Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Once Upon a Time...
Growing up on a farm, my trick or treating experience was different than that of my daughters. Rather than walking door to door with droves of neighborhood children, my sisters and I donned our costumes on Halloween night and my mom loaded us into the back of the family car. She'd drive us to our first neighbor's house, about a quarter of a mile down the road and then down a long lane. Then it was on to the next neighbor's house. We'd continue on this way down our country road, hopping out of the car at half a dozen stops, maybe more. We knew just about everyone that lived on our road, so if a light was on and we had time, we'd stop. We also made sure to stop at all of my cousin's houses as we made our rounds. This wasn't the kind of trick or treating that you just walked up to the door and held out your bag for the treat to be dropped in and move on. Nooo...we'd knock and inevitably the friends who answered the door would say, "Come in! Come in!" They'd want to take our picture and chat for a bit...especially if my mom walked up with us. We kids would try to hurry along without being rude because the biggest candy score was yet to be had at the last house on our road and we couldn't wait to get there...GRANDMA'S! Sometimes we even got new pajamas and a bowl of ice cream with our candy at this final and most favorite stop. Yep. Neighborhood trick or treating is decidedly different. In fact, I'm fairly certain that I'd discourage my children from walking into houses when trick or treating.
Not only was my trick or treating experience different from that of my suburban friends, but receiving trick or treaters at our door was quite a bit different too. First of all, we knew everyone who came to our door. Second, we didn't get all that many trick or treaters out in the "boonies". (I use that term with the utmost affection). It was exciting to see the flicker of headlights flashing on our wall as a car turned onto our long driveway. My sisters and I would sit, watching with anticipation, out our big picture window sometimes for 30-60 minutes between cars. My mom often made delicious homemade treats for the occasion. The one that I remember most is donuts. She'd drop fresh donuts into the fryer when we saw those headlights coming.
Apparently I didn't pay close enough attention to mom's method on those Halloween nights of my childhood, because these donuts proved one of my greatest challenges ever in the kitchen (and driveway). When I set out to make donuts this weekend, I was fairly confident, having worked in a grocery store deli/bakery in college. I frequently made donuts in the morning before class. But now I know that proofing pre-made donuts and throwing them into the industrial fryer, using all of the professional glazing equipment and vats of glaze is a whole different ballgame than creating them from scratch in your very own kitchen.
For starters, the dough was really soft. I mixed them up after the kids went to bed on Halloween Eve, and put them in the freezer as instructed by the recipe to firm them up, then heated the oil. I wanted to do a test run before mass producing them in my driveway for trick or treaters. Upon cutting the donuts, I had to experiment with different sizes of biscuit cutters. Those first donuts were falling apart everywhere! I used a 3" cutter for the donut and then a 1" cutter for the hole. That didn't go well. Not only was it difficult to get the dough off of the baking sheet, but the donuts fell apart in the fryer. I found that I needed much more flour AND a smaller cutter. The apple donuts ended up being apple fritters, because with the pieces of apple in there, the batter was more likely to hold it's shape without a hole.
Oil temperature, frying time, and lighting were also an issue. The oil should be around 350 degrees. If the oil gets to hot, the outside of the donut or fritter gets too dark and the inside is still in batter form. I burned a few donuts right off the bat. On Halloween night I was frying the donuts in our propane turkey fryer out in the driveway. As a girl accustomed to cooking on an electric stovetop, adjusting the flame to regulate the temp took some getting used too. I actually killed the flame completely at one point and didn't realize it until I tossed the next batch of donuts into the cooling oil and they sank to the bottom rather than frying on the top. I had to call my husband back to the house on that one. Inexperienced with our turkey fryer, I was a little nervous about lighting the flame again with so many people around. One wrong move and POOF! I might not need a Freddy mask next year... our own version of Nightmare on Elm Street. YIKES! Honestly, paying attention to the oil temperature was also an issue as I got distracted by greeting trick or treaters and parents and playing hostess at my little donut and cider table. As the night got darker, I found that the the outdoor lighting on each side of our garage was not adequate illumination for my donut frying operation. I couldn't tell if the donuts were getting too brown and a few times I left a donut behind in the oil because I couldn't see it. Talk about charred!
