Gladys Feldman, mother to Sam, is determined to make the holidays happy for one of her son’s best friends, Claude Willoughby. Sam and John are also trying to cheer up their friend who has been left in Maryland as punishment while his family returns home to Kentucky to celebrate Christmas.
What the trio comes up with is an after-the-fact Chanukkah party to lift Claude’s spirits. Gladys invites her son’s friends over for a meal of brisket and latkes. As delicious as the meal is, the real fun doesn’t begin until she guides them through the process of making sufganiyot, and all four end up in a friendly powdered sugar fight before settling down to play dreidel.
The following recipe is the one I had in mind when I wrote the scene above. Sufganiyot are traditionally served at Chanukkah, but they are so easy to make that you’ll probably want to sample them a couple times throughout the year.
1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
4 cups vegetable oil, for frying (I used canola)
1 cup seedless red raspberry jelly or other favorite jelly flavor
Powdered sugar for sprinkling
Mix the yeast, one teaspoon granulated sugar, and ¼ cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F) in a large bowl (preferably not metal). Let stand until yeast mixture foams, about five minutes.
With a wooden spoon, stir flour, milk, butter, salt, nutmeg, eggs, and remaining ¼ cup granulated sugar into yeast mixture until evenly blended. The dough will be very sticky. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth towel, and let the dough rise in warm place (80 to 85 degrees F) until doubled, about 1 ½ hours.
With floured hands, punch down the dough. Turn the dough onto a heavily floured surface, and let rest ten minutes. With floured hands, pat the dough ½-inch thick. With a floured, three-inch round biscuit cutter, cut out as many rounds as possible. Place the rounds, about two inches apart, on lightly floured cookie sheets. Gently press any trimmings together. Repeat steps above. Cover the rounds, and let them rise in a warm place until doubled, about one hour.
In a ten-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until the temperature reaches 375 ° F on a deep-fry thermometer. With a wide metal spatula, carefully place two or three doughnuts in the hot oil. Fry until golden brown, about 1 ½ minutes, turning over once. With a large slotted spoon, transfer doughnuts to wire racks lined with paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining dough rounds.
When the doughnuts are cool enough to handle, using a small sharp knife, pierce the doughnuts from one side almost to the opposite side. Place the jelly in a decorating bag fitted with ¼-inch round tip. Squeeze a small amount of jelly into each doughnut through the slit. Cool the doughnuts completely on a wire rack. Sprinkle doughnuts with powdered sugar to serve.