In August, in my hometown, every year there is a fair. And while I never thought so at the time, I realize now, that this event, along with so much of that shoreline suburb was idyllic, and my childhood firmly set in happy times.
Just past the height of summer, when electric July gives way to haze and humidity, there would be an art show and an opera at Town Hall and a craft fair across the street, on the front lawn of the First Congregational Church. When I was very small I held my mother’s hand as we walked down one of the paths away from the steeple, stopping to sample jams and look at witch’s wreaths and wooden spoons dressed as dolls in calico cloth. As I got older and more independent, my friends and I would dart across Main Street, from our dance practice, to try on silver rings, coquettish in all our stage makeup.
At the top of the hill were the food booths: fresh-squeezed lemonade, fried doughnuts doused in cinnamon sugar, and New England clam chowder. And all the townspeople would sit on the steps of the church to eat and drink under the shade of trees in the setting sunshine. These three foods are in many ways the taste of summer to me, more than popsicles or burgers on the grill.
I like these cozy cinnamon-sugar coated doughnuts. They are good; and better still because I got to use up the butter and buttermilk I made. It occurred to me too late that I should have flavored them with orange juice and zest and fried them in duck fat, a la duck a l’orange. I also meant to serve them with dulce de leche ice cream. Instead we ate them from the paper sleeve, still warm and so fragrant.
Deep-Fried Buttermilk Doughnut Holes with Cinnamon and Sugar
Makes about two dozen doughnut holes; Adapted from a recipe by King Arthur Flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 lb lard or 2 cups vegetable oil, for frying
- Cinnamon-sugar, for rolling
Start heating lard/oil in a 5 quart stock pot over medium-low heat. You want the oil to remain at 370 while you fry – use a candy thermometer for the most consistent results.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, sugar, and vanilla extract. In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Melt butter. Stir wet ingredients, including melted butter, into dry until just combined and turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface.
Knead until the dough comes together, four or five times, and don’t overwork.
Form balls of dough slightly smaller than a ping-pong ball.
When the oil is at temperature, plunge them carefully, a few at a time, into the oil. Cook until a deep golden brown, about three minutes. Turn off the flame if the oil gets too hot. Keep your thermometer in the pot. Be patient and check for doneness by cutting into one! (My first three were not at all cooked through.) Hint: Make the balls smaller than you think – they really puff up when they fry.
Drain doughnuts on paper towels/brown bag, or as I did, immediately toss in cinnamon-sugar.