My Culinary Downfall – Old Fashioned Doughnuts

Jan 27, 2016

I love doughnuts. They are my culinary downfall. Not available in pink and orange boxes, my doughnuts are warm and sugary on the outside with an interior texture that literally melts away in your mouth. The homey, spicy aroma of my doughnuts frying in lard brings back fond memories of apron-clad grey-haired ladies at church suppers. Eating my doughnuts feels and tastes good.

Today’s commercially marketed doughnuts are no comparison to what your great- grandmother made. Doughnuts were fried up most every morning and tucked into the lunch box as hearty fare for those logging in the woods, working the fields, or cleaning the barn. Day-old doughnuts were for dunking in piping hot coffee, or fresh, frothy warm milk.

The doughnut has a storied history. Sweetened, fried dough has been around for centuries. The Dutch introduced them as olykoeks – or oily cakes, dough fried in pork fat, to the New World. The hole in the middle increased the surface area exposed to the hot oil and prevented an uncooked middle. During the First World War, Salvation Army volunteer women served doughnuts and hot coffee to homesick soldiers on the front line.

Back in the early 1960’s, I remember the Harris Bakery truck delivering boxes of doughnuts. Freshly fried doughnuts, in large, glass “doughnut jars”, were the staple on counter tops in general stores and local coffee shops. Now, when I want a good, old-fashioned doughnut, I make up a batch and share them with my friends.



Cheryl Wixson
This old-time recipe is adapted from the 11th edition of the Fanny Farmer Cookbook


  • 1 ¾ cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter or oil
  • 1 ½ quarts lard to fry doughnuts in or fat of your choice
  • Cinnamon and sugar to coat the doughnuts


  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Whisk together the milk, egg, and melted butter or oil. Add to the dry ingredients and gently stir to mix. If needed, add a bit more flour to make the batter just firm enough to handle, but keep the dough as soft as possible. Chill the dough while you prepare to cook the doughnuts.
  • Heat the fat in an electric skillet (or a large fry pan on top of the stove) to 360 – 375 degrees.* You will need enough fat in the pan so the doughnuts will float, about 2 inches depth.
  • Flour a work surface. Roll out about 1/3 of the dough to 1/3 inch thick. Shape with a floured doughnut cutter, placing cut dough on waxed paper. Add the trimmings to the remaining dough, continue to roll and shape.
  • Lower the doughnuts into the hot fat, three or four at a time. When brown on one side, turn with a fork in the center on the other side. Lift out when done to a rack. To sugar, add sugar and cinnamon to a paper bag and shake hot doughnuts in the bag until well coated.

Cheryl's Notes

Makes 12 doughnuts.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 241 calories, 3 grams protein, 25 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams fat, 58 mg. sodium, 1 gram fiber.
* Fat temperature is critical. If the fat is too hot, the doughnuts will burn before they cook in the center. If the fat is too cool, the doughnuts will absorb the fat.

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