Now that it’s October, I’m ready to embrace fall. It’s hard to pretend it’s summer when the leaves are turning colors and falling from the trees….
While waiting genteelly for brunch may not be my forte, I have definitely made friends with this much-beloved meal: when a brunch date presents itself, I eat my bowl of cereal as usual upon waking, and then, by the time brunch rolls around, I’m eagerly anticipating dessert….
On weekdays at breakfast-time, my daughters almost always ask for toasted bagels with cream cheese. The early morning shuffle to school and work ranks among my least favorite hours of the day, and thankfully, this toast-spread-and serve repast helps ease me into it. It provides a predictable element to the bleary-eyed chaos and minimizes the likelihood that I’ll completely lose it before 8:00 am and then feel like a crappy mom for the rest of the day. In the interest of keeping our mornings moving along smoothly, my kitchen’s always stocked with at least one bag of mini bagels from the grocery store.
On most mornings, Tessa eats half of her bagel and asks, “Can I please be done?” Last week, I told her yes, picked up the remaining half of her breakfast, and took a bite. The bland flavor and dry texture tasted decidedly uninspiring. This uninspiring bite did spark inspiration, though: I got right to work on improving the quality of the bagels busting out of our toaster….
On top of the lovely weather, my husband was out of town at a conference.
Eliza had departed on the 8:00 am ferry to go to a birthday party.
Tessa and I clearly needed something to cheer our Saturday morning.
Fortunately, I’d had the foresight to mix up a batch of doughnuts before I went to bed the night before. Gingerbread doughnuts.
I’d invited some friends over late-night via text. A person can only eat so many doughnuts.
In the morning, for some crazy, cooped up reason, the kids seemed to need help playing nicely; this was no morning for me to linger and chat in the kitchen with friends.
“Come help make doughnuts!” I called. The kids came running.
They got to try out my new doughnut cutter, which I’d purchased after making yeasted potato doughnuts recently. This cake-style gingerbread dough rolls out much stickier than the yeasted dough I’d prepared before.
The cutter required more flour than the girls had patience for, and they took to poking the doughnuts and holes out of the cutter with chopsticks; this worked perfectly aside from a few puncture wounds to the doughnuts.
Adam, who took over the role of fry-guy for my absent husband, revealed that he’d worked in a New York City doughnut shop as a kid.
He remembered the trick of letting the doughnuts cool on racks with the second-fried-side down. As the first side of a cake doughnut hits hot oil, the opposite side expands and cracks a bit. Cooling it with that second-fried-side down allows the oil to drip off, rather than into any cracks that formed.
We started our operation following the recipe’s instructions of tossing warm doughnuts in a bowl of cinnamon sugar. Our bowl of sugar quickly turned into a greasy mess. It wasn’t pretty.
Instead of rolling them in the sugar mixture fresh from the fryer, sprinkle the doughnuts with it after they cool. Adam recalled using a shaker for sprinkling back in the day. Since I didn’t have one, I just shook spoonfuls of cinnamon sugar over them with a spoon.
The adults nibbled freshly-fried doughnuts on the sly as soon as they cooled enough to handle. The warm, spicy flavor tasted just like gingerbread — deep fried gingerbread. When we finally began loading our plates with egg and sausage casserole, apple slices, and doughnuts, we noticed that the doughnut holes had disappeared. Judging by the stack of doughnuts, we should have had a pile of them.
“I ate them all,” admitted Adam. By this point he was sacked out on the couch. Someone offered to bring him a doughnut, but he just couldn’t bring himself to eat another bite.
Adapted from Gingerbread, by Jennifer Linder McGlinn. Makes about 24 doughnuts and 24 doughnut holes.
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup sour cream
vegetable oil, for frying
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, allspice, and cloves in a large bowl.
Combine the brown sugar, molasses, eggs, and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and mix on medium speed until smooth. Drizzle in the butter, continuing to mix until smooth. Incorporate the sour cream, 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Reduce the mixing speed to medium-low and gradually incorporate the flour mixture, beating until just combined. Scrape the dough into a large greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set in the refrigerator to chill and rest for at least 45 minutes or overnight.
Heat oil to 375° F in a deep fryer or a large straight-sided saute pan.
Roll the chilled dough about 1/2-inch thick on a lightly floured work surface. Cut with a 2 1/2-inch doughnut cutter or two round cutters. Arrange the doughnuts and doughnut holes on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Carefully slip about 4 or 5 doughnuts at a time into the hot oil, adjusting the heat as necessary to keep the oil temperature between 360° and 375° F. Fry for about 2 minutes on each side or until the doughnuts are well browned and puffed. Remove the doughnuts to racks to drain with the second-fried-side facing down.
Sprinkle doughnuts with cinnamon sugar.
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
Stir together the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
The wind howled outside our little cottage. We could hear the fir trees creaking and crackling dangerously. Fortunately, we had plans that would get us out of the house on this first official Sunday of fall — plans that dovetailed perfectly with the suddenly blustery weather. We grabbed our bowl of rising doughnut dough and headed cautiously through the swaying trees to our car. When we reached the place where the narrow paved road usually begins, Eliza said, “If you didn’t know the road was here, you wouldn’t know to look both ways before crossing.” She was right; orange fir needles completely covered the pavement.
We headed to our friends’ house, where somehow or other, we had left our deep fryer. Maybe it’s because we have a tiny kitchen with no room for more appliances, or maybe we’re just generous people who believe our friends need fried food in their lives more than we do, or maybe, just maybe, we wanted a good excuse to have more frequent meals at their house. On this particular morning, I had offered to make doughnuts, which prompted my friend Sharalyn to invite a group of friends over for breakfast….