My proof of love: doughnuts

It is February and romance is in the air. "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways" are lines that automatically come to mind for most people. They can be found, of course, in Sonnet 43 of "Sonnets From the Portuguese," a group of poems written in the 19th century by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who was declaring her love for her husband, fellow poet Robert Browning.

I gladly declare my love for my husband in a slightly different way. I would change Mrs. Browning's words to read, "How do I love thee? Let me count the many times I have baked your beloved doughnuts."

I found the recipe long ago in the local paper of a small Wisconsin town. At the time, I was a young bride, eagerly and desperately learning to cook.

In those days, my husband and I frequently spent weekends at our farm in central Wisconsin. One day, as I was scanning the Portage Daily Register, I noticed a recipe for baked doughnuts. It looked good, and, better yet, it seemed simple enough for my fledgling culinary abilities.

I tried it, and it passed the husband test with flying colors.

Looking back over the countless times I have baked these mouthwatering morsels brings a flood of memories – serving them to family and friends; our children's play groups; women's organizations; Girl Scout events; training sessions of our small business; and after hiking, bicycling, and skiing outings.

On one occasion, we had promised to host a 7 p.m. meeting of our neighborhood discussion group and then discovered that we had to attend another function, which was to end at 7:30. Not to worry. A good friend and neighbor agreed to open the house, turn on the lights, plug in the coffee maker, and heat up the doughnuts. Our friends were happily munching on them and carrying on a discussion when we arrived at 7:45.

While these treats might look like muffins, they do have the taste and consistency of cakey doughnuts. And I think that they are much easier to prepare than traditional deep-fried doughnuts.

As a girl, I remember watching my mother standing over the hot stove, deep-frying doughnuts. I also remember my sister and I eagerly devouring the delicious results of Mom's efforts.

However, I feel that my method of baking them and then dipping them in melted butter is much easier and just as tasty.

In fact, I really do like mine better.

These doughnuts are good served at room temperature, but are especially good warmed up. Apple cider is a good accompaniment on a crisp fall day. Hot chocolate goes well with them when outside temperatures dip. And a tall, cold glass of milk or juice fits the bill during the warmer times of year.

The recipe makes 12 doughnuts baked in a regular-size muffin tin, but I always use my mini-muffin tins, which yield 24 doughnuts.

Actually, that is never enough, so I double the recipe. Of course, since I cannot resist a warm, succulent, just-out-of-the-oven doughnut, not all 48 actually make it to the serving platter.

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