Potholes and doughnut holes: April in Vermont

Fried dough. The words alone conjure up luscious memories of the places I’ve enjoyed fried dough over the years. McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I., home of the Red Sox’ triple-A baseball team, the PawSox. The Great Escape amusement park in New York. The Fryeburg Fair in Fryeburg, Maine, where the last week in September is devoted to 4H exhibits, ox pulls, and harness racing. AND, nestling under trees brilliant with autumn foliage, a row of “fried” booths: French fries, sausage and peppers, hamburgs and hotdogs, and fried dough.

Classic fried dough, its golden, blistered/bubbly surface glistening with a faint sheen of oil, is a plate-sized round of plain dough (yeast or baking powder) that’s been deep-fried, then showered with confectioners’ sugar. Or drizzled with maple syrup or honey. Some even dip it in marinara sauce and sprinkle it with cheese.

Me, I’m a maple syrup fan. Lightly crisp on the outside, the syrup soaking into the hot, doughy interior… As they say in Maine, “I tell you, Mr. Man, it doesn’t get any better than that!”

There’s one major problem with fried dough: the bubbling cauldron of deep fat. Once a mom, always a mom, and the thought of deep-fat frying immediately starts mental red flags waving: DANGER! DANGER! Hot fat and little kids (and dogs, and unaware spouses) in the kitchen absolutely do not mix. Ever. No matter how careful you are. To me, deep-fat frying in an open pot just isn’t worth it.

Enter shallow-fat frying. I’ve found that a mere 3/4” of simmering oil in an electric fry pan is sufficient for both crackly-soft disks of fried dough, and doughnuts. Or, since I’m often lazy and always in a hurry, doughnut holes—never mind the rolling and cutting, let’s just plop that dough directly into the pan!

April in Vermont doesn’t have much in common with April in Paris—unfortunately. It’s cold, it still snows, but most of all, it’s just plain muddy. Thus the moniker for this month: Mud Season. Snow that’s blanketed the ground since December melts. Add April showers, and the earth quickly becomes saturated. Take a step on grassy ground, and sink to your ankles. Take a step on bare ground, and find yourself shin-deep in sucking, ice-cold muck.

Then what? Drag those muddy feet into the car? Go back to the house or office, take your boots off outside (in the process turning your hands totally muddy), grab the doorknob (getting that muddy, too), and walk through to wherever your clean clothes are, trailing bits of black earth and smearing mud on everything in your wake?

The choices are limited, and none very attractive. And I haven’t even mentioned Vermont’s myriad unpaved roads, some of which have been known to swallow a small car whole… My fellow blogger Susan Reid will tell you more about that soon. At any rate, dealing with this “earthy” challenge does tend to put one in the mood for self-pampering.

Thus my longing for fried dough—or, in this case, REALLY easy to make doughnut holes. Make batter; drop it in hot oil; 4 minutes later, fish out crunchy-soft, hot doughnut holes, ready to dip in maple syrup.

Luckily, you don’t have to wade through mud to enjoy Vermont Doughnut Holes. They’re easy as 1-2-3!
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1. Stir together milk, egg, butter, King Arthur Flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

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2. Drop batter in 1″ balls (a teaspoon cookie scoop works well here) into 3/4”-deep vegetable oil (peanut oil is a good choice), which you’ve heated to 350°F. Fry for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.

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Drain on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, or dip in maple syrup or honey. Doughnut holes are best enjoyed warm, but are easily reheatable in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes (drape loosely with foil). Serve with your choice of sweetener. (Mud on your shoes is optional.)

Click here for our recipe for Vermont Doughnut Holes.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. KN

    Oh, these look fantastic! I love the idea of shallow-frying. That hasn’t occurred to me previously. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  2. Janet Gordon

    Would love to try these, especially using the shallow fat frying method….glad to see they don’t have much sugar….can you substitute with Splenda? And can this be adapted to use cpple cider to make cider doughnuts which are so pricey when you can find them. My favorite Dutton’s in Manchester makes them sometimes….Will check back for answers….

    Reply
  3. Elizabeth

    I’m a deep-fry novice. Can the oil be strained and reused? If so, how do you store it? What is the best way to discard used oil? Can’t wait to try the doughnut holes! Thanks!

    Reply
  4. PJ Hamel

    I would imagine you could use Splenda, since it’s not a part of the structure of the batter, simply a sweetener. And you could try substituting either boiled cider or frozen apple juice concentrate for part (all?) of the milk; maybe you wouldn’t even need the Splenda, then. Let us know if you try this and how they come out, Janet-

    Reply
  5. PJ Hamel

    Elizabeth, I’m a deep-fry novice, too. I know oil can be strained and reused; not sure how many times. Store at room temperature; not sure how long. I’ll bet there are online resources you could go to for this information; just try googling “deep fat frying,” see what comes up.

