Old fashioned stuff is often the best stuff. What’s weird is the constantly changing definition of ‘old fashioned’. I guess anything that’s different to what the fashion is now, is the ‘old fashion’? These doughnuts are apparently old fashioned. Though we’re still making them, so go figure. They are delicious and use well established ingredients like buttermilk and nutmeg. And they have a cool, somehow important sounding title, so I’m going with it.
I can pick and choose the recipes I want to recreate from the past, approximating a taste and a texture that someone long ago would also have experienced. Have you seen the movie ‘Midnight in Paris’? One of the main themes of the movie is what they call ‘Golden Age Thinking’ – the belief that one would have been better off or happier in a previous time period. I am a tragic sufferer of golden age thinking. But even worse than that, I’m not devoted to one time period – one day I’m all about London in the 60s and the next it’s Detroit in the 70s or New York in the 80s. I have no loyalty whatsoever.
Whenever I write about this, I start to come across all melancholy – I don’t mean to! The cool thing is that all of the awesomeness of the past lives on and the present has its own beauty and uniqueness. There were no food blogs in the 60s for one thing. No Instagram – tragic. There was no information super highway. But they did use cool terms like ‘information super highway’. And there were way less people who wanted quit sugar. Both good things as far as I’m concerned.
And they had these dang doughnuts. Crispy-edged, cakey centred, and so quick and easy to make, provided you’re not scared of deep frying. Or making caramel. So yes, there are two high-heat activities you have to brave in order to find your way to these doughnuts, but it’s so worth it. These are the kind of thing to grab with a little square of wax paper and take on a walk down to the park. Or to squire around to a mate’s place and eat with black coffee and hella gossip. And if you want to come around to my house, we’ll have a long chat about the relative merits of past periods of time and place. FUN!
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 + ½ cups (225g) plain flour
- ⅓ cup (65g) caster sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- pinch of salt
- ⅓ cup (85ml) buttermilk
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- Flavourless oil, for frying (I like grapeseed oil, but peanut, vegetable, or canola would do)
- 1 cup (200g) caster sugar
- 2 tbsp butter
- ⅓ cup (85ml) thickened cream (aka heavy cream)
- sea salt
- ½ cup (50g) icing sugar
- Melt the butter in a small pan and set aside to cool.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt.
- In a separate jug, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, vanilla bean paste and melted butter.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix together with a wooden spoon until a sticky dough forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place into the fridge for 20 minutes.
- When the dough has chilled turn it out onto a well-floured surface and knead it briefly. Roll the dough out to about ½ inch / 1 cm thick and then use an 7-8cm/3 inch cutter to stamp out rounds. Use a 1 inch / 2cm cutter to stamp out the middle (I use an old coke bottle lid). Re-roll the scraps and doughnut holes to make as many as you can. I got 9.
- Heat about 2 inches of oil in a large, heavy based pan, making sure the oil doesn't come up more than halfway. Heat the oil to 350F/180C.
- Fry the doughnuts for about 1 minute per side or until golden brown. Don't overcrowd the pan, and be sure to keep the oil at the correct temperature as you go. Place on a rack to cool.
- To make the glaze, place the caster sugar in a medium-sized heavy based saucepan. Add 3 tbsp of water to the sugar, and then place over a medium-high heat.
- Cook, without stirring (you can gently tilt the pan, but be careful), until the sugar dissolves and the mixture boils. Keep cooking until the sugar turns a dark amber colour and just a few tiny whisps of smoke begin to appear.
- Remove the pan from the heat and carefully stir in the butter - it will bubble up and steam. Then stir in the cream - expect more bubbling and steaming.
- At this point, you may have a hard lump of caramel floating in a sea of cream; that's ok. Place the pan back on the heat, and stir until the mixture melts and comes together. Bring back to a boil, and cook, stirring, for a further 30 seconds.
- Remove from the heat and add a big pinch of sea salt. Then sift in the icing sugar and stir until smooth.
- Pour the glaze into a shallow bowl, and use tongs to dip the donuts into the glaze one by one. Leave them to cool, then eat!