Make a Sourdough Starter For Fresh, Homemade Doughnuts

Learn how to make old-fashioned doughnuts. It all begins with a sourdough starter.

| January/February 1982

  • 073-036-01a
    Make old-fashioned doughnuts for your family with a simple recipe.
  • 073-036-01
    Learn how to start sourdough.

  • 073-036-01a
  • 073-036-01

Back in Great-Grandma's day, bread baking was a tad more time-consuming than it is now. The job would usually begin during the evening prior to baking day, when the cook would prepare a starter dough using a little flour, sugar, milk and slow-acting yeast (which was the only type then available). The bowl containing that concoction was wrapped in a towel (or, if the weather was particularly cold, a blanket) and left overnight to allow the yeast to multiply.

The following morning, the remaining ingredients were added, and the bread-to-be was placed close enough to the wood-burning range to let the yeast continue to work. By noon, generally, the first rise was done, and — before punching the dough down and allowing the yeast to work one more time — the pioneer chef would often pinch off some of the still-raw material, drop squares of it into just-short-of-smoking melted grease and produce a batch of "dough gods" for a hot and hearty midday meal!

Today's kitchen artists can enjoy the pioneer pastry, too. But, rather than waiting for hours, it can be prepared in a matter of two or three hours if quick-acting yeast is used or in minutes if there's previously prepared dough in the freezer! Furthermore, dough gods can be produced from any bread "batter," but our family's favorite fried treats are made from sourdough French bread fixings!

Frying Bread Dough

It's simple enough to prepare a good sourdough. Just mix a packet of dry, activated yeast with 1-1/2 cups of warm (about 110 degrees Fahrenheit) water and add 2 cups of flour. Stir in a cup of sourdough starter (either borrow some or make your own), 2 tablespoons of melted butter, 2 teaspoons of salt and 3 tablespoons of sugar and beat the mixture until it's smooth. Then sift 1 cup of flour and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda into the batter, and gradually add between 2 and 2-1/2 additional cups of flour working it in by hand, or with dough hooks and a mixer, until a moderately stiff consistency is achieved.

Now, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for 10 to 15 minutes (you're done when it starts "snapping", like chewing gum, while it's being worked). Once kneaded, the ball should be set in a greased bowl, turned so that it's coated on all sides, and left in a suitable warm spot to rise until it has doubled in volume (usually after 1-1/2 to 2 hours). Then punch the dough down and tell your hungry crew to get ready!

To cook the little pastries, heat solid shortening or vegetable oil — about two inches deep — in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven. It's best to test the temperature of the liquid — by dropping in a small scrap of dough — before you actually start frying the squares. If the sample rises to the surface immediately and turns a golden — but not dark — brown, the oil is just right. (It's important to keep the shortening at the correct temperature, to limit the amount of grease absorbed by the food.)

9/25/2008 9:04:35 AM

Dad (born in 1917) used to mention Dough Gods. These sound about as I expected, from his description. I just wonder how they got their name?

9/25/2008 8:54:45 AM

Dad (born in 1917) used to mention Dough Gods. These sound about as I expected, from his description. I just wonder how they got their name?

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