    As for used oil, I walk outside and pour it in the woods; I figure there are some little creatures or insects out there somewhere who might benefit by it.

    Reply
  6. Kim

    Warm donuts are the best! This recipe is super–quick and easy, and the shallow-fry method is genius!

    As always, I adapted a bit. I’m a freak for pumpkin, so I added 1/2 cup solid pack pumpkin, 3/4 tsp. cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg. I also decreased the milk by 3 TB. They came out GREAT. The kids (ok, me too) devoured them in short order.

    Thanks again for another great recipe!

    Reply
  7. LeAnne P

    This is what I get for checking the blog right before bed. Now my dreams will be filled with fried dough and I won’t be able to rest until I get some! I love the simplicity of it. Good food doesn’t always have to be complicated.

    Reply
  8. Royce Robertson

    These look fabulous. Trying in the a.m. I’m sure they will be as good as they look. Sorry about the bread bakers who didn’t make the finals in France. Hats off to them for being eligible to enter the competition, and it’s not the end of the world to lose. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

    Reply
  9. Tena

    Yum for maple syrup, yuck for mud season. Here in New Hampshire, we get plenty of both.

    Did I get new boots for winter? No. For mud season? You betcha!

    And my new 1/2 gallon of extra-yummy-but-not-as-sweet grade B syrup is lurking in the pantry…

    Reply
  10. James A.Whittington

    I worked for several months,trying to cook donuts,a light golden.I talked to friends,local friends who own “Donut Shops”,Cake Shops,and others,with really no help,they all say theirs turn out darker than wanted.Well,I don’t put down things,I’m working on,and the thought hit me,a small electric fryer,with a control,around 165 degrees(check with Candy thermometer),this way it controls the temperature, stops the grease burning,and darker bread.I use gas normally and really sorta hate to cook or be involved with electric stoves”No Control”!!! In testing,I started with a “Fry Daddy”,reallly one at a time,now I got one that does two at a time,works great around the house. Best of luck!! Jim

    Reply
  11. LicksBowls

    I’m looking for a doughnut recipe akin to the plain “old fashioned” doughnuts sold by most doughnut producers.

    On my first try with this recipe, I used wholewheat flour (possibly a mistake, but I keep looking for ways to incorporate wholewheat…maybe not a good idea to try and make healthy something that is fried, inevitably unhealthy).

    The result was a too-crisp and semi-soggy (with oil) doughnut. Two holes and I was feeling queasy! Normally I can eat a dozen. :(

    So, I will give these another shot, using all-purpose flour, but.. does anyone know if, with this recipe or another, it’s possible to get those soft, spongy “old fashioned” doughnuts found in stores? I want the real thing (i.e. homemade)!

    Also, Cold Hollow Cider in Waterbury/Stowe makes a dynamite cider doughnut. Any thoughts on how to make that happen? Maybe use cider in place of the milk?

    -Kevin in DC

    Kevin, when I think of old-fashioned doughnuts, I think of cake-type doughnuts – e.g., Hostess Donettes type, firm, dense, and fairly heavy, leavened with baking powder. The “soft, spongy” doughnut you describe sounds like a yeast-raised doughnut – do you think that’s what you’re looking for?

    As for cider doughnuts, yes, make them with cider as the liquid. And brush with cider once they’re fried. And glaze with cider syrup, or cider sugar glaze.

    Whole wheat doughnuts – hard to pull off at home. A bit oxymoronic, as you noted. I wouldn’t go there. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s… which for me translates into make doughnuts with AP flour, bread with WW. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  12. LicksBowls

    ‘morning P.J.,

    I do believe the yeast-raised doughnut may be what I’m looking for. It didn’t occur to me that there might be such a thing! I admit assuming the doughnut was both the lazy-man’s morning dessert and kitchen exercise, but it seems like there is ample room for experimentation and a need for practice (I don’t mind at all).

    Cider doughnuts will be attempted next week.

    Your translation appears to be an accurate reading, oh worthy and honored citizen of Caerleon.

    Happy baking/frying – Kevin in dc

    And you, Kevin – Actually, I’m working in Avalon – Caerleon is our store building. But you do know your Arthurian legend…

    Reply
  13. Cheri

    These look great! My grandmother used to make “callas” with rice flour that were fried like this, covered in cinnamon/sugar. They were crisp on the outside and so light, airy spongy on the inside.

    Reply
  14. cwolfpack3

    Can you use the KAF doughnut mixes and fry them? I keep looking all over the site and haven’t found the answer to this question.

    Don’t see why not. The mix is just a simple cake doughnut, baked instead of fried. Go ahead and drop ‘em in that bubbling oil, they should do just fine. PJH

    Reply

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