I cannot believe no one has entered donuts in this challenge. Well--there are some donuts but not the kind that my grandmother would call donuts. When she wanted to make donuts, they had to have yeast in them.
Grandma had each of us kids spend a week with her (one at a time) every summer. I do not know what she did with my brother or my sister on their weeks, but when I went there, we cooked. We baked. We fried. We made all the yummy things that my mother couldn't/wouldn't make. According to Grandma, my mother was the tomboy who did not have time to learn how to do things in the kitchen.
I do not cook much--that was my husband's job. Now my sons are picking up the job. I bake. I make all the deserts. When we went to potlucks, my husband made the savory dishes and I always made the sweet ones.
Donuts are not technically baked but they fall into the sweet category so this was something that grandma knew I would like. Grandma did not measure ingredients or read a recipe. This made learning to bake a challenge. I did write down several of her favorites. Eventually I learned to make things more like she did, but that takes a bit of patience and a teacher like my grandmother at your elbow giving advice.
Step 1: Ingredients:
1 packet yeast (or a big spoonful from the pound package that I buy)
1/2 cup sugar
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
I use a bread machine most of the time because I have gotten lazy in my old age. Grandma did not have one and she had the strongest arms from mixing, beating, kneading, etc all by hand. She was born in 1908 and grew up without any electricity in the Black Forest.
With a bread machine, you just dump in all in and turn it on--you either set it to only make the dough or you remember to shut it off after the dough is done. Take it out of the machine and let it rise on a floured board or counter top. When it has risen to twice its original size, you are ready to roll it out.
Step 2: Kneading (Skip If Using a Bread Machine)
If you are making it like Grandma did, you start with the yeast, sugar, and 1 cup of water. The water should feel very warm but not too hot. That is what Grandma taught me. (She did not use a thermometer either.) Stir and let it sit for about 15 minutes. You know that your water was not too hot when it gets all bubbly--the yeast is starting to grow. Dump in the eggs, flour, and salt. Mix. If it is too dry, add more of the warm water. You want to have a dough that is not too sticky but at the same time it cannot be dry and crumbly. Lay some flour down on the counter and roll the dough in it to cover the outer surface with flour. Flatten the dough with the heel of your hands and fold it in half. Turn the pile a quarter turn and flatten it again. Repeat the flatten, fold, turn process adding flour to the work surface when necessary.
Congratulations--you have just learned how to knead dough. It is not a hard process. It just takes some time and a little muscle. I like the feel of the dough. It takes me back to my playdoh years.
The kneading is finished when you can poke it gently and the dough bounces back to its original shape. Cover with a towel and leave it on the counter. If you don't knead it, the risen dough will be too soft to handle. Kneading develops the gluten that gives bread products their internal structure.
This is where Grandma and I usually went out to the garden behind the garage to see what we could pick to go with dinner. I loved it when the sweet peas were ready to be picked. Much better than green beans.
I did this batch by hand so I could get a few pictures. Dumb move. I got flour all over my camera.
Step 3: Roll Out the Donuts
After the dough has risen to about twice its size--or roughly an hour (or as long as you can wait), gently roll out the dough to about 3/4 inch thick. You do not want to be too rough at this stage. Keep enough flour under the dough that it does not stick to the counter and enough flour on top of the dough so that it does not stick to the rolling pin.
I do not own a donut cutter and neither did Grandma. Use a drinking glass. Cut your donuts leaving as little scraps as possible. You cannot roll out the dough over and over again like with cookie dough. I usually try for a second rolling but you have to get it all into a ball and then let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes first--Grandma called it 'recovery time' because the dough had to recover from all the abuse.
Poke your finger through each donut and stretch the dough just a bit. You need the hole to be a bit larger than the final donut hole will be because the dough is going to rise again. The hole gets smaller during the rise. Cover the donuts with a towel again and come back in a half hour to 45 minutes.
Step 4: Frying
Half fill a pan with oil--Grandma used shortening when she ran out of oil. Any light vegetable oil will work. Turn the stove on to almost high. The oil is ready when you drop a little scrap of dough in and it sinks, bubbles, and pops back up reasonable quickly. I usually fry the scraps first. This way I have something to nibble on while the rest of them are cooking. It also gives me a chance to adjust the temperature. You want it to cook quickly (absorbs less oil) but slowly enough to allow it to cook all the way through.
Be careful when you put the dough into the oil. It is very hot and will burn you. This is not a task to do with very small children--though they usually do very well at the kneading step. It must be all the playdoh practice.
When they start to brown, flip them over. This should not take more than a minute or two. I usually only do 3 to 5 at a time (depending on their size). When they are done on both sides, pull them out and let them drain on paper towels for a few minutes.
Step 5: Frosting
You can eat the donuts plain but we never do.
You can put a cup of powdered sugar in a bag and drop the donuts in one or two at a time. Shake to coat.
Powdered sugar with a hefty dose of cinnamon is good too.
Glaze is just a mixture of powdered sugar and a liquid (milk, water, orange juice, whatever). Dip the donuts and set them aside to dry.
Frosting is the best. (I have a sweet tooth, in case you couldn't tell.) I like cream cheese frosting. Mix a half a package of cream cheese with a cup of powdered sugar and enough milk to make it spreadable. Chocolate frosting needs a spoonful of cocoa and just a little bit more sugar. Unfortunately my son ran off with my cream cheese--it was a bagel emergency so I had to settle for glazing my donuts.