I love doughnuts. When I crave one, however, I usually go to one of the excellent doughnut shops in my area, rather than make them myself. It was exciting to try this delicious recipe for spiced, sweet donuts fried in butter when friends were visiting earlier this summer. We were all delighted with how they turned out.
I hope this recipe for “How to make Donuts” will entice you into the kitchen. Today I’m also inviting you to a virtual baking competition: the second, annual The Great Rare Books Bake Off, a friendly contest between the sister libraries of Penn State University and Monash University. There are twelve intriguing recipes to try out; six from the collection of each library. An engraved pie pan trophy will be awarded to the library that receives the most social media posts featuring photos of your baked goods tagged with its hashtag: #BakePennState or #BakeMonash. The competition runs 5-11 September 2021 so you have lots of time to read the recipes, shop for ingredients, and get baking. All the details are on the site linked above.
As the Penn State lead baker, I encourage you, Cooking in the Archives readers, to give these donuts a try and cast your vote in #TheGreatRareBooksBakeOff If doughnuts are not for you, there other recipes to choose from. Last year, I updated a lemon tart recipe and I’ve also helped with some of the early twentieth-century recipes: Suffrage Angel Cake (new this year!), Cinnamon Buns, and Lamington Cake. I might give the Pavlova recipe a try next week, too.
Thanks to the hard-working digitization staff at Penn State Libraries, I’ve been able to spend time with images of Christian Barclay’s manuscript recipe book even though I haven’t been able to visit Eberly Family Special Collections to consult it in person recently. Her recipe with instructions “How to make Donuts” (61v) is one of the many culinary and medicinal recipes in the volume. Here is the information about the manuscript that my Penn State Libraries colleagues wrote up for our Bake Off site:
This donut recipe comes from a handwritten recipe book kept by Christian Barclay from 1697-1723, which includes cooking recipes, home remedies, instructions for dying cloth various colors, and two pages of marriage and birth records of her children with Alexander Jaffray. The recipe book is part of the Robert Barclay of Ury family papers and maps, 1685-1835 collection.
I have a few more recipes from Barclay’s manuscript on my to-cook list and I’m also hoping to transcribe it with future students as a part of my “What’s in a Recipe?” undergraduate research project.
How to make Donuts
Take one english pint of flour take 3 eggs
taking out 2 of the yolks, beat it with
suggar, till they be like a thin sirup
grate a little ginger, & 2 or 3 cloves &
nutmug among it, take as much butter
as eggs, & as much milk as eggs and
butter both, put the butter & milk to
the boyll together, then pour it in
among the flour, stirring it with
a spoon, then put in the eggs still
working it up like paste, roull it out
with a roulling pin, like a cake,
cut it in what form ye please, have
a pan boylling with a good deall of
butter, so putting them in the boylling
butter little & little, let them
boyll till they be crisp, then take
them out if ther be butter enough
to color them ye may put in
& take out till the butter be
Some modern doughnuts are leavened with yeast and have an open, light texture while others get their rise from bicarbonate of soda and have a denser, cake-like texture. Barclay’s donuts puff-up slightly from the eggs during frying, but are unlike either modern yeasted or cake doughnuts. The flavors, however, are spectacular. The blend of ginger, clove, and nutmeg spices with the rich, sweet dough, and butter frying medium makes for a truly delicious treat.
Makes 24+ 2-inch (50 mm) donut rounds.
3 eggs (one whole egg and two egg whites)
¼ cup (50g) sugar
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground or grated nutmeg
1 cup (250g) milk
17 tablespoons (238g) butter, divided – 9 tablespoons (125g) butter for the dough, 8 tablespoons (113g) for frying
2 cups flour (272g), plus additional flour for rolling out dough
Optional: powdered sugar for serving
Separate the whites from the yolks of two eggs. You will use one whole egg and two egg whites for the batter.
Whisk together the eggs, spices, and sugar. Set aside.
Melt butter and warm milk together in a saucepan or the microwave until the mixture begins to bubble.
Measure out the flour in a large bowl. Pour the hot butter and milk mixture and stir to combine. Then add the egg mixture and form into a soft dough.
Put the dough on a floured surface and flatten with your hands and/or a rolling pin to approximately ¼ inch (1/2 cm) thickness. Cut the dough into rounds or strips that will fit in your frying pan or skillet. (I used a 1 inch (50mm) pastry ring to cut small, circular donuts.)
Heat butter in a sturdy frying pan or skillet until sizzling. The butter-level should be high enough that the thin donuts are almost entirely submerged.
Fry the donuts in butter until golden brown and crispy. Flip the doughnuts so that both sides brown. Depending on your stove and pan, this should take approximately 1 minute for each side. Not all your donuts will fit in the pan at the same time. Do not crowd them and instead cook in approximately three batches.
Consume your donuts immediately. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving if desired.
Sweet, lightly-spiced, and buttery, these donuts were delicious straight from the frying pan. My guests and I devoured the first batch while I was still frying the others. There were no leftovers.