I can’t remember the first time I ever had a doughnut, but I can certainly remember the best time. I was young—young enough that I still wore overalls and an ID bracelet—but old enough to know that doughnuts were a treat.
My dad was a baked goods connoisseur: Burgermaster had the best bear claws, Leonard’s had the best malasadas, and the Washington State Ferries had the best old-fashioned doughnuts. It was on a ferry ride to Orcas Island that I discovered the beauty of the day-old doughnut.
“Saran Wrap is the trick,” my dad said triumphantly, picking up a mummified doughnut in the galley and shaking it gently. “It keeps the doughnut moist.”
When we got to the cash register, the woman ringing us up said, “That’ll be a quarter.” My dad glanced gleefully down at me with a look on his face that implied we had basically robbed them blind.
On top of being a baked goods connoisseur, my dad was also incredibly thrifty. A doughnut that was cheaper but a day old was undoubtedly tastier than a fresh baked doughnut that cost double.
Sitting down with our doughnut, my dad allowed me the pleasure of slowly unwrapping the plastic until a perfectly moist old-fashioned doughnut was revealed to both of us. He pushed it toward me.
“You do the honors,” he said, and I did, carefully breaking it in half. One side came out bigger than the other, so I handed that half to him. Naturally, he wound up giving me the bigger side that’s just the type of dad he was.
Many years and many doughnuts later, old-fashioneds are still my favorite. I even prefer them wrapped in plastic, then broken in half. (But I will take them fresh, too!) When we decided to publish Lara Ferroni’s cookbook, Doughnuts: Simple and Delicious Recipes to Make at Home, I wondered if I’d ever leave my house again.
Sure enough, Lara’s recipes are easy and delicious, and the doughnuts are fresh and moist even without Saran Wrap. They aren’t cutesy like a cupcake, and they go better with coffee. What’s not to like?
I do wonder what my dad would think about this cookbook; I wonder if perhaps it would provide the inspiration he needed to actually make something in the kitchen other than a PBJ. I can only wonder as he passed away in 2007. But I do know that he will be smiling down at me next spring as I cut my wedding cake. A wedding cake made entirely of doughnuts.
Old-Fashioned Sour Cream
Makes 6 to 10 doughnuts
Active time: 15 minutes | Ready in: 40 minutes
1 1/4 cups (160 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup (75 grams) superfine sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter or vegetable shortening
Vegetable oil for frying
- Sift together the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon. Stir in the salt. Set aside.
- In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, sour cream, egg, and butter until smooth. Add the flour mixture a little at a time until a smooth dough forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the batter for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/2 inch thick, then cut out the doughnuts using a 2 1/2-inch-diameter cutter. You can reroll any scrap dough.
- Heat at least 2 inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot until a deep-fat thermometer registers 360 degrees F.
- With a metal spatula, carefully place the doughnuts in the oil. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until light golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Let cool just slightly before glazing.