Wednesday, June 15, 2016

"The Donut Book" by Sally Levitt Steinberg - Pennsylvania Dutch Doughnuts for National Doughnut Day (June 3, 2016)

Left:  My collection's "Uncorrected Proof;" Right: Final version (photo from internet)

Date I made this recipe:  June 3, 2016 – National Doughnut Day

The Donut Book by Sally Levitt Steinberg (Ann's Note:  This is an uncorrected proof of the book, not the final version)
Published by:  Alfred A. Knopf
© 1987
Purchased at Half Price Books (for a whopping $1.98!)
Recipe: Pennsylvania Dutch Doughnuts – p. 141

I tell you what, folks, it seems to me that someone out there is just making up these national food days just to mess with me because I sure as heck don't recall celebrating a National Doughnut Day before but what do I know?  Perhaps these holidays have been in existence forever and are now only coming to light because of the internet?

And there are so, many of these holidays (once a day and twice in Sundays), that I cannot possibly keep up even if my collection is filled with books for every occasion.  And so most of them have flown by, without cooking recognition from me (mea culpa) except I did manage to stop the presses on National Doughnut Day.  Whew.  That said, making a dish on the exact day of said food holiday is a challenge and so we celebrate D-Day (Doughnut Day) a few days later.

Now I ask you, are not some of these national food observances overkill?  Because in my house, every day is "national" chocolate day, coffee day, bakery day, and so on.  But okay fine, if we must designate a specific day for these things then we must.

I may or may not have told this doughnut story before on my blog but it bears repeating and it goes something like this:

Once upon a time, in a Catholic grade school, far, far away, my posse and I ditched the playground one day to head to the local bakery which was only a few blocks from the school.  The fact that we managed to slip past the eagle eye of the supervising playground nun in the first place is amazing (and true!).  One of my friends told me that one of her nuns always said "I have eyes in the back of my head" and she wasn't kidding.

So all of us rouge and very naughty 6th graders went to the bakery, got our sugary delights including doughnuts, and then walked back as sweet as you please (pardon the pun) to the playground only to find it deserted save for one person:  Sister Rita.  "SR" was our 6th grade teacher and the school's principal.  SR was not amused.  As a note, it was 1970 and most nuns I knew had yet to find a sense of humor under that uniform.

At any rate, SR asked us where we had been and all six of us chirped "No where, sister."  And then she asked what we were eating and we said "Nothing, sister."

We should have been struck down by a lightning bolt (something I feared growing up when I told a lie) for this huge fib and really, we had only ourselves to blame if that happened because the evidence was damming:  vestiges of powdered sugar and jelly were smeared all over our faces, hands and uniform, plus, it should be known that we were still carrying our bakery bags.  In other words, SR had this one in the bag (yes, again with the pun)!

It should be known that soiling a uniform is akin to soiling the U.S. flag i.e. it just is NOT done and, in the Catholic church, I suspect it is on the list of Cardinal Sins for which we were surely doomed to hell right then and there.  And this explains much of how my life went for me thereafter but that's a whole other story, even book, folks.

As was usual and customary at the time, my posse had to clap erasers (to clean them, Goggle it) and had to also clean the classroom to atone for our sins.  I received worse punishment while in that Catholic school but this ranked pretty high on the list.  Naturally, we were also expected to confess all in the confessional although I'm betting none of us did it and if we did, we still lied about it because that's what Catholic kids know how to do best:  lie.  Like a rug.  People always laugh when I say this but let me assure you that I am not kidding.  Swear to God. ;)

By the way, holding a séance on the playground was also not our best idea (fun though) and we once again received SR's wrath.  Frankly, I think our very existence ticked her off but that's another Catholic School Survivor story for another day.

And so this brings us back to the matter at hand:  donuts (or doughnuts).   Love them.  Love bakeries.  Love, love.   These days, I'm more of a cookie or brownie gal but every now and then I simply must have a doughnut.  And like many people, I can't decide if I like raised and glazed over cake doughnuts but luckily, nobody has a gun to my head forcing that decision.  And I have fond memories of both types of doughnuts.  When in New York and New Jersey visiting relatives, we had Entenmann's which I love.  And while on vacation in California in the early 70's, one of the hotels we stayed at served us chocolate covered cake doughnuts for their continental breakfast (they were way before their time) and my brother, a chocoholic, just about swooned.

As to The Donut Book, today's featured cookbook, there are more stories here and doughnut lore than recipes although as a reminder, I own an uncorrected proof of this book, not the final version with photos.  Just thought you should know that.  But all this is fine by me because I like the story as much as I do the recipes.  In the version I have, here are some of the recipes:  Pumpkin; Buttermilk; Graham Cracker; Beignets; Salvation Army Doughnuts; Elderberry Funnel Cakes and mine, Pennsylvania Dutch Doughnuts (originally published in Gourmet Magazine).

You will also read how and why soldiers returning from war were called doughboys, how the donut got its hole (no calories in those, no sir!) and so on.

As between making a yeast doughnut and a cake doughnut, "cake" won out hands down.  Plus, there is something about a yeast doughnut that requires the skill of a bakery baker and that is most decidedly not me.  And so to cake....

This is an easy recipe although actually shaping the doughnuts per the instructions was another matter.  I put my best baker – husband Andy – on that detail and after a fashion, he just gave up trying to follow the book's design specs and just made up his own!  He can be such a rogue in the kitchen.

These doughnuts can flavored with either nutmeg or cardamom.  Since I am not a nutmeg fan, I went with cardamom, a flavor I don't dislike, but one that doesn't float my boat, either.  And in my opinion, it was kind of hard to detect the flavor even though I used what I thought was a generous amount.

Still, our first attempt at making doughnuts was not half bad. If I had more time to experiment with some of the others (sour cream?  Oh yes!) I would be time marches on, food holidays come and go and so it's on to the next kitchen session.

Pennsylvania Dutch Doughnuts – serving size not given
3 large eggs
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup cream
Generous grating of fresh nutmeg, or powdered cardamom seeds (Ann's Note:  by which I think they mean us to give some seeds a good whirl in a coffee/spice grinder or food processor?)
Pinch of salt
About 3 cups cake flour (Ann's Note:  I added as I went along and ended up using 2 cups.  I think for best results though, stop at 1.5 cups and see what you think as our dough ended up just shy of "easy to handle.")
Deep fat or oil for deep frying
Powdered sugar

Beat eggs until foamy, add granulated sugar, and beat again until well mixed.  Add cream, nutmeg (or cardamom), and salt to taste.  (Ann's Note:  I always chuckle when it is suggested that I 'salt to taste' a recipe involving raw meat or eggs because that is not going to happen.  When I was a kid, sure, we ate raw cookie dough but now that is verboten so food companies have figured out a way to allow kids to eat raw dough without the threat of salmonella.  And for this, we salute them!)

Blend the mixture well and sift in enough cake flour to make a soft dough that is easy to handle.

Roll out dough as thin as possible on a lightly floured board and cut it into narrow triangular shapes about 5 inches long.  In the center of each triangle make a cut about
 1 ½ inches long and pull point of the triangle through it.  Fry these twisted shapes in hot deep fat or oil until they are lightly browned.  Drain them on paper towels and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Serve hot or cold.

Ann's Note:  These weren't bad "cold" but they aren't great, either.  I mean, we'll eat them and are eating them but the best doughnut is one that has just been pulled from the fat vat!

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