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Music – “Thomas Jefferson” from The Presidents of the United States of America, Vol. 1 by Electric Needle Room. Released: 2011
It is no secret that Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826), was a Founding Father of the United States, and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776). He was also the 3rd President of this country, from 1801 to 1809. But, how many people know that he was also a culinary food buff and wine connoisseur?
Perhaps, when he wasn’t forging the nation or traveling extensively, he had time to make doughnuts: specifically, “Jefferson Squash Doughnuts”. The recipe is from “The Early American Cookbook – Authentic Favorites for the Modern Kitchen” by culinary historians Dr. Kristie Lynn and Robert W. Pelton, published in 2000. I decided, as winter squash is now in season, to try making “Jefferson Squash Doughnuts”, using butternut squash. Here is the recipe from “The Early American Cookbook”, but please read my amendments to the recipe, which follow the recipe.
Jefferson Squash Doughnuts
2 tablespoons butter
1 and ¼ cups sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
1 cup squash, cooked (see my note, below)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup milk (see my note, below)
Cream the butter and sugar in a large wooden mixing bowl (see my note, below) Then stir in the eggs, squash and vanilla. Sift the flour with salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add this alternately with the milk to the first mixture. Blend well and set aside to chill. When the dough is cold, turn it out on a lightly floured surface. Roll out to a 1/3 inch thick sheet. Cut with a floured cutter and deep fry in hot grease until brown. Drain on absorbent paper or cloth before serving.
First of all, I didn’t have a nice wooden bowl and had to go with hard plastic. All was well until I got to “1 cup squash, cooked”. No particular type of squash was indicated, so I used a nice butternut squash. Although the recipe doesn’t indicate, I presumed that the squash, after cooking, had to be mashed, or one would end up with chunks of squash in the doughnut, which didn’t sound right, so I mashed it using a potato masher. The mashed squash did not appear to be excessively moist after mashing.
After following the rest of the instructions, it was time to add the 1 cup of milk to the squash mixture, alternating with the dry mixture, however, it was apparent that the “dough” was not “dough” at all, but a very loose batter! Hmmm….I re-read the instructions for a 4th time, but had done everything correctly. After adding only ½ a cup of milk, I stopped, as there was no way this batter was going to become “dough”, even after chilling.
I chilled the batter for an hour, then took it out. In order to get it to resemble a dough, I had to add more flour, and although I didn’t measure, it was easily almost 3/4 cup additional flour in order to get the doughy texture. I worried about the effects on the taste, after having added the extra flour, but there was no way I could roll out this mixture the way it was. In addition, I had to repeatedly flour my work surface with additional flour, as the whole thing was still a sticky mess. Using my mother’s very old doughnut cutter, even after flouring, it was still difficult to remove the doughnuts for frying.
In the preface to “The Early American Cookbook”, the authors indicate that “…the recipes in the chapters appear only in their adapted format” and that “You can use the recipes with complete confidence…”. Well, I’d have to question this presumably “modern” adaptation for the doughnuts.
The bottom line is that after all of the alterations I made, the doughnuts were quite tasty, just a little bit sweet and fairly moist. The recipe made approximately 30 doughnuts, although a few came out more like fritters. I froze some and we have been nibbling on the rest.
I’m rather dubious about trying any of the other recipes for baked or fried items like doughnuts, from the book. If anyone else has this cookbook and has tried the “Jefferson Squash Doughnuts”, I’d like to hear about your results!