Even this recipe, with its sure language and exacting measurements, doesn't tell you all you need to know. Among the gleanings likely to be missed, unless you give it a go and then try it again, is how the muscovado sugar sprinkled over the top plays nicely off the dank sweetness of the molasses and the back-of-the-throat kick from freshly ground nutmeg.
What's more, there's no mention of what to do with leftovers which, one assumes, are few. First thing you should know is that these donuts are worth eating a full day after you fry them. But if you must fiddle with a Zingerman's donut on day two, use it as the base of a sundae, like the Ann Arbor boys do.
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, melted and cooled
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 rounded teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 gallon vegetable oil for frying
1/2 cup muscovado brown sugar for sprinkling (or substitute dark brown sugar)
1. Sift the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt together into a large mixing bowl. In another large mixing bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs, egg yolk, granulated sugar, melted vegetable shortening, molasses, and lemon zest.
2. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet mixture, stirring gently. Stop stirring as soon as all the ingredients are combined—overstirring will make tough doughnuts. You'll still see a little flour. (You may use a standing mixer for this process—just be sure to stop mixing as soon as all the flour is added and combined.) Cover the dough with plastic and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
3. Pour the oil into a cast-iron Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed and deep pot until it reaches a depth of 3 to 4 inches. Heat the oil over medium-high heat to 370° F.
4. Knead the dough on a well-floured surfact for 1 minute, then roll it out with a rolling pin to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut out rounds using a 3 1/2-inch pastry cutter, then cut the centers out with a 1 1/2-inch round. Gather the scraps and reroll as necessary.
5. To avoid overcrowding, fry only 2 or 3 donuts at a time. All told, they'll take about 3 to 4 minutes to cook, needing to be turned every minute or so. Drop the rings into the hot oil. They will float in about 30 seconds or so. Fry them 1 minute more, then turn them over and fry for another minute. Turn them once again and fry 1 minute more, until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a kitchen towel and immediately sprinkle with muscovado sugar. Cover the donuts as you make them and store them in a warm place until they're all done.
Excerpted from Donuts: An American Passion (G. P. Putnam's Sons). © 2006 by John T. Edge.
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