Yes! You can turn mashed potatoes into doughnuts. As if you needed another good reason to make more mashed potatoes than you need – these doughnuts are what you make with the leftover mashed potatoes you haven’t yet eaten with butter and salt.
So… the leftover leftovers.
The recipe comes from my friend Caroline, who sings and plays in a retro pop rock band called the Lovebullies, and whose family makes enormous batches of these mashed potato doughnuts every Christmas. Christmas doughnuts seem like a great idea to me – not only are they delicious, you could, if you were so inclined, probably hang them on the tree. And making doughnuts is more of a production than one would generally take on on a regular weekend – which is really what the upcoming holidays are all about. Staying in your PJs until noon, and spending an hour making homemade doughnuts, to be doused in sugar and eaten with large cups of coffee and hot chocolate.
They’re cake doughnuts – that is, a quick dough risen with baking powder instead of yeast – like banana bread is to a white sandwich loaf, texture-wise. Cake doughnuts (think of the sour cream glazed at Tim Hortons) are denser than yeasted ones, but far easier to stir together, pat and cut while an inch or two of oil heats in a small pot or shallow pan – you don’t need a deep fryer, honest. Nor a thermometer, really – I have one, but rarely pull it out – heat your oil until it’s hot enough that a small scrap of dough sizzles when you dip it in. My aunt would test the oil for her croquettes by dipping the handle of her wooden spoon in – if the oil bubbled around it, it was ready. (If you have a thermometer, aim for around 350F.)
I don’t have any memories of relatives making doughnuts – and so I decided to be that relative myself. When you have your nephews over on a Saturday afternoon and make them doughnuts? Yeah. They remember.
The dough itself is spiked with cinnamon and ginger, and so I stuck to just plain sugar in a shallow pan to dip them in while they were still warm, but feel free to spike that sugar with cinnamon, too.
Of course you can cook the doughnut holes right along with the doughnuts, but to be honest, the scraps are my favourite part – I don’t bother re-rolling them, but just fry the pieces – they wind up with the wonkiest shapes, the most nooks and crannies and crispy bits. And if you eat them all, they don’t count.