I’m not in the habit of making doughnuts. I used to be. I learned with a tube of pre-made biscuit dough, hot vegetable oil, and sugar at age ten with B, my closest childhood friend and P, her mother. We turned their kitchen into a weekend café featuring doughnuts, smoky links in maple syrup, and instant coffee.
It was 1983, the year before Reagan had announced the Strategic Defense Initiative aka Star Wars plan and the year after we bought the Commodore 64 home computer. We masqueraded around B’s older sister’s bedroom, dressed in black and heels, while listening to vinyl records and stenciling our faces with eyeliner and mascara. Kiss, Pat Benatar, Soft Cell, David Bowie, Joan Jett, The Stray Cats. Dancing. MTV, only two years old, was about to change the way we listened to music. The entire world was about to turn upside down into adolescence and threats of nuclear warfare.
But we were prepared.
We had music and doughnuts.
A rush of air uncoiled, the biscuit tube broke free as it if couldn’t wait to be cut and fried and doused with as much sugar as would stick to its hot skin. Vegetable oil bubbled in a large pot on the stove. We sliced the dough into a dozen rounds and extracted the center holes.
The very first time, P slid the doughnuts into the hot oil with a metal slotted spoon, I watched them sink then float back to the surface in less than a minute. It smelled like we had bathed in oil and sugar. By proximity, we had. She flipped the doughnut and let it brown before placing it on a plate lined with paper towels. We let them cool just long enough that they didn’t singe our fingers.
Two bowls of sugar, powdered and cinnamon quickly filled with doughnuts. We turned on MTV and ate breakfast on teevee trays while David Bowie sang “Let’s Dance.”
These butternut squash doughnuts may inspire you to do the same.
I like to have a regular stock of cooked and pureed butternut squash on hand, especially this time of year. I cut the squash in half length-wise, remove the seeds and loose stringy bits with a spoon, and bake it face down in a baking pan with about ¾ inch of water.
Bake in a 400F oven for 40 minutes. Once the squash almost peels itself from the skin, it’s done. Scoop the squash into a food processor or blender to puree (add small amounts of water if necessary to fully process it). Store in pint canning jars in the freezer until ready to use. You can thaw the squash in the refrigerator overnight.
Butternut Squash and Cider Doughnuts
Yield about 24 doughnuts and 24 doughnut holes (depending on size)
3 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¾ cup pure maple syrup (at room temperature)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup apple cider
1 cup butternut squash (cooked and pureed)
Canola or other neutral oil (use three (3) inches of oil for frying)
Apple Cider Glaze
1 cup raw cane sugar
1/4 cup apple cider
To make the doughnuts:
Let cider stand until it is at room temperature. Melt butter with syrup in a small saucepan over low heat; cool slightly. Sift dry ingredients together. Beat eggs in a separate bowl. Add the butter/syrup mixture, cider, and vanilla. Beat in pureed squash. Fold in the dry ingredients, about ¼ at a time, stirring after each addition until finished then cover with plastic; chill 3 hours.
Sprinkle 2 rimmed baking sheets lightly with flour. Press out 1/3 of dough on floured surface to about ½-inch thickness. Shape with doughnut cutter or drinking glass (about 2 1/2-inch diameter), cut out dough rounds then arrange on sheets. Repeat with remaining dough in 2 more batches. Gather dough scraps. Press out dough and cut out more dough rounds until all dough is used.
Using 1-inch diameter round cutter, cut out center dough round to make doughnuts and doughnut holes.
Line 2 baking sheets with several layers of paper towels. Preheat the oil in a Dutch oven 365F to 370F (use a deep fry thermometer). Fry doughnut holes in 2 batches until golden brown, turning occasionally, about 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Fry doughnuts, 3 or 4 at a time, until golden brown, adjusting heat to maintain temperature, about 1 minute per side or until golden brown. Using slotted spoon, transfer doughnuts to paper towels to drain. Cool completely. Then cover with apple cider glaze.
To make the Cider Glaze:
Combine sugar and cider in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved, and bring to boiling point. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
Arrange doughnuts on racks. Pour glaze over doughnuts on 1 side. Allow the glaze to set, about 30 minutes or so.
(The doughnut recipe is inspired by Pumpkin Doughnuts with Powdered Sugar Glaze found in Bon Appétit in the October 2004 issue).