While squash may not top the list of my favorite vegetables, I'll never say no to a fresh squash doughnut and you shouldn't either.
Where does one find a squash doughnut? Maine! Mainers take their doughnuts seriously. Legend has it that Maine sea captain Hanson Gregory put the hole in the doughnut so to speak. Variations on the story abound, but my favorite version has Captain Gregory impaling the fried pieces of dough on his ship's steering wheel for easier snack access. Family vacations in Maine meant the opportunity for fresh cake doughnuts in "exotic" varieties we just didn't see in southern New England. We're talking cake doughnuts in flavors like potato, zucchini, molasses and squash.
Squash lends a light sweetness and mild earthiness to doughnuts and it also happens to make for a very tender and fluffy cake. You can dress these doughnuts up with a simple glaze or just roll them in some cinnamon sugar. With fall upon us there's no reason to let pumpkin have all the fun.
Note: If you don't have a doughnut cutter you can use a 3-inch round cutter with a 1-inch cutter for the center hole. Let doughnuts sit for about ten minutes before frying so that the exterior will have a chance to dry slightly and absorb less oil. The dough is sticky by nature, so the surface won't feel dry to touch but a few extra minutes of resting will help the doughnut absorb less oil and contribute to a lighter texture. While doughnut holes are fun to make and eat, the timing of frying them can be challenging. I recommend combining the scraps to make more full sized doughnuts.
Any pumpkin pie spice blend should pair well with the squash here. I'm particularly fond of the blend from Trader Joe's that uses cinnamon, ginger, lemon peel, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom.
- 5 cups (22 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups (14 ounces) sugar, divided
- 1/2 cup (4 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (8 ounces) squash puree
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 quarts canola oil, for frying
In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.
In a large bowl with an electric mixer, or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine eggs, 1 cup sugar, and brown sugar, beating until combined and slightly foamy. Add buttermilk, melted butter, vanilla, and squash puree. Stir until smooth. Slowly add flour mixture and stir until just incorporated. Lay out two large sheets of plastic wrap. Spritz plastic wrap with canola oil. Divide dough into two balls. Wrap in plastic wrap then flatten into discs. Refrigerate for at least two hours or up to overnight.
Generously flour a large work surface. Take one of the discs and turn out the dough to coat with flour, sprinkling the surface of the dough with flour to lessen stickiness. (Note the dough is sticky, don't be shy about adding flour until it's workable). Gently pat the dough to about 1/2-inch thick. Use a floured 3-inch doughnut cutter to cut out doughnuts and place cut doughnuts on a well floured sheet of parchment paper. Collect any scraps and roll out dough to cut more doughnuts until all the dough is gone.
Fill a Dutch oven or deep fryer with 2 inches of oil. Heat oil over medium high heat to 360°F. Using a shallow, heat resistant strainer, drop doughnuts in the oil and fry until a deep golden brown on both sides (about 2 minutes per side, use the color as your guide as the oil temperature can very with time). Use wooden chopsticks to turn the doughnuts. Be careful not to crowd the doughnuts in the pan (no more than 2 to 3 doughnuts at a time). Remove doughnuts immediately from the pan using a heat resistant strainer or tongs. Set on paper towel lined baking racks to cool. Once cooled slightly, toss in a paper bag with remaining sugar and cinnamon. Serve immediately. Doughnuts are best the day they are made, but leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for a day.
dutch oven or electric fryer, doughnut cutter, wooden chopsticks, heat resistant spatula, frying thermometer