After they cool

After they cool

Doughnuts. . . just like Grandma Lobb used to make!

A walk down memory lane is fun for most people and I think the older we get the more pleasant it seems. Recently, my walk led me down the path to Grandma Lobb’s kitchen. Grandma Lobb was my best friend’s grandmother. My friend and I always walked home together from school and since her grandma’s house came first, I would make a quick stop before continuing on to mine. I could have walked around the house, but most often than not I chose to walk through.

A walk down memory lane is fun for most people and I think the older we get the more pleasant it seems. Recently, my walk led me down the path to Grandma Lobb’s kitchen.

Grandma Lobb was my best friend’s grandmother. My friend and I always walked home together from school and since her grandma’s house came first, I would make a quick stop before continuing on to mine. I could have walked around the house, but most often than not I chose to walk through.

I loved Grandma Lobb’s house. It always smelled of cooking and there seemed to a sweet smell of yumminess in the air. Thinking back, she probably had a sweet tooth because there was always some kind of baked goodies cooling on the kitchen table. Rhubarb squares, apple crumbles, warm pies and cookies were the usual but every now and then there would be doughnuts. Those were my most euphoric after school moments.

I can still remember having that mmmm moment as my teeth would go through the thin barriers of sweet glaze followed by the outer deep fried layer of the dough until they sank into the soft and chewy texture of the doughnut’s interior. Grandma Lobb’s doughnuts were constructed of different ingredients than those you get at bakeries or even Timmy’s. They were doughnuts like no other and they were my absolute favourite!

Back then I thought that Grandma Lobb had created these sweet concoctions but little did I know that there was a very popular half-truth in doughnut lore centered on a very real sea captain and his mother.

In 1847, Elizabeth Gregory was known in her New England circle to make a very fine “olykoek” or oily cakes. Her secret was to add a hint of nutmeg and fill the center with hazelnuts or walnuts. She even had a special name for her creation — dough-nuts. She made the deep fried cakes for son, Captain Hanson Crockett Gregory, and his crew so they could store the pastry on long voyages.

The hole of the doughnut may have been credited to her son. As legend has it, one stormy night Captain Hanson found himself having difficulty steering his ship and eating his mother’s pastry at the same time. The quick-thinking Captain impaled his dough-nut on one of the spokes of his steering wheel — a doughnut with a hole in the center was born.

Did the sea captain really create the doughnut hole? Seems a little “fishy” to me! I remember Grandma Lobb saying that the hole helped for even frying so that you would have no doughy centre. I think a more plausible explanation for the hole is that a grandma in time got tired of the doughy centre and decided to fix this by creating a hole.

Grandma Lobb did try to teach me and my friend how to make her soft airy doughnuts but most often my attempts produced oily, dense hockey pucks. I remember Grandma Lobb saying that “good doughnuts come from lots of patience.” This probably explains why I was never successful, because as a twelve year old I was very short in that department. Since I have been thinking about Grandma Lobb a lot lately, I took this has a sign that I needed to revisit the doughnut recipe.

There are actually four steps when it comes to making doughnuts: making the dough, cutting into doughnut shapes, frying and then finally glazing. The main ingredients, patience, is required during the two dough rising stage. Broadly speaking, if you can make pizza dough, breads or any yeast type dough, then making this pastry dough is a cinch. Just remember to make sure your yeast is active and you really work in the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients. I use the dough hook in my Kitchenaid for this task.

After the dough is formed into a ball, let rise covered in warm, draft free area for one hour. Once this is done, it is time to roll out the soft dough and cut into doughnut shapes. You can purchase a doughnut cutter but I decided to do it like Grandma Lobb by using a glass and a smaller cookie cutter for the hole. After they are cut they are left to rise again for about an hour.

Frying is the most crucial step to doughnut making; too low a temperature produces greasy, heavy doughnuts while frying at too high heat results is overcooked outside and doughy interior. The oil must be very close to 360F. To help monitor the temperature, it is recommended that you use a candy thermometer. It is also best if you don’t overload the fryer. Fry only three or four at a time. Flip the doughnuts as they rise to the top and are light golden on the underside.

When the doughnuts are golden brown, they should be placed on a paper towel to drain the extra oil. After they cool, icings in various flavors can be put on top with nuts, toasted coconut or sprinkles placed on the wet icing. For cream or jelly filled doughnuts, you can stick a skewer into the doughnut and make a gentle sweep of the interior careful not to get too close to the sides. Then place the tip of your pastry bag at the hole and fill gently. Doughnuts are best served immediately.

I know as you are reading, there are some of you who are wondering, “Is it worth spending all that time making home-made doughnuts when you can simply pick a dozen from the store?” Watching my family’s faces as their teeth sank into the warm sugary pastries, I could see that all three were having the similar mmmmmm moment that I had back in Grandma Lobb’s kitchen. So yes, making doughnuts at home is definitely worth the time!

Home Made Doughnuts

2 packages regular or rapid rise yeast

Warm water (105-115 degrees)

1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk (scalded then cooled)

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/3 cup shortening

1/2 cup sugar

5 cups all-purpose flour in all

Vegetable oil for frying

For creamy glaze:

1/3 cup butter

2 cups powdered sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

4 to 6 tablespoons hot water

For chocolate glaze:

1/3 cup butter

2 cups powdered sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

4 to 6 tablespoons hot water

4 ounces milk chocolate (or semisweet chips)

Follow the instructions on the yeast package. Start the yeast and warm water mix in a 2 1/2 quart bowl. Add milk, salt, eggs, shortening, sugar and three cups flour. Mix on low speed, scraping bowl constantly, for 30 seconds. Raise to medium speed and mix for two minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in remaining flour until smooth. Cover and let rise in warm place until double, about 50 to 60 minutes (dough is ready when indentation remains when touched.) Turn dough onto floured surface; roll around lightly to coat with flour. Gently roll dough 1/2 inch thick with floured rolling pin. Cut with floured doughnut cutter. Cover and let rise until double, about 30 to 40 minutes. While the doughnuts are rising this last time, make up your glazes so they are ready when the doughnuts come out of the fryer.

Creamy glaze: Heat butter until melted. Remove from heat. Stir in powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Stir in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until glaze reaches desired consistency. Chocolate glaze: Heat butter and chocolate over low heat until chocolate is melted; remove from heat. Stir in powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Stir in water one tablespoon at a time, until glaze reaches desired consistency.

To cook doughnuts: Heat vegetable oil in deep fryer to 360 degrees F. Slide doughnuts into hot oil with wide spatula. Turn doughnuts as they rise to the surface. Fry until golden brown, about one minute on each side. Remove carefully from oil (do not prick surface) and drain. Dip the doughnuts into the creamy glaze and set on rack.

When slightly cooled spread chocolate glaze on top if desired. You can dip the doughnuts in sprinkles or other toppings after completing whatever glazes are desired.