Old-Fashioned Doughnuts – My Favorite Recipe

Old-Fashioned Doughnuts – My Favorite Recipe

If you have never fried something before, be extremely cautious. You will need either a pot or a frying pan with tall sides to fry these in. Make sure the handle of the pan is not protruding out over the stove and that you aren’t wearing anything that can catch on the pan and bring it crashing to the floor filled with hot oil. The process is very easy and almost mesmerizing as you drop in the dough and it immediately puffs up. You’ll need a lot of paper towel and some forethought, but once you make these– you’ll want to make them again and again.

IngredientsOld-Fashioned-Doughnuts 7

  • 1/2 tbs. dry rapid-rise yeast
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream OR 1/4 cup melted and cooled butter
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour, plus more for dusting
  • heavy inch of salt
  • large bottle of vegetable or canola oil for frying
  • powdered sugar, for topping

Instructions

Gently heat the milk until it is very slightly warm. Put your finger in to test it– it should feel neither hot nor cool. Stir in the yeast with a pinch of flour and a pinch of sugar. Let it sit for about ten minutes, it will start foaming and smell like weird beer by then aka ready to go!Beat the yolks of the eggs in a large bowl with the sour cream or butter, vanilla, and salt until the color is a smoothly lighter yellow. In a different bowl, whisk the whites until the are slightly fluffy, just to get some air into them. MIx the milk/yeast into the yolk mixture. Then mix in the whites slowly.

Add in the flour by 1/2 cup increments until it is all combined. Use a spoon at first to do this then, once it is not sticky, use your hands to make sure it is all incorporated. Very lightly oil another large bowl and place the dough in it and cover it with either a towel or cling wrap. Let it rest there for at least two hours OR place it in the fridge and let it rest overnight (about 8 hours)– this is convenient if you want to eat these fresh for breakfast, rather than for brunch. About 45 minutes before you would like to eat them, flour a large cutting board or work surface and roll out the dough until it is about a half-inch thick. Use either a cup, mug, or 3ish inch cookie cutter to cut the dough. Gather up the scraps, flour, and roll out again to get more doughnuts. LIne a baking sheet with parchment paper and place each lightly-floured doughnut on it. Cover very lightly with cling wrap and let them rest for a half hour, or until they are fluffy.To fry them, fill a pot or a pan with about 2-3 inches of vegetable or canola oil with about an inch clear of the brim.Old-Fashioned-Donuts-05

A cast iron pan, a tall pan, or a shallow pot all work wonderfully. Avoid shallow pans and tall pots, as they would be a potential hazard to flip the doughnuts in. Once your pan is filled with the oil, turn the heat to medium and let it heat there. Do not be tempted to turn the heat to high– it will make the oil too hot and burn the doughnuts right away. Line a wire rack with paper towels.Test the oil to see if it’s hot enough by placing a scrap of dough or piece of bread in the oil– if it immediately sizzles, you are ready to fry. Do not fry them before or else the dough will just absorb the oil. Very carefully place 2-3 doughnuts in to fry at a time. Use either a spatula or a large slotted flat spoon– I also use a fork to facilitate flipping them. The doughnuts will fry for about 2 minutes per side. I would say to place the first one in and flip once the first side is golden and then fry the other side ’til it is also golden.

Remove it to the wire rack and let it cool– cut it open and if it is done, you will now have a sense for how long the others will take.While remaining cautious around the hot oil, you get into a rhythm and soon the wire rack will be filled with hot, crisp doughnuts. Let them cool before you generously cover them with powdered sugar. You can also fill these with jam once they have cooled– just poke a hole in them and use a piping bag or turkey baster to squeeze in the jam. You can cool and gently pour the remaining oil in the pan back into the bottle to use again for frying. Enjoy warm with ample coffee, friends, and family.

Easy Swedish Meatballs

Easy Swedish Meatballs

I suppose these really should be called “Swedish” meatballs, since I haven’t sent this to any Swede to ascertain how authentic they are. If they are authentic or if they aren’t– they certainly are scrumptious and always a huge hit whenever I make them.

