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Monday, February 23, 2009

Menu Plan Monday: Ash Wednesday

This week is the first week (partial) of Lent. Each year at our home, we celebrate Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, by having a doughnut party. We make up a large batch of potato doughnuts, which are the best in the world, deep fry them and serve them hot for everyone who comes. This is the last day we are to eat sweets, extra fat, lots of meat. We move to eating meat free three days a week during Lent (we are slowly working up to a meat fast on each day except Sunday), this has the added benefit of reducing our food budget, which leaves more for giving. Lent is a time of sacrifice, in our diet, in our time and in our finances. These are material and temporal disciplines which are used as spiritual training. I have said it before, but will repeat it. A fast in the Christian Tradition is shorthand for fast, pray and give alms. We have a lot to be praying for in our family and with the economy as it is, there is much need for alms giving.

Ash Wednesday is a strict fast (an actual fast, not the eating a light meal and having snacks "fast"), but only Rich will be observing that this year. I pretty much only get to fast every two or three years now, because of pregnancy or nursing. The older boys will pick at least one meal to fast that day and I will eat lighter. Lent is always a time of growth, but we have a sense that this year will be particularly stretching for us. Please pray for us to have a holy Lent and for the fruit to be great.

This week's menu has a repeat, we ended up having an opportunity to go to an aviation fair on Sunday after church, so we used the children's pizza reward coupons to get them pizzas, and picked up a wood fired pizza from our local place (which was both tastier and cheaper than the fast food pizza) for us. We had the stuff for salads at home, so we were set.
I hope to post the recipe for the doughnuts before tomorrow. If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can.
What is on your menu this week?

Potato Doughnuts
I have used this baking powder raised version for the past four years at least, but I do like yeast risen doughnuts, so I will be experimenting with a potato dough yeast risen version the next time we do this and make some of each. This recipe is a take off from one I found in Endangered Recipes, which is a great book. I have fiddled with quantities and method and changed the fat used and we've had not a single person who didn't love these.

4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups mashed potatoes
6 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup baking powder (this is a ton, I know - when I first used the recipe, I made a mistake and used tablespoons instead of teaspoons, but it made them huge and light and didn't affect the taste, so I've kept it that way)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Oil or fat to fry doughnuts

These are much easier to make with a stand mixer or small electric mixer than by hand, but they can be made by hand as well, you will just have to really work to beat the living daylights out of the potato mixture to make it smooth.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs until they are a uniform yellow. Mix in sugar and milk and combine thoroughly. Add in butter and mashed potatoes and whisk until smooth.

In a separate bowl, thoroughly combine flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in parts, mixing until flour disappears.

Chill dough, covered, at least an hour, until dough is stiff.

Roll out on a floured surface to a thickness of no more than 1/2 an inch. Cut doughnuts with a doughnut cutter, or in any shapes you like. Let stand to rest for 5-10 minutes.

Heat oil to somewhere between 340 and 350 F. We prefer to cook them a little longer at a slightly lower temperature than quicker at a higher temperature, so the crust doesn't get too brown and the middle is all the way cooked. You will have to turn the doughnuts 99% of the time, though a couple will turn themselves. I've heard that if you cut them in strips and twist them in the middle they will turn themselves, but I haven't done it yet. Drain on a rack and glaze or dust with sugar or cinnamon sugar or cover in ganache or whatever you like to do with your doughnuts.

I haven't tried this yet, but I think if you got rid of the nutmeg and replaced some of the flour with cocoa, you could make chocolate doughnuts with this recipe that would be pretty good.

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Isn't it great that we get to be religious AND eat donuts too! Only we eat them at Chanukah to commemorate the miracle of 8 days of oil.

May your fast be spiritual and uplifting.
Thank you Alina!

I never got the recipe posted in time, because I did a media fast for my Ash Wednesday, since I can't do a complete fast, and ran out of time by Tuesday night. Each year we make them, we tell ourselves that we should do it more than once a year, but we never seem to manage to do it. I'm thinking we'll do it again during Bright Week after Pascha.

Rich and I actually filled up too much on our dinner to eat much of the doughnuts. I ate a doughnut hole (lemon glazed) and he ate half of one. We do make even the doughnut holes pretty large, though.
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