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Naked Ladies with Their Legs Crossed (Spiced Crullers)

Recipe by Shirley Sieradzki
Mishawaka, Ind.

This recipe wins the prize for most creative title, but it was the taste of these spiced crullers (which disappeared as fast as we could make them) that really sold us. Although the exact origins of crullers is unclear, recipes similar to Shirley's can be found in late 19th-century cookbooks, when the advent of chemical leaveners meant that many doughnut recipes could be made with baking powder or baking soda rather than the traditional yeast. This recipe comes from Shirley's grandmother and Shirley speculates that her grandmother's German ancestry might have had something to do with her decision to add mashed potatoes to the dough. The dough is rolled like pie crust, cut into strips, and each strip is slashed in the middle. Each strip is then twisted to look like crossed legs.

Shirley's favorite memory associated with this recipe involves one of her five grandchildren. "When our granddaughter was in the fourth or fifth grade, her teacher asked her what she did that weekend. Can you picture the look on the teacher's face when my granddaughter said, 'We made naked ladies with their legs crossed'?" Eventually, all was explained, and Shirley treated her granddaughter's class to a platter of these tasty doughnuts.

Makes 24

1 russet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 large egg

2 tablespoons milk

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out dough

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 quarts vegetable or peanut oil

1. Bring the potato and water to cover to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potato is tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potato, then mash until smooth. Let cool completely, at least 30 minutes.

2. Transfer 1/2 cup mashed potato to a medium bowl (discard the remaining potato) and beat in the egg, milk, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and vanilla until combined. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the potato mixture. Stir to form a moist and sticky dough.

3. On a heavily floured work surface, roll the dough into an 18 by 14-inch rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch wide strips, make a slit in each strip, and twist to shape the dough to resemble crossed legs. Transfer the crullers to a floured baking sheet and refrigerate until ready to fry. (The crullers may be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.)

4. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until the temperature reaches 350 degrees. Carefully lower 6 crullers into the hot oil and fry, maintaining a temperature between 325 and 350 degrees, until crisp and deep brown on both sides, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the crullers to a plate lined with paper towels and drain for 3 minutes. Toss the crullers in a bowl with the remaining sugar and transfer to a serving plate. Repeat with the remaining crullers, regulating the oil temperature as necessary. Serve.

Shaping the Ladies

1. Cut the 18- by 14-inch rectangle of dough in half lengthwise, then cut each half crosswise into 1 1/2-inch wide strips.

2. Cut each strip lengthwise three-quarters of the way to the top to make a pair of legs.

3. Twist the legs around each other twice to cross.

Notes from the Test Kitchen

Tasters commented on the crisp crust and soft, chewy interior of these crullers. That chew and flavor comes from just a little mashed potato. But don't be tempted to use leftover mashed potatoes you may have on hand. We did and soon discovered that the butter and dairy we had added to them made the crullers too sticky.

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