In my humble opinion, I’d much rather it read “Swedish” meatballs, rather than Swedish “meat”balls– but that’s just my preference. This simple little things are nothing more than a dense baked meatball swaddled in a sour cream and broth gravy. These are one of the most popular party finger foods I make– I normally keep them warm in a slow cooker and set out toothpicks. They disappear and everyone always asks what makes them so delicious. The unique blend of savory, sweet, salty, creamy makes them irresistible– and no one would ever guess how easy they are to make!

Easy Swedish Meatballs1-Main4

If you cannot find lingonberry jam or red currant jam, replace the amounts with brown sugar.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2-2/3 lbs. ground meat– “meatloaf mix” (equal parts beef, veal, pork) preferred OR half beef, half pork
  • 3 eggs1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice4 strips of bacon
  • 1/2 cup unflavored breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant)1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. lingonberry jam or red currant jam

FOR THE GRAVY:

  • 2 cups low sodium or unsalted veal or beef stock
  • 4 tbs. flour
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 3 tsp. lingonberry jam or red currant jam

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 450. In a large pot, use kitchen scissors to cut the bacon strips horizontally into 1/2 strips right into the pot. Set the pot on medium heat and move the bacon around every 30 seconds or so until it is crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon to a bowl and leave the bacon fat in the pot– we’re going to use it to make the gravy.In a large bowl, mix together everything except the ground meat and the bacon.

Add in the ground meat and then the bacon– being careful if the bacon is still hot. The best tool to combine everything is your (clean) hands– so prepare your baking sheet so you can easily move from mixing to shaping. Form the meat mixture into about 40-45 little balls. They should be slightly smaller than the meatballs you use in spaghetti and meatballs– remember, this should be finger food, so make them slightly larger than an average unshelled hazelnut. I usually make 5 rows of 8 meatballs, but still, sometimes there is meat left over and I squish in a few more in the rows. They barely expand, unlike cookies, so you can actually fit them all in closer together on only one baking sheet (win!).swedish-meatballs-method-5-1024x683

Place them in the oven and let them roast for a good 15 minutes. 3 eggs might seem like a lot and 15 minutes at 450 might seem hot– but we want them to be dense and hold together as we wrap them in their luxurious gravy. Speaking of which…While they roast, sprinkle 4 tablespoons of flour on the reserved bacon fat (or melted butter if you chose not to use bacon for some insane reason). Use a large whisk to blend it together and then turn the heat to medium. Let the roux come to a light bubble– when it starts to turn a light brown, slowly pour in your veal or beef stock, whisking quickly while you pour. You should be left with a smooth gravy. Stir in your lingonberry or red currant jam.

Put the sour cream in another bowl and whisk in about a 1/4 cup of the gravy– then quickly pour and whisk the sour cream into the pot. It might seems like a finicky step, but it will keep the sour cream from curdling badly. Lower the heat for the pot.When the meatballs are done roasting, carefully plop them into the gravy and let them simmer there for about 10 minutes. You can either serve now (they’ll be very hot!) or keep them in the fridge before reheating in a few hours. I like to reheat them in the pot then move them to a slow cooker on the “warm setting for a party. Keep the lid in the cabinet and set out a bowl of toothpicks next to the warm and cozy dish of luscious meatballs.

 

Making Ukrainian Easter Eggs

Making Ukrainian Easter Eggs

The week before Easter, called Holy Week by Christians of all kinds, is filled with traditions. Each culture has customs and rituals that correspond to the the severity of the week followed by the happy celebration on Easter. The very nature of the holiday, the idea of resurrection, is so perfect for this time of year when spring has already started and the first leaves and blossoms appear.

