What an unusual mess my kitchen table was last night! A friend has a ministry with a dozen young girls ages 10 to 15. I had told her some weeks ago that if she ever wished to use my kitchen for a cooking or crafting venture with the girls, she would be welcome to. (The home where they usually meet is small, and kitchen space a bit cramped for so large a group. My kitchen, by contrast, is large and rambling.) She had the wonderful idea that for their October meeting, she would like to use my kitchen and have me teach the girls to fry doughnuts. We would have hot cider to go along with the finished product. It sounded so simple!
Let me hasten to add that, although I learned to fry doughnuts at my grandmother’s elbow, I have not made doughnuts for years. One of my daughters made them several times during her high school and college years, but at those times I only supervised. So my skills were rusty and my aversion to deep-frying deep-rooted, but I was game for the challenge. I was quite certain the finished product would not likely resemble my grandmother's doughnuts in any way, though I intended to use her recipe.
As time went on in my planning for this event, I decided just to make one batch of my grandmother’s recipe -- which produces 3 1/2 dozen doughnuts -- for the girls to fry. In addition, I would make a double batch of a no-fry, baked doughnut of the raised variety -- much healthier than frying. These would be all baked when the girls arrived, allowing them to spend all their time in the production of the fried cake doughnuts.
Their leader had told me she hoped to have each girl be able to take part in the frying process, and hopefully in the rolling and cutting too. In addition, we decided to provide frosting for the baked doughnuts and to ask the girls to bring sprinkles, coconut, nuts, or other toppings. This sounded wonderfully easy when we were planning it. However, when I sat down yesterday morning to try and plan how it would all work, I found I had a challenge on my hands. I made four charts before I found one that worked. We would have 12 girls and wanted each to be able to roll, cut, and fry some doughnuts, as well as take a turn removing them from the fat and later frosting some doughnuts. In addition, I thought up a couple more jobs to streamline things and keep everyone busy -- 1) Transferring the cut doughnuts to waxed paper-lined trays; 2) Carrying said trays to the girls who would be frying doughnuts in 2 electric skillets (stationed at opposite ends of the kitchen to avoid tripping a circuit breaker) and 3) Finishing, which included arranging finished doughnuts on doily-lined plates for each girl to take home; cleaning up, and doing dishes. We would have 1 hour of their 2-hour meeting time to accomplish all this. Making up a schedule that worked was like doing one of those logic puzzles: If Jane’s favorite subject is math, and Sue takes peanut butter sandwiches in her lunch. what position does Linda play on the basketball team? (Fortunately, I have always enjoyed such puzzles.) I assigned each girl a letter of the alphabet and made up a printed schedule for each girl detailing what she would be doing first, second, etc. My thought was that every 10 minutes we would rotate jobs. Even when the first part of the meeting went a bit overtime, I still thought it would work -- we would just rotate jobs every 5 minutes instead.
My plan did work well, but not as well as I had hoped. To begin with, I should have had a few doughnuts -- maybe 3 for each fryer -- all cut out and ready so that the girls frying could begin their task at once and not have to wait for those rolling and cutting. Other than that, things went quite smoothly, and most of the girls followed their schedules quite well, seeming to enjoy every part of the process.
Flour, dough scraps, frosting and sprinkles were everywhere! But most of the girls and a few moms pitched in to clean up the kitchen, and it was soon restored to order. All the girls (I hope!) got to try their hand at the deep-frying technique, and the frosted doughnuts were works of art! The plates of doughnuts they took home looked wonderful, and if a few of them turned out raw in the middle, some family member probably ate them anyway. All in all, it worked well, and the girls seemed to have a marvelous time. An "all-round" good evening!
Sorry I've been M.I.A.
3 hours ago