Mmm, doughnuts…! This recipe from my Grandma Waite usually shows up at our house about once a year. Simply sifted with powdered sugar and warm from the boiling pot on the stove, they bring me back to sitting in the kitchen of my Grandma’s house in Kiantone, NY. This recipe has gone with us to Arizona, Seattle, Washington DC, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and now we are making them in Zambia!
The memories are nothing but happy when I think of making doughnuts with my Mom and brothers for holidays, and now that I’m living in Africa with my own kids and nary a worthwhile doughnut to be found, the Doughnut Making Memories continue. These doughnuts are nothing fancy, but they are about as old-fashioned as they come. No yeast, simple to mix up the day before and keep in the refrigerator overnight, or you can make the dough way ahead of time and keep it in the freezer. It may seem weird to season them only with nutmeg, but somehow this works, and they turn out crispy and perfect in all the ways that make homemade doughnuts worth the fuss.
Mom, do you remember when we found this doughnut cutter? I think it was in either Holland or Belgium during one of our Thanksgiving trips. It is the perfect, if elusive, doughnut cutter…
Grandma’s Doughnuts (aka Fried Cakes)
Mix together in a small bowl:
4 1/12 cups flour
2 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp nutmeg
In another bowl mix:
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup milk
1 cup cold, unseasoned mashed potatoes
Note: The mashed potatoes may seem strange, but the potato starch keeps the doughnuts light and I think keeps them from absorbing too much fat while frying. It also makes them stay fresh longer. Either way, you can use real mashed potatoes or instant Potato Buds. Mom always used instant potato buds so I do too! Some may say lazy, I say brilliant…
Mix all the ingredients together and chill overnight. The next day roll the dough out (maybe a 1/2 inch thick, if you make it too thick the doughnuts will be very puffy and not cook all the way through). Cut with the doughnut cutter and let them rest on paper towels for about 10 minutes before frying. This resting time also somehow keeps them from absorbing extra oil.
You can make doughnut holes with the middles, or smoosh them back together and roll out the dough again to make more doughnuts. Once in our kitchen back in Arlington, I got fancy and made a twist.
Meanwhile, heat a pot of vegetable oil on the stove. We used to use Crisco for this growing up, but then Crisco got a bad name and I couldn’t find it overseas anyway, so I tried it once with regular vegetable oil and they turned out fine. You don’t need to make the oil very deep, just a few inches so its deep enough for the doughnuts to float. Heat the oil to 375 degrees, and monitor the oil temperature with a candy thermometer.
Fry the donuts by sliding them into the pot. Let them cook 2-3 minutes, until they float and start to turn golden. Flip them over using tongs and let them cook on the other side another 2-3 minutes. When done, lift them out of the pot with a wide slotted spoon and set them to cool on a wire baking rack. I bought my doughnut spoon from a market in Ukraine, and it also brings back happy memories :). Sift them with powdered sugar or a mix of powdered sugar and cinnamon. They don’t have to be cool to be ready to eat!
Doughnut Making Tips:
1. Make the dough at least one day ahead of time, and let it chill to make it easier to roll out. Dough can be frozen and thawed in the refrigerator or at room temperature.
2. Make sure the rolled dough is not too thick, so that it cooks all the way through without burning on the outside.
3. KEEP THE OIL AT 375. Always let the oil come back to the right temperature before adding new dough to the pot. If it’s too cool, the doughnuts will absorb oil and be heavier and greasy. If it’s too hot, they will burn.
4. You can sift powdered sugar over the top, but it also works to dunk them in a bag of powdered sugar, hold the top closed, and shake. The shaking in a bag method gives you a better sugar coating, which I kind of like.
5. Eat warm!