It’s been a busy week for me so far. My grandmother recently gave me her mother’s recipe for paska, a traditional sweet challah-like bread eaten at Easter by Eastern-Europeans. Since I’m going to be bringing it to my family on Easter, I naturally needed to experiment with the recipe. I say “recipe” but really it was a a list of proportions with a few directions on the back of a 50 year old piece of paper. (Note: the best recipes usually come in this form.) Indeed. her recipe produces a slightly denser, richer version than I have had before and is perfectly sweetened. The recipe also calls for 8 cups of flour. Having made this recipe twice this week, my fridge is filled with four huge loaves of paska.  I’ve been trying to eat it all, but there is only so much one can eat!

Halnya Mudryi decorated these pysanky eggs. Pysanky comes from the Ukrainian word, "pysaty," which means "to write." Pysanky are intricately decorated Ukrainian eggs with symbols. The custom dates back over 2,000 years. (Algerina Perna/Baltimore Sun)

My Aunt Eleanor was a renowned baker in my family. Her impeccably made cookies and pastries were always enjoyed at every major holiday. She was most famous for her nut and poppy seed rolls– an Eastern European specialty that isa sweet yeasted dough rolled around nut or poppy seed filling. Aunt Eleanor’s always looked and tasted perfect and some years she would make these rolls by the dozen to give away to family and friends. She passed away exactly fifteen years ago this month and I realized that my younger cousins and family have been without her delicious baking their entire lives. Aunt El took a lot of pride in her baking and I think that making these once again for Easter is suitable tribute to her.

I mentioned that she would make them by the dozen, right? The proportions of her handwritten recipe cards confirm this. Like the paska, I needed to test out the recipe before I brought it to my family. Let me tell you, it is very, VERY dangerous having six delicious loaves of nut roll in the fridge, right next to the paska.

If my fridge couldn’t get any more carb-laden, my grandmother also gave me the recipe for my Aunt Dot’s cinnamon rugelach- cookies rolled in cinnamon sugar and baked– which I naturally had to make. Rugelach are synonymous with Jewish baking and very traditional rugelach dough uses butter and sour cream. In the past century or so, it has become more common in America to use cream cheese in the dough in place of the sour cream. This recipe seems pretty traditional and uses a mixture of sour cream and cream cheese. The little typewritten slip of paper gives a bare-bones recipe with a hand-written note on the top: “from Thelma.”

One of my favorite traditions at Easter is making pysanky, Ukrainian Easter eggs. Pysanky are beautifully decorated eggs that carry massive amounts of symbolism. Aside from the blatant symbolism of the egg itself, what is written on the egg and the colors are equally important. Some patterns are strictly and intensely geometric while some are rather simple and fast to make. They’re traditionally placed in the Easter basket which is blessed by a priest before Easter brunch. You needed to have at least one red egg in the basket– the color distracts bad spirits from ruining the other foods in the basket and instead goes right into the inedible pysanka.maxresdefault

The method used to make them is called a wax-resist method. You draw on the egg with melted beeswax whatever you want to remain white and then dip the egg in some serious dye. Once the egg is colored, you remove it and dry it. Then you write on it again with beeswax whatever you want to be the color you just dyed it. The beeswax magically prevents the dye from seeping in, so whatever color you write on keeps its color. If your design is detailed, by the end of the process you’re sometimes left with an egg nearly covered in wax. You heat up the egg with a candle (or, more modernly, in the oven) and wipe away the melted wax. There we are! Your pattern emerges. They’re not difficult to make, you just require the patience to create them and the faith that they will come out beautifully once the veil of wax is removed, which is the crux of the holiday anyway.

Making pysanky is usually a group activity– everyone sits around the table and chats or sings while making these beautiful eggs. So, this year, my friend Anna came over and we set to task to make them. I should preface this with that neither of us are experts at making them… at all. We had a great dinner of borscht with sour cream and dill, broiled kovbasa, paska bread (trying to use it up!), garlicky dill pickles, Gouda, Brie, luscious chocolate babka, and wine before we went about making them. We had a marvelous time catching up and chit-chatting. Our efforts turned out quite respectable, but experts we are not.