As the trees go quietly to sleep outside, families come inside to spend time together — and in many cases they gather around the kitchen. When I was young, my mom, Cheryl Humphreys, enlisted me and my five siblings each Halloween day to help make her famous doughnuts. The smell of the rising dough, which she doubled (or tripled), filled the air during the afternoon. By dusk the doughnuts were ready for production mode.
My mom would hand out hairnets and aprons, waving her hands around assigning each one of us a station. She stood her usual post as the queen fryer, a job not to be taken lightly. Some of us would move the risen doughnuts to the end of the table, others would take the hot golden doughnuts to the glazing bowl, and finally, someone had to stack up the end product.
“This is the best batch we have ever made,” I would often hear my mom say as she stepped away from the stove long enough to try one of the first to cool. “These are just right. The key is to use really fresh ingredients. That helps make the doughnut fluff up.”
By the time the trick-or-treaters came to our house, we had rows and rows of doughnuts to pass out; and the feedback was all the same, “Can I have one more?”
Today, the tradition continues. But instead of making the doughnuts on Halloween, we’ve picked a new day in October to once again gather as a family. My sisters, brothers and our kids all join in the fun with Grandma at the helm — the little ones standing on stools to see the action. And so, we create more stations, find more aprons, and quadruple the batch of dough.
Before the evening is done, just like in years past, our good neighbor Stephen Hadley knocks on the door, “Do I smell doughnuts?” We laugh and fill up a paper bag for him with the sweet treats to take back home. Then pack more bags for special neighbors who have all come to love the tradition of homemade doughnuts as much as we have.
2 tablespoons of yeast
1/3 cup warm water
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 cups scalded milk (cooled to lukewarm)
4 tablespoons of butter
1 cup mashed potatoes (packed)
4 tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
2 eggs (well-beaten)
¼-½ teaspoon lemon extract
6 cups of flour, divided
2 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1. In a small bowl dissolve 2 tablespoons of yeast in 1/3 cup warm water and 2 tablespoons of sugar.
2. In a separate large bowl combine the following: 2 cups scalded milk (cooled to lukewarm), 4 tablespoons of butter, 1 cup mashed potatoes (packed), 4 tablespoons sugar, 1½ teaspoons salt, 2 eggs (well-beaten), ¼-½ teaspoon lemon extract. Mix thoroughly.
3. Add the yeast mixture to the large bowl mixture. Add 3 cups of flour.
4. Beat until smooth.
5. Continue to add enough flour to make a sticky soft dough (about 3 more cups).
6. Cover and let rise until double — about 45 minutes. Punch down. Divide dough in half. Roll each portion on a floured board to ½-inch in thickness. Cut with doughnut cutter. By the time you have cut all the doughnuts out, the first ones will be ready to fry.
7. Fill a frying pan with enough oil that the doughnuts will float. The oil needs to be 375 degrees before frying begins. Fry one side at a time until the doughnut is golden brown. Transfer the doughnuts out of the oil.
8. Dip each hot doughnut in a glaze made with 2 cups powdered sugar, ¼ cup boiling water and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
9. Cool on a wire rack.
— Cheryl Humphreys