Yes, it’s National Donut Day. Don’t you roll your eyes and assume it’s along the same lines as National Toilet Paper Day (I just made that up. But then I Googled it and it actually exists! It’s August 26th!)
National Donut Day actually has a long and touching history. In 1917, Salvation Army female volunteers known as “lassies” prepared thousands of fresh donuts to the homesick soldiers serving in France during World War I. In observance National Donut Day was officially established in 1938 by the Chicago Salvation Army to raise much-needed funds during the Great Depression. It’s observed on the first friday in June.
I’ve never thought much about donuts. They’re not one of the things that come to mind when I imagine delicious food. But then I started to think back over my life and I realized how much I really do like donuts. A lot. As a kid I used to save up my allowance and ride my bike over to Dunkin Donuts. I’d get an entire dozen donuts. I think I must have shared with someone because that’s a lot of donuts, even for a sugar maniac like me. (Thank goodness I had a killer metabolism back then. Where did it go?) As I child I naturally was drawn to the sugar overload that cream-filled donuts promised. I also loved the richness and exotic shape of the crueller. But nothing thrilled me like the peanut-covered donut. I was born a nut-lover and not only did this satisfy my nut-tooth, but it was so delightfully messy. A peanut covered donut tells the world that you will gladly sacrifice a clean lap for a taste of the divine.
Of course, the peanut-smothered donut is missing one important component: chocolate. I’ve since matured and my donut holy grail has become this:
These are surprisingly hard to find, what with all the peanut allergies abounding today (curses, you allergic people!) Occasionally I’ll find them at a donut store but the frosting is usually not chocolatey enough. It just tastes sweet, not like actual chocolate. So disappointing.
Today is the last day of school for my kiddles, so donuts would make a special end-of-the-year snack. Anybody else up for making donuts? You’ve never made them, you say? Well, you’re in luck! Here are a couple of ideas for you. (just make sure you have a thermometer for the oil. A candy thermometer works just fine. A meat thermometer is also good if it goes to 350º. Sometimes they don’t.)
Buy a couple of cans of refrigerated buttermilk biscuits. The cheapo kind work the best (do NOT use Grands. They are studded with bits of shortening. Fine if you’re making biscuits, but it makes donuts sodden with fat. Ew.) Stick your finger in the middle of each biscuit and make a quarter-sized hole. Fry at 350º until golden brown on both sides. Dip in cinnamon, powdered sugar or chocolate frosting.
If your feeling more motivated try these: (I make these every month or two for my family. They are beyond scrumptious. Seriously, everyone needs to make donuts at least once in their lives. I got this recipe from Cook’s Country, my favorite mag, and boy, oh boy, are they good!)
Orange Drop Doughnut Holes
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 quarts vegetable oil (more or less as needed)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
1. For the coating: Pulse sugar and zest in food processor until blended, about 5 pulses. Transfer to medium bowl. (If making by hand, toss zest and sugar in medium bowl using fork until evenly blended.)
2. For the doughnuts: Heat 3 inches of vegetable oil in 4-quart saucepan until temperature reaches 350 degrees. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. Whisk eggs, sugar, and orange zest in large bowl. Whisk in orange juice, then butter, until well combined. Stir in flour mixture until evenly moistened.
3. Using two dinner teaspoons, carefully drop heaping spoonfuls of batter into hot oil. (You should be able to fit about 6 spoonfuls in pan at one time. Do not overcrowd.) Fry, maintaining temperature between 325 and 350 degrees, until doughnuts are crisp and deeply browned on all sides, 3 to 6 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer doughnuts to plate lined with paper towels. Drain for 5 minutes. Add doughnuts to bowl with orange sugar and toss until well coated. Place on serving plate and repeat with remaining batter, regulating oil temperature as necessary. Doughnuts are best served warm.