It was during my elementary days when I first tasted doughnuts made by Auntie Manay, my mom’s eldest sister. Doughnuts.Homemade.Perfect.
I liked how Auntie Manay made her doughnuts. As she mixed the ingredients and kneaded the dough, she looked like she was in prayer. She made no short-cuts, was quiet and patient. I remember her short and straight, salt and pepper hair, dimples on her right cheek, wrinkles on freckled hands. She was 50-ish that time, a home-economics teacher in Iriga.
She made doughnuts with ease and happiness that you could feel in every bite. The only time I saw her “not-in-homemade-doughnuts mode” was when her husband died. She wailed like there’s no more tomorrow as she embraced my uncle’s coffin. Iwondered if her home made doughnuts would taste a lot different after Uncle’s gone. I did not need to worry, however. During Penafrancia Fiesta, she went to our home with her doughnut ingredients and dutifully started making doughnuts again. She must have recovered from her grief, I guessed.
During special occasions, Auntie Manay would always travel an hour from her home to ours to cook her specialty. Doughnuts, just doughnuts. I can remember how she would mix all the ingredients from a recipe that must have been engraved in heart. No hesitation, no second thoughts. She’d roll the dough expertly and fried the round-shaped bits of dough quietly but swiftly. In my mind, I already gave her the title: The Doughnut Queen.
It was a very simple, no fuss recipe, no sprinkles, no glazing – no other flavors spread on top. It was just simple doughnuts, deep fried, rolled into sugar and cinnamon and served hot. Her doughnuts would always be the bestseller in every family gathering. Everyone wanted to take some of her delectable treats home but as would always happen, there were no left-overs.
Those doughnuts would dominate the table during our family gatherings year after year. Until she got sick and there were no doughnuts on the table during one special occasion. Many birthdays and anniversaries and fiestas came but her doughnuts could no longer make it.
When she died, the doughnut and its recipe died with her.
No one could recreate the fluffiness, how it was crispy outside
crisp and soft inside. No, she never ever burnt a single doughnut. Every doughnut she made were the same, perfectly cooked.
Quite recently, I realized that I was getting tired of the doughnuts that we buy. Too many flavors that overwhelm. Sometimes, it’s just too sweet. Or, I could no longer really find the taste of the doughnut because of all the stuff that’s been added to it. I suddenly missed Auntie Manay’s doughnuts. No frills, unpretentious doughnuts.
So, one lazy afternoon, I decided to make doughnuts out of the recipe from the internet, tweaking it a bit.
I tried one recipe which has all purpose flour, yeast, milk, a little sugar and salt and vanilla, and with a lot of help from our house help, and my daughters Mikee and Raffy — Voila! Fresh-smelling, hot-from-the-pan, homemade doughnuts.
I think my first attempt wasn’t that bad. The recipe yielded more that 25 doughnuts, golden crisp on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside and not too sweet. My family looked happy while eating my own home made doughnuts.
I cannot compare these to Auntie Manay’s doughnuts that she perfectly made through years of cooking in her home and many of the family member’s homes. For one, I didn’t see Auntie Manay before putting yeast in her doughnuts, I wonder how her doughnuts went fluffy. But I know that whatever doughnut recipes we follow, the story of every recipe we cooked in our homes and the memories of its aroma would surely linger in the heart of each and everyone in the family.