I go nuts for doughnuts any time of year, so you can imagine the psychotic break I face every Hanukkah in excitement for sufganiyot. And while you don’t need a holiday to enjoy a jelly doughnut, these eight crazy nights are when you can eat five in one sitting and nobody judges you. As I’ve fried up batches over the years, I’ve slowly crafted a superior dough for these golden pillows. But the true magic comes after frying, when, instead of using the traditional dusting of confectioners’ sugar, I toss the freshly fried doughnuts in a mixture of granulated sugar, salt and black pepper. The punch of salinity helps balance all that sweetness, and the subtle spice of freshly ground black pepper is one of my favorite flavors to combine with any fruity jam, jelly or compote.
Since you’re going to the trouble of making a dough from scratch, proofing it, rolling it out, cutting it, proofing it again, frying it and dusting it—even before you realize that you need to figure out what the hell you’re going to do with all that fryer oil once it cools—I understand that making the filling from scratch, too, might not be a top priority. I’ll be completely honest: your favorite jelly or jam (as long as it’s smooth enough to pipe) of any flavor will do the trick. However! I’d be remiss if I didn’t campaign for you to give my Concord Grape and Manischewitz Jam a go. It combines my favorite fruit with my favorite wine made from my favorite fruit in one jar of purple perfection that was brought onto this planet to be squeezed into a fresh batch of sufganiyot.
For the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the warm milk and sugar to combine, then sprinkle the yeast over the top. Let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the melted butter and eggs, then whisk on medium speed until incorporated.
Switch to the dough hook, then add the flour and salt to the bowl. Beginning on low speed and gradually increasing to medium, knead until a smooth, elastic dough forms, about 5 minutes. Grease a medium bowl and your hands with the oil. Using your hands, transfer the dough to the bowl, gently turning it to coat it with oil, and shape it into a smooth ball. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and set aside in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and roll it out to 1/2 inch thick. Using a 3-inch round cutter, cut out doughnuts and transfer them to the prepared pan. Gather the scraps, roll them out and cut out more doughnuts so you have a total of 15 doughnuts; discard any remaining scraps of dough. Cover the rounds and set aside in a warm place again until puffy, about 45 minutes.
For frying and finishing: In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 inches of oil to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with paper towels.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt and pepper to combine. Place the jam or jelly in a piping bag fitted with a round piping tip.
Add five of the doughnuts to the hot oil and fry, flipping once, until golden brown and puffed, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to the paper towel–lined sheet pan to drain for 15 seconds. Before continuing with the next batch, toss each of the hot doughnuts in the sugar mixture to coat, then transfer them to a platter. Repeat to fry the remaining doughnuts in two more batches.
Using a paring knife, make a small cut at the top of each doughnut. Starting with the doughnuts you fried first, insert the tip of the piping bag into a doughnut and squeeze in 2 tablespoons of the jam or jelly. Repeat to fill the remaining doughnuts. Serve immediately while warm or within a few hours of frying for peak enjoyment.
Concord Grape and Manischewitz Jam:
Place a small plate in the freezer.
In a medium saucepan, combine the grapes, sugar, wine, salt and apple. Bring to a light simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the grapes and apple have broken down and the mixture has thickened so that when you scrape the bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula, the line it leaves behind holds its shape for a second before filling in, 45 to 55 minutes. To test if the jam is done, spoon 1/2 teaspoon of the jam onto the chilled plate and let sit for 1 minute, then tilt the plate. If the jam doesn’t run, it’s ready. If it runs, simmer the jam for a few minutes more and retest.
Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Strain the jam through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing gently on the solids with a rubber spatula until you’ve pushed through most of the pulp. You should have about 1/4 cup of seeds and skins remaining in the sieve; discard them.
Transfer the jam to a 24-ounce glass jar and let cool completely before sealing. Refrigerate overnight before using, then store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.