Old-fashioned drop and fry doughnuts are by far the easiest variety of the doughnut family, so why have they slipped from our modern kitchens??? Maybe it’s the advancements time has made which allowed other doughnut varieties to create more complex appearing confections, such as jelly-filled, bear claws, and crullers. However, drop doughnuts do have one thing over their yeast-raised brethren…simplicity. The Orange Drop Doughnuts I tested have a delicate texture and are rich with orange flavor yet they didn’t take long hours to achieve. Their simplicity alone should be reason enough why we shouldn’t completely disregard them but rather resurrect them in our kitchens to learn more about their potentials in flavor and texture.
Let’s begin delving deeper into drop doughnuts by starting with some history on their origins. Drop doughnuts are a relative of the cake doughnut. Cake doughnuts began as an American trend, starting in the late 1800’s, when the availability of baking powder became mainstream. Cake doughnuts quickly became loved by all Americans as 19th-century cookbooks touted them easier than the rolled and stamped yeast variety. Instead of the tedious rolling and stamping required by yeast doughnuts, drop doughnuts could simply drop spoons of cake batter into hot oil. Fresh doughnuts could now be on the table for dessert or a delicious snack within a few short minutes. But it wasn’t the ease and speed that made these doughnuts so popular. That title belongs to the requests made by returning American Soldiers.
During World War I, young female Salvation Army officers decided to bring some cheer to the American Soldiers as they fought hard in France. Using limited ingredients, they fried up doughnuts in military helmets to serve to soldiers with coffee. Often trudging through the trenches, these “Doughnut Girls” made sure doughnuts were delivered with coffee to the grateful soldiers. In World War II, the Salvation Army and American Red Cross workers served doughnuts at a rate of 400 per minute to American Soldiers. Upon returning home, the soldiers, called “Doughboys”, brought their cravings for doughnuts back with them. Soldiers raised the demand for drop doughnuts on the homefront and unlike those made in times of war, the wider variety of ingredients allowed for new flavors to be requested. Cinnamon Spice, Chocolate, and Orange became popular flavors in the late 1940’s and 1950’s. Betty Crocker cookbooks and magazines began publishing numerous recipes for drop doughnuts during this period of time. Today however, little popularity remains for the drop doughnut. It’s glory days have since gone…until now.
Being a Floridian and in the land of citrus, I chose to try the Orange-flavored drop doughnuts. Most formulas call for extreme amounts of flour, milk and only a little bit of orange juice for flavor. First off, I wanted lots of orange flavor, so using only orange juice instead of milk and orange juice in the batter was key. Also added to the batter was a dash of orange extract and a heaping amount of grated orange zest. To finish off the orange flavor, the doughnuts are rolled in orange-flavored sugar. The next necessary alteration needed to the usual formula was to delete some of the massive amount of flour which creates a very dense doughnut. By adding less flour and a bit of baking powder, the doughnuts were lighter and less likely to fill up your belly faster (possibly not a good thing for waistlines). To add richer flavor without overpowering the already established orange goodness, I used some eggs and a bit of melted butter.
As the frying began, citrus scents wafted from the kitchen and throughout the house. It was as if the windows were open during those certain times of year we have here in Florida when the blossoms on the orange trees are in full bloom and the smell of citrus fills the air near the groves. Except this was even better a scent as it was mixed with the smell of cake batter and citrus. I will add a few cautionary notes. When frying these doughnuts, be sure to use a spoon to ladle them down into the hot oil. This will prevent unnecessary splashes of hot oil and burns to precious skin. When adding the spoonfuls of batter, be sure not to overcrowd the pan. About six spoonfuls is the max. Once the doughnuts are finished cooking, they should float to the top of the oil. The easiest way to remove them is to use a slotted spoon. This helps remove excess oil and is the easiest way to scoop up the bobbing confections. Placing the cooked doughnuts on paper towels to cool helps remove the remaining oil that escaped the slotted spoon before the doughnuts are covered in the orange sugar.
Formula: Orange Drop Doughnuts
- 2 qts. Vegetable Oil
- 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
- 2 tsp. Baking Powder
- 1/4 tsp. Salt
- 2 Large Eggs
- 1/2 cup Sugar
- 1 tbsp. Grated Orange Zest
- 1/2 cup Orange Juice
- 1/4 tsp. Orange Extract
- 2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter, melted
- 1/2 cup Sugar
- 1 tsp. Grated Orange Zest
- Heat 3 in. of vegetable oil in 4 qt. saucepan until temperature reaches 350°. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Whisk eggs, sugar, and orange zest in a large bowl. Whisk in orange juice, orange extract, and then butter, until well combined. Gently stir in flour mixture until combined and moistened.
- Using a dinner teaspoon, drop heaping teaspoonfuls of batter into the preheated hot oil. Fry the doughnuts, making sure to maintain the temperature between 325° and 350°, until they are crisp and deep brown on all sides, about 3 to 6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the doughnuts to a dish lined with paper towels. Let drain and cool for 5 minutes.
- To make the orange sugar, pulse the sugar and zest in a food processor until blended. If you do not own a food processor, you can toss the zest and sugar together in a medium bowl until blended.
- Once drained and cooled, add the doughnuts to the bowl of orange sugar. Toss until well coated. Repeat with remaining batter, being sure to regulate oil temperature at all times. Doughnuts are best served warm but can be stored in an airtight container.
Special Thanks to: The Salvation Army, The American Red Cross, & Bridget Lancaster
All content © Honeybee’s Patisserie 2011