My mother used to make the best doughnuts -- light, airy and delicious. With "Doughnut Day" just around the corner, I searched high and low for her recipe, but could not find it.
Not to be deterred, and with his heart set on some homemade doughnuts, my dad continued to search through hundreds of mom's handwritten recipes.
Still having no luck, he turned to some of her favorite cookbooks. Eventually, he came upon a well-used, well-loved copy of "Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book," which included a recipe for raised doughnuts, and in particular, the twisted crullers, which were exactly how my mother made them.
Noticing the condition of the book, and in particular, page 109, my dad was convinced he had found the recipe.
The green plastic cover, put on no doubt to protect a much-used book, is torn with large pieces missing. The pages of the book are yellowed and in some places, stained perhaps a dribble of cake batter or a splash of vanilla.
Page 109 shows more wear. Even its edges have begun to disintegrate.
Although we were pretty sure this was the recipe my mother used, we couldn't be certain that is, until we made them.
Buried deep in my memory is the taste of the dough, as well as the finished doughnut.
After I kneaded the dough and placed it in the greased bowl, I pinched off a tiny piece and tasted it. It wasn't quite what I remembered. I tried a little piece again, after it had finished its second rising, and was delighted that it tasted as close to my mother's as I could recall. I don't know why the taste would be different between those stages, but there it was.
Also, the original recipe calls for the doughnuts to be coated in granulated sugar after they are fried. They were good, but something was missing. I sprinkled some cinnamon into the bag of sugar, gave them a shake, and that was the difference.
I will be the first to say that my doughnuts aren't quite as light and fluffy as my mother's, nor are my twists as perfect as hers, but I think, in time, it will come. Practice, practice, practice!
Because we all enjoyed these doughnuts over the years, I wanted to share the recipe. Because it is not one of my mother's original recipes, I contacted the publisher of the cookbook, General Mills, which graciously granted permission for us to reprint it in the TIMES NEWS.
Sweet Dough Recipe
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 packages dry granular yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup soft shortening
7-7 1/2 cups sifted flour
Soak 2 packages of yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water for 5 minutes without stirring. After 5 minutes, and yeast has dissolved, stir well and mix together with milk, sugar and salt.
Stir in eggs and shortening.
Add flour in two additions, using the amount necessary to make it easy to handle. Mix in first with a spoon, and then with your hands. Mix well.
When the dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl, turn it out onto a lightly floured board to knead.
To knead, fold dough over toward you. Then press down and away from you with the heel of your hand. Give dough a quarter turn, then repeat until it's smooth and elastic, and doesn't stick to board.
Note: For excellent eating and keeping quality, keep dough as soft as possible, almost sticky … just so you are able to handle.
Place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to bring greased side up. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot (80 to 85 degrees) until double, about 1 12 to 2 hours.
Note: Because my kitchen is cold and drafty, I put my oven on at 350 degrees for just 2 or 3 minutes. Then turned it off, and placed my covered bowl of dough in the oven to rise.
To see if dough has risen enough, press two fingers into center. It will leave an indentation when dough is doubled.
Punch down: thrust fist into dough, pull edges into center and turn completely over in bowl. Let rise again until almost double in bulk (30 to 45 minutes).
To make crullers, roll dough 1/2-inch thick. Cut in strips -inch wide and 10 inches long. Shape into twists or figure 8's. Let rise on board until light, 30 to 40 minutes. Leave uncovered so a "crust" will form on the dough.
Melt fat or oil for deep fat frying (3-4 inches deep) in a heavy kettle or deep fat fryer. Heat to 390 degrees (a cube of bread browns in fat in 40 seconds). The fat cools some when foods are dropped in it should be 370-380 degrees while foods are frying. If fat is too hot, foods brown before they cook through. If too cool, they become grease soaked.
To fry, lift doughnuts on a wide spatula, slide quickly into hot fat. Fry as many at a time as can be turned easily. Turn doughnuts as they rise to the surface and show a little color. Fry about 3 minutes until complete brown on both sides. Lift from fat with a metal strainer or spatula, draining grease into fryer, then place on absorbent paper towels in a warm place.
When cool enough to handle, drop doughnuts, one or two at a time, into a paper bag in which you have placed a cup of sugar mixed with a teaspoon of cinnamon. Shake to coat.
Makes approximately 3-3 1/2 dozen doughnuts.
Store doughnuts in an airtight container. You can also freeze them. Doughnuts are tender and light on the day they are made, but become "stale" quickly. They are still delicious, especially when dunked into a hot beverage.
The Sweet Dough Recipe for Twisted Crullers is from "Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book," which was published in 1950 by General Mills, is reprinted with permission from General Mills, Inc.
"The original first lady of food, Betty Crocker has kept up with the times and continues to serve as a resource for the modern cook. Betty Crocker last year celebrated 90 successful years of bringing together family and friends by releasing a brand new edition of the Betty Crocker Cookbook, "Big Red." With more than 65 million copies sold since its first edition was published in 1950, the new version allows readers for the first time ever to have exclusive access to an online cookbook destination at http://www.bettycrocker.com/cookbooks-and-magazines/betty-crocker-cookbook.