“Fat is flavor! Repeat after me, FAT IS FLAVOR!”
This is the mantra we heard from chef Brian Polcyn at a class long ago. And he was, of course, right!
And there are few better ways to use lard than to fry things. And, especially in the fall, there are few things yummier to fry than donuts. Lard is especially suited to frying because of it’s high smoke point and tolerance for heat. Rancidity and breaking down into free radicals is an issue with plant fats, some more than others, of course. But not so with pigs bred and raised for good quality fat. The less corn and soy your pigs eat, the cleaner and better quality the fat will be. Lard also gives fried foods a nice, clean, crisp taste. That’s especially true if it’s lard from a heritage, lard type pig like the Mangalitsa.
This is one of our favorite recipes, especially in the fall!
4 egg yolks (or 2 whole eggs)
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. soft shortening (butter, oil, softened lard or tallow)
3/4 c. thick buttermilk or sour milk*
3 1/2 c. wheat flour (white or whole)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cloves (optional)
2 tsp. vanilla (optional, may use instead of spices)
Beat thoroughly the 4 egg yolks (or 2 whole eggs)
Beat in sugar and soft shortening
Stir in thick buttermilk or sour milk
Sift together dry ingredients and stir into the wet ingredients until smooth.
Frying the donuts
- Melt fat in a heavy kettle or deep fat fryer. You’ll need about 3-4 inches of fat in the pan. Heat to 390 degrees while you roll out the dough. The fat will drop slightly in temperature when you add the donuts. If it gets too cool, you’ll have greasy donuts. If it gets too hot, the dough will brown too much on the outside before cooking on the inside.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured board or counter top. Roll out gently to 1/4″ thick. Cut with a floured sharp donut or biscuit cutter. You can cut a hole with a smaller cutter for donut holes, or just pinch a hole into the center of the donut.
- Slide the donuts individually gently into the hot fat using a spatula. Get as many in the pan as will fit at a time.
- When the donuts rise to the surface and are lightly browned underneath, turn them over. Fry about 3 minutes until completely browned on both sides.
- Lift the donuts from the fat with a long fork or slotted spatula or spoon. Let it drain for a couple seconds over the pan, then place on absorbent paper.
Eating your donuts
There are several ways to finish your fried dough cakes, depending on your tastes:
- Enjoy it as is! Dunk it in your coffee, hot chocolate, or spiced cider.
- Powdered: Roll it in powdered sugar when you remove it from the fat.
- Cinnamon sugar crusted: Roll it in cinnamon sugar (you can make it at home, exactly as it sounds: just mix sugar with a bit of cinnamon to taste) when you remove it from the fat.
- Frosted: when the donuts cool, apply your favorite frosting.
- Glazed: Add 1/3 cp. boiling water gradually to 1 cup confectioners’ sugar. Mix well. Dip warm donuts into the warm glaze.
*Sweet milk donuts: if you don’t have buttermilk or sour milk, simply use your regular milk and leave out the baking soda.
*You can make a simple hack with the spices by simply using “pumpkin pie spice” in place of all the individual spices.
*Go GLUTEN FREE! You can replace the wheat flour with alternative flours, just know the texture will change a bit, too. For a donut dough that sticks together a bit better, add a little extra corn starch, tapioca flour, or arrowroot powder.
Adapted from Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book. This is one of my favorite “how to cook real food” reference books!