The summer I was seven-years-old, my mom and her twin sister would get into bed with me and my cousin every night and read us stories from Robert McCloskey’s Homer Price. I hadn’t seen that blue crumbly paperback since that summer and when I stumbled across it yesterday at The Strand all kinds of memories came rushing back. Not only memories of how it felt to be tucked in, slightly sunburned with wet hair, or the way Cameron’s ears would get so red when he got tired, but also (of course…) food memories. My and my cousin’s favorite of the stories was “The Doughnuts,” in which Homer’s Uncle Ulysses invents a machine that can make doughnuts at lightening speed. Things go awry when the machine malfunctions and begins spitting out doughnuts faster than they can sell them, and soon the entire store is filled, floor-to-ceiling with doughnuts (not the worst problem). McCloskey not only writes but illustrates the stories and while the entire collection of stories is wonderful, the illustrations for “The Doughnuts” are particularly tempting. Something about those grainy ink drawings on the yellow paper was enough to make my mouth water.
We not only read a lot about doughnuts that summer, we also ate a lot of them. My dad would go to the store and buy boxes of Entenmann’s old fashioned doughnuts, slice them in half, toast them and butter them and pile them high on plates. We would eat them with big glasses of whole milk, the adults with big mugs of hot milky coffee. Nothing fueled us up better for long days of hunting for crabs and swimming in the freezing salty North Atlantic ocean. When I happened upon this book yesterday I knew immediately that I had to spend the rest of the afternoon making doughnuts (don’t you ever feel that way?).
Homer Price Chocolate Glazed Heath Bar Doughnuts (Dough recipe taken directly from Food & Wine)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon solid vegetable shortening
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 extra-large yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
About 5 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus more sifted flour for dusting
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
In a small saucepan, warm the milk with the shortening over low heat until the shortening is almost melted. In a large bowl, stir the yeast into the warm water, sprinkle with a pinch of sugar and let stand until foamy, about 3 minutes. Stir the warm milk mixture into the yeast along with the 1/2 cup of sugar and the sour cream, the whole eggs, egg yolk, salt and vanilla. Gradually stir in 4 3/4 cups of the flour until a soft, sticky dough forms. Scrape the dough out onto a floured surface and use a pastry scraper to knead the dough until smooth, adding as much of the remaining flour as necessary. The dough should be soft and slightly sticky, but smooth and elastic.
Gather the dough into a ball, transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a sheet of oiled plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot for 2 hours. Punch down the dough and turn it over in the bowl. Cover and refrigerate the dough for 2 hours or overnight.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the chilled dough 1/3 inch thick. Using a 3 1/2-inch doughnut cutter dipped in flour, cut out as many doughnuts as possible and transfer them to a sheet of floured wax paper. The scraps can be rerolled once to cut out more doughnuts. Loosely cover the doughnuts with wax paper and let rise until soft and billowy, about 20 minutes. In a large, heavy skillet, heat 4 inches of vegetable oil to 365°. Line a rack with several paper towels. Working in batches, fry the doughnuts until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Check the temperature of the frying oil to make sure it doesn’t get too hot or cool. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the doughnuts to the paper towellined rack to drain.
Chocolate Heath Bar Glaze
4.5 oz chocolate (any chocolate you like, I used semi-sweet chocolate chips)
3/4 cup sugar plus 2 Tbs
4 Tbs Unsalted Butter
3/4 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup heavy cream
Place chocolate in a heat-safe bowl. Heat sugar and cream together in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Pour sugar and cream over chocolate and let it melt (should take about 5 minutes). Whisk together until smooth, add remaining ingredients and let sit for 10-15 minutes to cool and thicken. Dip doughnuts in icing and sprinkle with crushed toffee. Serve with good coffee (or milk!)
In the spirit of full disclosure I will tell you that the final result was a little heavier than I was hoping for and lacked that airy sugary goodness that make yeast doughnuts impossible to stop eating. This could definitely be solved by letting the yeast take effect more before adding it into the batter (I was feeling a little impatient). I also think I might have gotten a dud batch of yeast. Usually it takes about three to five minutes for yeast to get active and foamy in warm water, but if it isn’t bubbling wait until it does. If it never bubbles, toss it and try a new packet. Also give the dough enough time to rise before rolling it out, really let it double. That being said, the doughnuts were still delicious! Not too sweet, not too fried, and the heath bar added a nice unexpected crunch.