happy.
“I don’t know if it’s the Jewish gene or being a mom, but I want to serve people and want them to be happy,” Kaidar-Heafetz said in a phone interview during a break from the Chanukah rush this month.
She experimented with flavors beyond the traditional “red jelly.” She added caramel and Nutella fillings and an unfilled option, and she lets customers stick with traditional powdered sugar or have their sufganiyot glazed in white or dark chocolate.
She decided to try something more adult, so this year she is offering two signature flavors: Sweet Clouds (a Bailey’s Irish Cream pastry cream, topped with white chocolate and toasted coconut and served with a shot of Irish cream you can inject into the pastry) and Wake Up Call (an espresso pastry cream, a coffee glaze and dark-chocolate-covered cocoa nibs, served with an injectable shot of Kahlua).
As a home baker, her kitchen is not certified by the Atlanta Kosher Commission, but she uses only kosher ingredients on dishes and pans that are exclusively for the business in a kitchen where meat and milk never meet.
Kaidar-Heafetz said her sufganiyot are smaller than what you’ll normally find, but customers last year wanted a bite size for parties. So in the middle of Chanukah she rolled out half-size sufganiyot, which this year are more popular than the full-size versions.
Making the bite-size sufganiyot wasn’t too tough; Kaidar-Heafetz simply cut the dough in half.
A bigger challenge arose when a friend asked during Chanukah last year whether she could make gluten-free sufganiyot. Kaidar-Heafetz said she made some that were delicious, but they were the wrong shape and within three hours were like eating rubber.
“I want to satisfy my customer, but if I can’t satisfy myself, there’s no way I can sell it,” she said.
She decided to try again to develop a gluten-free sufganiyah in time for Chanukah this month.
She mixed and matched recipes, then tried mixing and matching different types of gluten-free flour.
Six times she tried and decided the result was not acceptable. Only two batches were close enough for her to share her progress on Facebook. One attempt was so bad she wouldn’t even count it.
But she didn’t give up. “That’s what I liked,” Kaidar-Heafetz said. “It takes a lot of guts to try all those and throw away batch after batch.”
Chanukah is a holiday with a happy ending, and, sure enough, the quest for gluten-free sufganiyot also has a happy ending. Kaidar-Heafetz finally matched a consistency she liked with the flavor she needed, and now you can order gluten-free sufganiyot for pickup at her home or delivery to a meeting spot such as Costco in Sandy Springs through Jan. 1.
Like the signature flavors, the gluten-free sufganiyot are $4 each, compared with $2.50 for a standard sufganiyah and $3 for one with a chocolate glaze.
She sold about 800 sufganiyot last year and suspects sales will be lower this year because the holiday is so late. But she’s confident she’ll be back next year with an even better gluten-free product: “I’ll try to make them fluffier.”