I'm off tomorrow to celebrate my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. They've insisted on a "no big deal" approach to the occasion, so we've centered the celebration around family traditions. Growing up we used to celebrate festive occasions in Frankenmuth, Michigan where we had family-style chicken dinners at Zehnder's. We've agreed that our favorite childhood memory is the square of orange sherbet that comes at the end, with a plastic animal as a garnish. We had tiny pink elephants and orange giraffes around the house for years.
My highlight for this occasion is a custom cookbook we've put together through TasteBook that includes recipes Mom has made over the years, and a few from Grandma O'Brien that we loved so well. I'd be hard-pressed to have to pick a favorite between Grandma's lemon meringue pie or her fried cakes.
But the fried cakes -- deep-fried doughnuts that went home with us in brown paper bags -- were the treat that came with an experience. On the rare occasion when she made them, it always felt like an extravaganza. There was the making the dough, then chilling, rolling and frying. For kids it seemed like an eternity before that first bite.
So here's Grandma O'Brien's recipe, with a little help from her favorite 1950s cookbook -- I plan to indulge very soon.
Makes 2 dozen
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup shortening, melted and slightly cooled
3½ cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
Beat eggs and sugar till light. Stir in milk, then shortening. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and add to egg mixture. Mix just until smooth. Chill.
Dough for doughnuts should be as soft as can be handled. A soft dough is easier to roll when chilled. Roll 3/8-inch thick on lightly floured surface. Cut doughnuts with floured cutter and let stand 15 minutes.
Fry in deep, hot fat (375 degrees); if fat is too hot, doughnuts will not be baked through; if too cold, they will be fat-soaked. Don’t fry too many at one time or fat will cool too rapidly. Turn only once while frying, usually as soon as they rise to top. Drain on paper towels. Shake in paper sack containing granulated or confectioners’ sugar, if desired.