Monday, February 16, 2009

On An Impulse

"You think the Time to Make the Donuts guy is sexy."

I woke up with that line in my head (from having watched "The Wedding Singer" the other night). Maybe that was the reason I woke up with an unquenchable urge. I'm not sure why, but from the moment I opened my eyes I had an inexplicable desire to fill my house with the smell of hot oil. And what better way, I thought, than to make donuts? Of course!

My kids are donut fiends. We distinguish weekdays from weekends by identifying those days as "Gillian days" (days on which the nanny comes) and "donut days." On any given evening they'll ask, "Is tomorrow a Gillian day, or a donut day?" Normally their donuts come from Safeway, and are really bad.

This morning I decided that we needed homemade donuts. I've never made them before, so a bonus day off, plus a day when the kids wouldn't normally get a donut, seemed like a perfect excuse to give it a try.

I confess I'm not much of a deep fryer. When I get to that line in the list of ingredients that says, "Oil for deep frying" I usually skip to the next recipe. What a nuisance, I think. I'm not messing around with that.

Well, deep frying is a bit of a monkey business, but besides snapping at my children to stay at least 50 feet back from the stove while the oil was heating and while I was frying (I was a little nervous about that 5 cups of boiling oil; call me overprotective), it really wasn't that bad. I didn't splatter myself or the stove with oil, and there were no grease fires. A smashing success, by all accounts.

But what about the donuts? How did they turn out? They were well received. My husband declared them "pretty damned good." My oldest son (usually the pickiest when it comes to Mom's versions of beloved junk foods) said he really liked them. He wanted to open a stand where we could sell donuts. I declined on the grounds that a) we live in a cul-de-sac that gets almost zero traffic, and b) it's 34 degrees outside.

But they were, if I say so myself, pretty damned good. I made a buttermilk donut, which is the "cake" donut you buy at the store. They take less time than the yeast donuts, requiring you only to mix them up, let the dough rest, then roll, cut, and fry them. I almost had a disaster when I realized after mixing everything together that I had forgotten the baking powder, but dumped it in, mixed some more, and crossed my fingers. I don't have a donut cutter, but the recipe I used suggested using a round cutter + an apple corer. That I have.

Once they were done, we tossed them in a bowl of cinnamon and sugar, and devoured them. It's important to check the temperature of your oil from time to time. I think mine was too hot in one batch, and the result was donuts that were getting pretty done on the outside, but weren't quite cooked through in the middle. Overall, however, they were cakey and moist, and the tiny bit of mace and allspice really does enhance the flavor.

I'm not sure if I'll ever make donuts again. It's a lot of work, although the results were worth it. Maybe on birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas. I would like to play with the flavors a little--add some cinnamon, try them with ground cloves, maybe even find a cider donut recipe, that sort of thing. But on the whole I'm satisfied to have been able to say I made them once, and didn't have any disasters. As cooking experiences go, that's pretty damned good.

Buttermilk Donuts
makes 24 donuts
adapated from Sheila Lukins "U.S.A. Cookbook"

2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
Vegetable oil, for frying
Cinnamon and sugar, for dusting

Beat eggs in a large bowl until pale yellow. Slowly add sugar, beating until the mixture is thick and ribbony. Stir in the buttermilk, vanilla, and the melted butter.

In another bowl sift together flour, baking powder, salt, allspice and mace. Add to the egg mixture and stir to combine. Do not overwork the dough. Let dough rest in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Pour 2-3" of oil into a large heavy pot and place over medium-high heat. Heat to 370 degrees F.

While the oil is heating, roll dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 1/4". Using a floured 2 1/2" donut cutter (or a 2 1/2" biscuit cutter and an apple corer to cut out the centers) cut out rounds. Save the dough from the holes.

When oil has heated to 370 degrees, fry the donuts in small batches until golden brown, turning once, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Remove the donuts to a rack or plate covered with paper towel to drain. You may need to let the oil come back up to temperature between batches. The recipe recommended using a slotted spoon to transfer the donuts in and out of the oil, but I found a pair of tongs to be just as useful.


Chef E said...

Oh, I found you through your Ethiopian recipe from November, and made a comment, I also got in the mood for doughnuts myself and made drop ones that were gluten free...was fun, but the real ones like yours look and taste better, just not good for us :)

Chef E said...

Oh you are the doughnut post I found a while back, love your blogs!

TD said...

E--Thanks! Yep, I'm the weirdo who filled her house with the smell of hot fat for two days. :)

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