If you've made it through reading about the challenges that I encountered on my quest to re-create the donut slinging Halloween of my past, then you might not expect me to say that the donuts were a big hit or that I had SO much fun doing this. But they were and I did! I won't say that I ever hit my stride...it was craziness from 6-8 p.m.; trying to man the fryer, sugar the pastries, pour fresh cider, and carry on conversations all at the same time...but I did get the hang of it. It was wonderful to see all of the smiling faces of my neighbors and the kiddos in costume. It was gratifying to hear "Wow, this is awesome!" and "These are so good...still warm!" and "Thank you!" over and over. It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling and a sense of community. Now that the dust has settled and the oil has been cooled and put away, I can sit here and reflect on how blessed we are to live where we do. In the first hour or so I went through 150 donuts and fritters and nearly 2 gallons of cider. I was drawing a crowd! Apparently, the scent of the spiced donuts in the fryer had drifted down the block and according to one neighbor, "smelled heavenly". I heard, "So this is what we smelled" more than once.
Later that night my husband reported that our neighborhood "knows how to do Halloween right". He was out with our friends and the kids while I stayed behind. It sounds like things were hoppin'! Tons of families out and about, decorated lawns, and people were generous with their candy. My oldest daughter's trick or treat bag must weigh 10 lbs. and is littered with full-size candy bars! That's a lot of candy for me to ration between now and Christmas...
I was so busy that I didn't take any pictures of the frying process, the refreshment table, or the little party in my driveway. I did snap this at the end of the night, right before I shut down. Just a few cold pumpkin spice mini donuts and 1 1/2 apple fritters left.
That's the lowdown on frying donuts for the neighborhood. If you decide to do this next year, I'd recommend enlisting an assistant (an extra set of hands would've been helpful) and a floodlight.
Now let's get down to business and make some fritters!
I began with cider. You need 1 cup.
Boil it down on the stove top...
Until it reduces to 1/4 cup.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Next, add in the eggs, one by one, until they are well mixed.
Add buttermilk and reduced cider.
This is where I got the idea to take this fried dough in the direction of a fritter rather than a donut. I grabbed for an apple. Pretty sure this one's a Macintosh.
I peeled it and finely chopped it in my Pampered Chef chopper.
Measure the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Stir in the dry ingredients to form a soft dough.
Flour a couple of sheets of waxed paper and plop your dough onto the flour.
Turn the dough over and work in a little more flour.
Now line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Generously flour (don't be stingy with that flour, you don't want them to stick!) and pat the dough out to 1/2" thickness. Now cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and move it to the freezer. The recipe called for 20 minutes in the freezer, but I found that the best results were achieved after an overnight stay. At 20 minutes the dough was still too soft.
Now cut those fritters out using a biscuit cutter...
Or a round cookie cutter. This is actually dough scraps from the first run of fritters, with a little more flour worked in and pressed back out to 1/2" thickness. I'll say it again: Use plenty of flour! Remember, we're frying these in oil, it's not like the flour is going to dry them out. Transfer the cut out fritters to another baking sheet lined with generously floured waxed paper.
Like I said, I didn't take any pictures of the frying process. I completely forgot...not that I had time to grab for my camera during the trick or treat rush! I did get a few pictures of the Pumpkin Spice Donuts frying the next morning. I had just a few leftover, so I fried them for breakfast before church. So let's press on and see how the pumpkin donuts came together.
First, break 4 eggs into a large mixing bowl.
Beat until frothy.
Add in melted butter, buttermilk, brown sugar, and pumpkin puree. Beat until well combined.
Sift together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, and pumpkin pie spice.
Mix the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just combined and follow the same steps as the apple fritters above, adding flour and patting into a paper-lined, floured baking sheet. Cut out the donuts...
And transfer to a generously floured, paper-lined baking sheet.
Because I didn't have a small enough cutter to create a donut hole, I got resourceful and used the floured end of a wooden spoon to twist a hole into each donut. I cut all of my donuts ahead of time and then stored them in the refrigerator until I was ready to fry.
