the Sunday donut disaster

One of our family rituals is “Church Breakfast,” which means brunch on Sunday. It takes its name from when Kiddo#1 was three, and I was pregnant with Emily. After dealing with morning sickness for ten weeks, I noticed during Mass that I could smell sausages. And that they were appealing. Afterward, Kiddo#1 asked if we could have “a Church breakfast,” and we’ve had one on Sundays ever since.

After “Church Breakfast” comes “Church Dessert,” which would be a donut except that the Angelborough House Of Donuts To Dunk is…well…they aren’t the most competent purveyors of donuts in the world. This happened in Angeltown too, but there we’d gone to one a couple of miles away. Here we have no such option.

On Saturday, Kiddo#1 suggested we use the deep-fryer to make our own donuts, so my Patient Husband made the dough ahead of time. It came out like batter.

He went over the whole recipe again, expecting he’d doubled something instead of halving it, but we found nothing amiss. I suggested adding more flour, which helped a bit, but not nearly enough. We refrigerated it overnight, but on Sunday it was still gooey.¬†We decided to try anyway.

I added the oil to the fryer, a cast iron pot with a basket and an oil thermometer. As an aside, the deep fryer arrived in our lives last Thanksgiving after I said to my mother, “You know what I’d like to get someday? A deep fryer.” My mother said, “You don’t have one?” and I replied that the electric fryers got okay reviews, but people commonly said they didn’t get hot enough. She said, “Hold on,” and went to the basement where she found this deep fryer, still in the box. Given to her by her FIL, who had kept it in the box since he got it as a gift in 1978. So now we can make donuts.

The dough/batter was the first disaster. The second happened after I finally got the oil temperature to 350 according to our oil thermometer. I lowered the basket into the pot, and the thermometer shot up over 450 degrees.

I had no idea what to do. I thought the flashpoint of canola oil was much lower than 450, and this oil wasn’t even smoking. But the thermometer had suddenly decided it was too hot to register, and it wasn’t coming down, not even when I pulled out the fry basket.

I opted for the better part of valor and removed it from the heat. And because oil stays hot for a thousand years, I fried the donuts that way. But then the temperature dropped to about 325 and stayed there, meaning the lower temperature probably was right all along.

Eventually we got the donuts cooked, despite it all. But I’m wondering at what things we did wrong, and how to fix them for next time.


  1. blueraindrop

    skip the dough…. used canned biscuits, the cheap kind not the layered kind. punch hole with a random cap, and good to go with no risk of gooey.

    1. philangelus

      My mom used to do them that way!

      What do you think was going on with the oil thermometer?

  2. cricketB

    What type of thermometer? Mercury or thermocouple?

    Maybe the recipe was for funnel cakes.

    Great-Grandma shocked Grandma by using a tin film canister to cut out the donut holes. Dad and his brothers were intrigued, and she said necessity was the mother of invention. Yes, Grandma was shocked by any indication that anyone in the family had ever been that poor, although in GGma’s day that was normal.

    1. philangelus

      Definitely a donut recipe but in retrospect we should have made funnel cakes.

      I like the film canister story. It just shows how coddled we are in this time in history, and how much we take for granted.

      The thermometer is…uh, it clips to the side of the cast iron pot and sticks into the oil so it’s not touching the side of the pot. I thought at first that the fry basket must have pushed the tip toward the pot, but we removed the fry basket and it stayed pegged with the tip free in the oil.

      1. cricketB

        Does it have a digital readout or a silver line on a ruler that you have to turn to read?

  3. philangelus

    It’s a dial and it looks a little like this:

  4. cricketB

    Sure, come up with a type I forgot to list (and an excuse to wander the web to check my memory).

    It’s mechanical. The pointer is attached to a spring and a bimetal strip.
    has a nice moving image of a bimetal strip doing its stuff. It bends more at some temperatures than others. Ignore the part about electricity. In your thermometer it’s pushing on the pointer, not a wire. It pushes harder at some temperatures than others.

    I have no idea why it shot up, but once it did it probably stuck, and only gone down when the bimetal strip moved way down or it got shaken.

    Not all dial thermometers work like this. Some use electric thermocouples (which, just to confuse things, are also made of two different metals), but those are usually more expensive. I don’t think I’ve seen a thermocouple with a dial, but I’ve seen them used to move needles on recording charts. These days they’d put a digital readout on one rather than a dial.

    1. philangelus

      So what might have happened was putting the fry basket in moved the tip over to the side of the pot, which shot up the temperature, and then it got stuck and it couldn’t figure out what to do until it had retracted significantly enough to unstick. And therefore the lower temperature was correct all along.

      It’s a really old thermometer, so that might explain the sticking.

  5. Monica

    So how were the donuts??

    1. philangelus

      They came really really good, despite all the problems. :#)