If a young parent were to come to me for advice about raising their children, this is what I’d offer.
- Enjoy your children, they really do grow up shockingly fast.
- Let them have a private life.
- Sit down to dinner with them every night—that means skipping extracurricular activities that meet at dinnertime.
- And for God’s sake, be careful about doing anything that they might decide is a tradition that must never be skipped.
When my kids were little, I thought it would be fun to make doughnuts on Halloween. Ok, I thought I’d like a doughnut on Halloween—I’d noticed that one of the drawbacks to being a grown-up is the lack of candy.
Over the years, I dutifully fried doughnuts every Halloween. And now, even though my three kids are basically grown (or maybe because—they’re missing the candy too!), they insist I make doughnuts.
It’s really not that much work. I follow a basic recipe from Marion Cunningham’s excellent The Breakfast Book. They make raised doughnuts that are yeasty, but not at all ballooned. The dough gets made in the afternoon, punched down and rolled out after an early supper (this year it was the Red Kuri Soup from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table, a book I’m really enjoying cooking through).
While the doughnuts rise, we sit around, watching the baseball game (now that the season goes into November) and handing out candy to Trick-or-Treaters (who seem bigger and less costumed every year).
Finally it’s time to heat the oil. I always struggle with this one. It takes so much oil, which isn't cheap. This year I used safflower. Peanut’s a good choice too. While the oil heats, I also heat a pot of apple cider. The kids throw in some cinnamon sticks, a few cloves, and maybe a star anise.
Once the oil is in the 365° to 375° range, it’s time to start frying the doughnuts. It goes pretty quickly. After their bottoms become golden, I turn them, and let the other side cook. Then they get blotted on some paper towels, and tossed in cinnamon sugar. That’s all. I try to hurry with the frying so the kids don’t eat all of them before I finish. I like to eat at least one doughnut, and 3 or 4 holes.
Maybe you’re familiar with this saying: ‘The Gods do not deduct from man's allotted span those hours spent in sailing.” I like to think there’s a companion saying: “The Gods do not add to man’s allotted waist span those calories eaten in doughnut holes.” Seems fair, since, when you think about it, a hole is nothing.
I’ve always wanted to try the method Laura Ingalls Wilder describes Almanzo’s mother using in Farmer Boy. She didn’t have time to waste turning doughnuts (which the new-fangled round ones, with a hole in the middle, required), so she made twists. They, apparently, turn themselves, “…their pale golden backs going into the fat and their plump brown bellies rising out of it.”
I'm afraid that might deviate too much from tradition. Next time, maybe.
Oh. And that cider? Don’t forget to add some bourbon to your cup.