To fry, heat your oil to 350 degrees and drop in the donuts. Flip after about a minute and fry on the other side until golden brown. You might pull out one to test it and make sure that the center is cooked. Donut dough is really not an appetizing surprise. You can use a household fryer, turkey fryer, skillet or straight-sided pan. As long as you can heat up 2 inches of oil, you're good to go! Remove the donuts with a slotted metal spoon or a small metal strainer and drain further on paper towel.
I tossed mine into a pan with cinnamon and sugar and shook them around until coated. I gave the apple fritters a healthy dusting of powdered sugar.
Tah-dah! I had small paper treat bags available for those that wanted to take them to go. Although, most people enjoyed them warm from the fryer and washed them down with ice cold cider while standing in my driveway.
Let's take a look inside...
Apple Cider Doughnut Recipe adapted from Pumpkin Patches and More
Yield: about 18 doughnuts and and doughnut holes
For the donuts:
1 cup apple cider
1 cup granulated sugar
3 1/2 cups flour, plus additional for the work surface
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons butter (at room temperature)
1/2 cup buttermilk (low-fat or nonfat works fine)
1 apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider
Or for a maple syrup glaze:
1 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
Or granulated sugar coating
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
And vegetable oil for frying
Boil the apple cider in small saucepan(or a crockpot on high) until it is reduced to 1/4 cup. That will take 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside to cool. Beat the butter with your mixer, adding in the sugar. Next, add in the eggs, one by one, until the well mixed. Add buttermilk, reduced cider, and apple. Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg in another bowl. Add these to liquid ingredients; mix just enough to combine. Transfer dough to lightly floured parchment or wax paper and sprinkle the doughnuts with flour. Turn the dough over onto one of the sheets and sprinkle the tops with flour. Pate dough until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Use more flour if the dough is still sticky. Put the dough in the freezer for a couple of hours or overnight.
Make the glaze: While the cut doughnut shapes are in the refrigerator, make the glaze by whisking together the confectioners' sugar and the cider until the mixture is smooth. Set aside.
Using a 3-inch doughnut cutter, cut out the doughnut shapes.
Put the cut doughnuts and doughnut holes onto the second cookie sheet pan.
Refrigerate the doughnuts for 20 to 30 minutes or more. (If you have leftover dough scraps, just re-roll them, refrigerate them briefly and cut additional doughnuts from the dough.) Add enough oil or shortening to fill a deep pan 3 inches; heat the oil to 350 F (check with a frying or candy thermomenter). Fry several doughnuts at a time, turning once or twice, until golden brown and cooked through. That should be about 1 minutes per side. Watch them carefully; they'll quickly burn otherwise.
Remove the doughnuts with metal tongs or a slotted spoon and set on paper towels to drain. While still warm, shake a few at a time in a paper bag containing cinnamon sugar OR pour the glaze over them. Cool on a rack.
Pumpkin-Spice Doughnuts found at Pastry Brush
Source: Cuisine at Home, October 2008 Issue, page 31
1 egg yolk
1 cup canned or fresh pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil, enough to fry in
Whisk egg and yolk together in a large bowl until frothy. add pumpkin, sugar, buttermilk, brown sugar, and butter; whisk until combined. Stir in baking powder, pie spice, salt, and soda. Fold flour in gradually until a stick dough forms; cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat 2″ oil to 370°F in an electric skillet, deep fryer, or straight-sided pan over medium heat.
Pat out dough on a well floured surface to 1/2 inch thick, then cut with a 3″ and 1″ biscuit cutters dipped in flour. Transfer doughnuts and holes to a floured baking sheet using a spatula that has been dusted in flour. Fry doughnuts and holes in batches in the oil until browned, about 2 minutes, turning once (holes cook faster). Drain on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Finish with cinnamon and sugar or glaze
Apple Cider Glaze
1/4 cup apple cider
Pinch of salt
3 cups powdered sugar
Heat cider and salt in small saucepan over low until hot. Off heat, whisk in powdered sugar until smooth. Dip cooled doughnuts in glaze and let stand about 5 minutes.
1 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon (I used 2 tsp)
Mix sugar and cinnamon in a small paper bag. Toss doughnuts and holes in sugar mixture while hot.