For homemade doughnuts, offer aid and appreciation

November 12, 1997|By Rob Kasper

APPRECIATIVE eaters keep cooks going. Rather than just shoveling down the grub without saying a word, an eater who observes, "This was better than the last time," makes a cook feel treasured. And when an appreciative eater not only requests a favorite dish, but also offers to help prepare it, few cooks can refuse him.

That is what happened in our family last weekend when the teen-ager woke up with a craving for homemade doughnuts. He remembered the doughnuts he and his mother had cooked several years ago.

Those doughnuts were so good, the teen-ager told his mother.

Making them was a lot of work, his mother replied.

No problem, the teen-ager countered: I'll help.

Sometimes when a kid helps cook, the assistance can add to the workload rather than subtract from it. But this kid was reasonably capable in the kitchen, and was also full of flattery. The teen-ager told his mother he had been waiting for what seemed like an eternity to enjoy, once again, the unique flavor of her homemade doughnuts.

Flattery, of course, works magic on cooks. And so, before I could say, "Melt the Crisco," my wife and our oldest son were in the throes of doughnut-making. There were some obstacles. First of all, they didn't have any Crisco, or any other brand of shortening that could be turned into the oil that would fry the doughnuts. They made a trip to the grocery store to fetch some.

They didn't have much time. The kid got out of bed a little before noon, the usual weekend rising time for teen-agers. This meant they couldn't make doughnuts with a yeast dough, which required waiting for an hour or two while the dough rose. So they used a faster dough, made with baking powder and baking soda.

They didn't have a candy thermometer to make sure the oil stayed at 375 degrees. They guessed at the temperature of the oil. The kitchen got very smoky. At one point in the proceedings, they had to carry the pot of hot oil out of the house to cool it off. Unfortunately, the hot pot was placed on a doormat, which melted.

After the commotion had ended and the smoke had cleared, a dozen homemade, chocolate-chip doughnuts somehow appeared on the kitchen table. They were devoured and praised.

Plans are already being hatched for another doughnut-making extravaganza. The next session might even feature a new candy thermometer, one bought by this appreciative eater.

Chocolate-chip doughnuts

1 3/4 cups unbleached flour, plus extra for rolling out and cutting

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large egg

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1 cup chocolate chips, coarsely chopped

vegetable oil for frying

In a large mixing bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and sugar together.

In a small bowl, whisk buttermilk and 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil together with the egg.

Stir the cocoa into the flour mixture, then add the egg mixture.

Mix thoroughly, then turn out onto floured surface. Knead in the chocolate chips and flatten the dough slightly into a round. Wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Divide the dough in half, and on a lightly floured surface roll out half to a thickness of about 1/2 inch. Cut out doughnuts with doughnut cutter. Set cut doughnuts aside, and cut out additional doughnuts from the other half of the dough, which has also been rolled out. Form scraps into doughnuts until all dough is used.

To fry doughnuts, fill a deep pot no more than halfway to the top with oil. Oil should be at least 2 inches deep. Bring slowly to 375 degrees over moderate heat. Using a pancake turner, slide doughnuts into the oil, cooking 2 or 3 at a time. Turn with slotted spoon after 1 minute. Cook for 1 minute more, lift out with slotted spoon, drain on paper towels. Cool on a rack.

From "Doughnuts" by Dorian Leigh Parker (Clarkson Potter, 1994, $11)

Pub Date: 11/12/97

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