I grew up in pre-globalization India. The burgers and pizzas we knew were Nirla’s and the donuts were made by her mother. Christmas.
I loved sweet, cakey, spicy donuts. This is why I was disappointed when the first commercially made donuts arrived in Delhi (when Dunkin’ His Donuts opened in 2012). With the toppings and fillings removed, it’s fluffy, bready, and doesn’t have much flavor. This is not what a donut should be.
Less than Christmas, my mom gave me the family recipe for donuts so I could make a batch. This recipe is old, and when I was a kid, making donuts was an important part of preparing for Christmas, Dad, her sister and I decorated our house. Mom, with the help of Dad (he laid out the cake tins and chopped up the candied fruit and peel), made the cake. She also made other collectibles.
The fruit and spice-rich cake was the highlight of the spread, but its preparation was out of my league. Too complicated and dizzyingly fantastic. It scared me. I peeked in, took the raisins out of the bowl, and stepped back.
Instead, what I liked was donut, because there I could help. In fact, as Mommy (who is always helpful) pointed out, the donuts couldn’t have been made without my help. She kneads the dough. Kneading the cake batter was a matter of minutes compared to a much more laborious and complicated task.
I grabbed a small steel glass and an old tube of lipstick, washed it so well that no one could remember it ever had lipstick in it, and then got to work. A steel glass that fits snugly in my little hand was used to cut circles out of the fabric. had to be exact. The hole needed to be right in the middle, and the pressure needed to be even so that the donut didn’t wrinkle, twist, or become skewed. I was less than 10 years old at the time, and I felt it was very important. As soon as Mom had fried a few donuts, they were all golden and plump and she said she wanted to try at least one. Because in my eyes it’s blasphemy to stop at one. Mommy always saved some donut holes and fried them instead of kneading them into dough.
Recently in Nagaland I found these donut —often made with ghee rather than butter, minus spices—are very much loved at Christmas. so I said make a proper term).
So here is the recipe. It’s so easy to make and so delicious that you can enjoy it even if it’s not Christmas.
This amount makes about 36 donuts.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup white sugar
¾ cup milk
3½ cups wheat flour (maida)
1 teaspoon salt
5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
¼ teaspoon powdered or grated nutmeg
Vegetable oil with a neutral flavor, for frying
Ultra-refined flour for dusting work surfaces and cutters
* Whisk the eggs until they are white and fluffy. set aside.
* Put butter and sugar in a large bowl and cream until whitish. Add the eggs and whisk for a few minutes until well combined. * Add milk and mix.
* Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.
* Add the sifted flour to the batter and mix to make the batter. Do not over knead. You just want the ingredients to be evenly mixed.
* Loosen orange-sized chunks of dough. Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1 cm on a clean surface lightly dusted with flour.
* Using a glass or small bowl with a floured rim, cut circles out of the rolled dough. Use a small rimmed object (a liquor bottle cap works) to cut a donut hole out of each circle.
* Place the cut donuts on a lightly floured surface and let them rest for 15 minutes while you cut the rest of the donuts.
*Once the donuts have settled, heat the oil (about 4-5cm deep) in a kadahi or a wok. Fry the donuts over medium heat until golden brown, flipping halfway through.
* Drain with kitchen paper. After cooling, the donuts should be kept in airtight jars.
Madhulika Liddle is an NCR-based writer. Besides her historical novels and short stories, she also writes about food, movies and travel.
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