I spent New Year’s Eve making doughnuts

Food has a way of making an occasion truly special and memorable.

This year my husband and I opted for a quiet, low-key New Year's Eve. We wanted to spend it with our kids (and other immediate family) and make it a special occasion for them, instead of hiring a babysitter and going out on our own. The logical way to do this, of course, was through food. As we all know, food has a magical way of making a night special and memorable, and our New Year's certainly turned out that way, thanks to doughnuts.

I decided to make doughnuts because my cousins had whipped up a batch on Halloween and I found it very impressive. There's something about doughnuts that seems utterly decadent; they're not something we usually eat, for health reasons and because most have palm oil in them, which I avoid; and yet, given the chance, we'd all be happy to stuff ourselves, making them the perfect party food. They're also kid-friendly, easy for small hands to cut out and glaze.

cutting out doughnuts© K Martinko

I used a recipe from the 1976 Mennonite cookbook More With Less and it calls for a curious ingredient – two cups of mashed potatoes that presumably make the texture fluffier and lighter. The doughnuts are rolled out and cut from a sheet of dough, then left to rise until ready to fry in hot oil. Then they take mere seconds to cook, which meant that my enormous batch of 100 doughnuts (yes, it made a lot) was finished cooking in a fairly short time. We glazed the tops and then feasted for the rest of the evening. The leftovers disappeared at breakfast.

This will become an annual tradition, I have no doubt. Whether we host a bigger party or keep it small, there will always be fresh doughnuts because, when you have hot, sticky homemade doughnuts, you can't help but have the best time.

If you're interested in trying your own batch, here's the recipe I used. It's fairly concise, bordering on minimalist, so if you're not familiar with bread-making, you might want to read some more detailed recipes to get a sense for basic technique. The recipe can be used to make dinner rolls, sticky or cinnamon buns, or coffee cake as well, hence the odd name.

eating the doughnuts© K Martinko

RECIPE: Edna Ruth Byler's Potato Dough Baked Goods

Dissolve:
3 tbsp instant yeast in 1 cup lukewarm water

Mix in large bowl:
1 qt. scalded milk
2 cups mashed potatoes (no milk added)
1 cup fat (I used butter)
1 cup sugar

Let cool to lukewarm, then add:
Yeast mixture
6 cups all-purpose flour

Let stand until mixture foams up, about 20 minutes. Add:
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp salt
11-12 cups additional flour

A little more flour may be needed, but dough should be soft. Turn out on floured board and knead until satiny. (I divided in half and kneaded batches separately in a stand-up mixer.) Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.

To make doughnuts: Roll out dough about 1/2 inch thick and cut out doughnuts. (I used a widemouth jar screw top and a smaller one for the middle.) Place on trays and let rise until not quite double. (You can save the centers for frying or reroll scraps to make more doughnuts.) Fry in hot oil at 375 degrees. When drained and while still hot, dip in glaze mixture.

Glaze:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sugar
Bring to boil over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Cool, then add:
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
Enough icing sugar until you reach thin consistency for dipping.

Food has a way of making an occasion truly special and memorable.