Friday, February 12, 2010

Through the Eyes of a Child - My Sister, Gail

I grew up in a small town in southwest Ohio. When I say small, I mean small. There were probably no more than 300 people living there is my guess. In the early 60's, it was peaceful, quiet and for the most part, a clean and neat little town. I walked to school every morning, home for lunch and ran home every day after school, looking forward to having a quick snack, which might be some delectible little something my mom might have made that day, like, say, home made doughnuts or cinnamon rolls, or deep fried waffles covered with confectioner's sugar, or ... crackers and water! On warm days, I would play for a while either with my neighbors, Dennis and Denise Williams, or with one of my sisters, usually Nancy, but maybe Gail or Amy. In the winter I would snuggle up on the couch to watch tv but inevitably ended up taking a nap. To my mind, all was right with the world. I was safe and secure in that little house with my two blood-related parents and my five sisters (really four because the oldest departed about the time I was born) and my brother who in 1963 left as a result of being called to serve in the U.S. Army.

My little mind had trouble conceiving what went on in the big old world outside the boundaries of my home and town. I remember vaguely the period of time now referred to as the Cuban Missile Crisis. My mom kept making statements like, "It's the end of the world", and I would cry out, "but, Mom, I want to grow up, get married and have babies". Oh, my, how times have changed.

There were, of course, many times (because of the size of my family) when the house was in an uproar. It seemed to me that my mom (notice how I didn't include my dad?) was always in a snit with one of us, and she had an unusual amount of skill at being dramatic in order to bring about our compliance and make us become adequately repentant about whatever it was we had done to bring on her wrath. My dad was a hunter and a fisherman, a hard worker and so it seems, when he wasn't doing one of those things had a desire to spend a bit of time in the Madison Inn having a beer or three.

In today's world, it's unheard of for parents to pair siblings in one bed at night, but I slept with my sister Gail for many years in our dormered attic bedroom with very little heat in the winter and no air circulation in the summer. It seemed like whenever one of us was hurt or crying, we found consolation in the other there in that bed with our arms around each other (sometimes blowing garlicky breath in the other's face!). We can laugh about it now, but I seem to remember it now as being no laughing matter.

Gail met the love of her life when she still in her teens. They took me (it seemed) everywhere with them, the drive-in movie, the precursor of the drive-throughs today was the the drive-in restaurant, and they took with them there, you know, ... like The Red Barn, and they played cards with me an untold number of times at our kitchen table. When they got married, I spent the greater part of my junior high and early high school summers with them. Later, as I grew older, they came to all my softball games and drove me back and forth to college until I got my own car. I loved them both like a second set of parents.

This past summer, my sister lost the love of her life, after 40 years of marriage. I think she hides how deep her grief is very well. It's not too often that she lets it out (at least whenever I'm around), and she keeps trusting God and giving love wherever it's needed - whether it's to her children, grandchildren, her friends, customers at work or to Amy and to me. The Lord closed that door, but He re-opened the one to the friendship and love we shared as girls through this unwanted loss. Today I am posting a recipe for home made doughnuts in her honor. You see, we got together a few weeks ago in her home and made about three dozen "pretty good" doughnuts. (We ate quite a few as we made them, too, let me tell you!) Then she tried another recipe without me, and I tried (without success) a couple of times without her. But, we both decided that this recipe from Williams-Sonoma is one of the best. We're planning a doughnut making party soon with Amy and whoever wants to show up, and this will be our recipe of the day.

I hope you enjoy it. We certainly have. Here's to my sister and friend, Gail. She is still (somehow, sometimes) like a mother to me, but she is most definitely a good friend, and also my beloved sister.

Glazed Doughnuts
Topped with a chocolate or vanilla glaze, these doughnuts make a comforting breakfast or afternoon snack. Be sure the oil reaches 350ºF before you begin frying the doughnuts.

For the doughnuts:
3/4 cup warm milk (about 110ºF)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 egg yolks
Nonstick cooking spray
Vegetable oil for frying
For the chocolate glaze:
5 Tbs. unsalted butter
4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup hot water
Pour the warm milk into a small bowl. Stir in the granulated sugar and yeast until dissolved. Let stand until the yeast activates and thick foam appears, about 10 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Make a well in the center and put the butter, egg yolks and yeast mixture in the well. Using a hand mixer fitted with the dough hook, beat the dough on medium speed until it comes together and forms a ball, 3 to 4 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

Lightly grease a baking sheet. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll out 3/8 inch thick. Using a doughnut cutter, cut out doughnuts. Transfer the doughnuts and doughnut holes to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them 1 inch apart. Reroll the dough and cut out more doughnuts. Spray the tops of the doughnuts and holes with nonstick cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until the doughnuts and holes have almost doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

In a deep fryer, heat oil to 350ºF according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Line a baking sheet with a wire cooling rack.

Working in batches of about 6, fry the doughnuts and doughnut holes until lightly golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to the wire rack-lined baking sheet and let cool for 10 minutes before glazing.

To make the chocolate glaze, fill the bottom pan of a double boiler with 1 inch of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. In the top pan of the double boiler, melt the butter and chocolate chips. Remove from the heat and whisk in the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and hot water until combined. Set the top pan over the simmering water and keep the glaze warm until ready to use.

Dip the doughnuts, one at a time, into the warm glaze, covering the top half of each doughnut with glaze. Place the doughnuts, glazed side up, on the wire rack and let the glaze set for 10 minutes. Repeat to glaze the doughnut holes. Serve immediately. Makes about 14 doughnuts and doughnut holes.

Variation: To make a vanilla glaze, follow the instructions for preparing the chocolate glaze, omitting the chocolate chips and decreasing the hot water to 3 Tbs.


  1. What a wonderful tribute to Aunt Gail! Thanks for taking care of my mom all those years :) I love you! And you too, Mom. :)

  2. Can I tell you how much I love you too? Tears streaming down my face. I have always looked up to you and my parents. Thank God for my wonderful parents who loved each other so much and loved us so much that they always tried to find a way to let us fulfill our dreams. Something so comforting as donuts and cinnamon rolls to remind us of home and family and how important it is to cherish every single day we have together. We do not know what tomorrow holds, but I am so thankful for all my yesterdays. Thanks for being there for me and my mom. Love you!

  3. Tears streaming down my face as I read this. Love you so much! I have always looked up to you and my parents. Thank God for my wonderful parents! They had so much love for each other. They extended it to us by finding a way to make our dreams come true. Isn't it funny how things like donuts and cinnamon rolls bring back so many great memories of home? Mom always made cinnamon rolls and would have an assortment of icings for us. Thanks for being there for mom. Love you!