When writing this recipe I went through several drafts, tweaking here and there and trying to improve on the original cake doughnut recipe handed down by the doughnut lassies. Then I realized what I had been missing all along: There is no need for improvement or standardization, because the very thing that makes these doughnuts wonderful is their sense of necessity. You don’t need a fancy doughnut cutter; you don’t need a mixer; you don’t need any hacks or secret ingredients. If they’re a little oddly shaped or wonky-looking, that’s okay. Perfection isn’t the point here: It’s all about the intent.
Call your neighbors and tell them you’re bringing them some warm doughnuts. They’re best when they’re fresh, and better when they’re shared.
- Pour enough oil or lard into a large pot so it’s at least 4” deep. Insert a fry thermometer and bring to temperature over high heat, lowering to medium once the thermometer hits 370 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet (two, if you can) by lining it with paper towels and placing a wire rack over it.
- In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and baking powder with a large wooden spoon. Make a well in the center and add the evaporated milk, eggs, and salt, then mix well to break up eggs. Stir while slowly incorporating the dry ingredients, then continue to stir until everything appears to be well combined.
- Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board, dump about a cup of flour into a pile off to the side, and make sure your hands are well coated in the stuff. Knead the dough until smooth, using a dough scraper or metal spatula to scrape up any bits that stick, adding more flour in small amounts as necessary.
- Once oil is fully heated, once again lightly dust your hands with flour and pinch off a piece of dough slightly larger than a golf ball. Gently roll it between your palms to make a rope about ¾” thick, give or take, then pinch the edges together to make a ring. It does not have to be pretty. Seriously, what sort of monster is going to look at a plate of hot doughnuts and complain that they’re not perfectly round. Those are not the type of people you should be making doughnuts for. Ban them from your house.
- Gently lower your precious, hand-rolled doughnut into the oil. It will sink to the bottom, then rise after a few seconds. Using a chopstick or the back of a thin wooden spoon, flip the doughnut over after 30 seconds, and continue flipping intermittently until both sides are a beautiful golden brown. Fish the doughnut out either by using a spider or by slipping the chopstick through the hole and gently easing it out of the hot oil. Place on the prepared baking sheet to drain.
- Depending on the size of your pot, you can fry four or five doughnuts at a time, but don’t overcrowd the pan—too many will cause the temperature of the oil to drop, which will result in greasy doughnuts
- Depending on your shaping skills, you’ll end up with anywhere from 30 to 40 doughnuts.
Allison Robicelli is a D-list celebrity-chef chef, author, humorist, entrepreneur, general polymath, and all-around good time. You may remember her from such places as Food52, Eater, Food Network, VH1, and many other quirky corners of the food Internet. She is the author of the critically acclaimed cookbook/memoir Robicelli's: A Love Story, With Cupcakes, which has been called one of the funniest food-related books of all time. You should buy it.