I did finally make doughnuts the other day. I settled on a recipe from this 1935 booklet, “Be an Artist at the Gas Range” by The Mystery Chef:
If I was better at graphics I’d have the back cover and front cover lined up better, but I hope you get the idea. Don’t you just love the lady’s trendy pink-white-brown stripes and triangular sleeve? And notice that she has one of those new-fangled stoves with lids that open and close, and niches for big containers of salt and pepper.
A quick Google search identified “The Mystery Chef”: one John MacPherson, who had a radio cooking show (possibly in Philadelphia) from 1931-1945, and a TV cooking show in Philadelphia in 1949 (see: TV Acres entry). The booklet above was published by Longmans, Green & Co., and “Presented with the compliments of your Gas Company.”
That last bit places it squarely in the promoting-appliances category of cooking ephemera, as opposed to the product-promotion type (along the bottom of the pages with the recipe: “Gas cooking has proved its economy, its efficiency and its convenience in 15,000,000 American homes”). Anyway, the recipe, from page 14:
Makes 4 dozen [I missed this; should’ve halved the receipe]
3 1/2 cups of flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 teaspoon almond flavoring
3/4 cup of milk
Grated rind of half a lemon [substituted 1/4 tsp. lemon extract]
Grated rind of an orange [omitted due to not having any]
1/4 tsp salt
Deep fat, a mixture of half chicken fat and half domestic olive oil is best. Other vegetable fat may be used if desired. [We use straight olive oil.]
These directions are easy and different from the ordinary doughnut recipe, but you will find the doughnuts better and more quickly made.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and stir to mix. Make a bay, or hollow, in the center of the flour and put in the sugar. Break the eggs into the sugar and beat them up with a large spoon; just break up the eggs and beat in thoroughly with the sugar; then with your hands pull the flour over the egg mixture and mix together, pouring in the milk in which has been mixed the flavoring and the grated rind. Mix lightly with the hands to a rather wet dough. [This reminds me of instructions I’ve seen for making pasta. I believe I failed to do this mixing properly, but they came out all right all the same.]
Sift plenty of flour on the table, or pastry board, and lift about a full cupful of the dough in your hand, and drop into floured patch; then lightly roll it with your hands into a long roll. Cut this in half, then lightly pat it flat, with the hands, to the thickness of 1/4 inch, or just a little thinner. The piece of dough when patted out flat should be about 2 to 2 1/2 inches wide, and about 15 inches long. Don’t cut with doughnut cutter, but cut straight across this long, flat strip of dough, cutting it into about 12 pieces, oblong in shape, about 1 1/2 x 2 inches.
Have pan with fat about 1 inch deep and have fat real hot. If you have a thermometer the heat should register 380F. Heat can be tested with a cube of bread which should brown in 60 seconds.
Put pieces of dough into hot fat, filling pan. When brown on one side, turn over and brown other side. Remove with wire spoon or flat straining spoon and place on clear, unglazed brown paper to absorb fat. Replenish fat in pan and fry balance of doughnuts. These doughnuts will keep for a week or so and will reheat perfectly in the oven . Do not sift sugar over them; they are sweet enough, and keep better without the sugar.
Seriously, this recipe makes a nigh-infinite number of little rectangular doughnuts. Very tasty, but – wow, four dozen doughnuts take a long time to cook. I actually wound up throwing out some of the dough. And I think that a little confectioner’s sugar or cinnamon sugar was in no way too sweet on them.