Today is another of those infamous food holidays that either annoys me or makes me laugh depending on the subject: National Doughnut Day. Always the first Friday in June, I assumed it was something created by The National Doughnut Council or some such public relation entity until I did a little digging. Turns out National Doughnut Day is a real legit thing not some made up food holiday. The Salvation Army started National Doughnut Day during the Great Depression as a way to raise funds and bring awareness to their social service programs and is still one of their biggest annual fundraisers. The day commemorates the “donut lassies,” female Salvation Army volunteers who provided writing supplies, stamps, clothes-mending and home-cooked meals, and of course, doughnuts, for soldiers on the front lines during WWII. Who knew? (Well, since you asked, Google. Go figure.)
Since I rarely pass up an opportunity to eat a good doughnut, I decided to commemorate our “doughnut lassies” with a favorite: lemon ricotta doughnuts. I’ve worked with pastry chef Gale Gand for years and this is 100% her recipe. Ok, technically it is her mother-in-law Vita’s recipe that she has taken on. Vita, who sadly passed away last year, has the best name ever: Vita Seidita. Very rhyme-y and perfectly wonderful. I love it. Anyway, both Gale and Vita would make these simple doughnuts often for their families and Gale has made them countless times for various cooking demonstrations over the years. They are always well received, after all everybody loves a fresh doughnut.
Unlike a lot of recipes, this one comes together quickly with a few stirs while the frying oil comes up to temp. Since baking powder is the leavener rather than yeast, there’s no extended rise time, which is important on a lazy Sunday morning. Start to finish, I’d say you could serve up some hot doughnuts in about ½ hour. The ricotta keeps them moist so they hold well and I’ve added lemon zest for just a little bright, summery zing.
While traditionally served with just a dusting of powdered sugar, I’ve always been a fan of a glaze, particularly one tart with fresh lemon juice. They are also quite nice with a little blackberry or raspberry sauce on the side for dunking. It’s your choice … maybe even do all three.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: MMMMM … DONUTS. So donuts or doughnuts? I’m never sure but it turns out both are correct. The dictionary-approved spelling, according to grammarist.com, is doughnut. The shortened “donut” has been around since the late 1800s, but it wasn’t popularized until the late 20th century, thanks to Dunkin’ Donuts. Today, writers outside the U.S. still favor “doughnut” by a wide margin so that’s what I’ll go with. Regardless of how you spell it, bits of dough fried until crispy is always good by me.
Seven years ago: Chino Farms Strawberries
Six years ago: Rhubarb Custard Pie
Five years ago: Late Spring Pea Soup
Four years ago: Pear Frangipane Tarts
Three years ago: Frybread for Navajo Tacos
Two years ago: Guinness Crème Anglaise
Last year: Parmesan Pea Dip
LEMON RICOTTA DOUGHNUTS – tweaked slightly from Gale Gand’s recipe
makes about 4 dozen small doughnuts
for the doughnuts:
vegetable oil, for frying
3 large eggs
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon zest
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
powdered sugar, for dusting
for the lemon glaze:
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
¾ teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons water
pinch of kosher salt
- In a large saucepan, heat 2” of vegetable oil to 375°F. Set a large wire rack over a baking sheet and position near the saucepan.
- For the doughnuts: in a large bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest with a rubber spatula.
- Add the ricotta and mix until smooth.
- Add the flour, baking powder and salt and stir just until blended. Do not overmix.
- Using a very small ice cream scoop or 2 teaspoons, slide 8 walnut-size rounds of batter into the hot oil. Tip: after every 3 or so, dip the scoop in the hot oil; the batter will slide out cleanly with little sticking.
- Fry over moderate heat until deep golden brown and cooked through, 3-4 minutes. The doughnuts sort of spin on their own but give them a little push to turn if needed for even browning.
- Using a slotted spoon or kitchen spider, transfer the doughnuts to the rack lined sheet pan to drain.
- Keep an eye on the thermometer and bring the oil back to 375°F before frying the next batch. Continue frying the remaining doughnuts in batches of 8.
- Either dip in the glaze or dust with powdered sugar before serving. The doughnuts are best served warm but are very good once cooled too.
- For the glaze: in a medium bowl, sift in the powdered sugar (to remove any annoying lumps), whisk in the vanilla, lemon juice, water and a pinch of salt.
- After the donuts are fried and still slightly warm, roll the doughnuts around in the glaze to coat, letting any excess drip back into the bowl and place back on the wire rack to set.