Nothing spells love and appreciation like a home-cooked gift from your kitchen. Especially if that gift entails doughnuts.
Jeri Bowers knows this well.
During the Christmas season, Bowers rises early to make homemade doughnuts for the staff at the MDI Biological Laboratory in the Bar Harbor village of Salisbury Cove where she works as director of development.
And oh, what doughnuts she crafts — perfectly crispy, yet light and tasty.
“I like to cook, so it’s fun,” Bowers said. “It’s just a fun way to cheer everybody up.”
“Science is hard,” she said. “These guys are amazing to me. There’s a lot of trial and error. They don’t let failure get them down.”
“Sometimes I do popovers,” said the Hancock resident. “Whatever the mood happens to strike.”
Bowers learned how to make doughnuts from her mother and her grandmother, the late Irma Ward.
“My grandma, she lived with us when I was young,” she said. “She used the old black cast iron skillet. She always made molasses doughnuts.”
“My job was to sugar the doughnuts,” Bowers said.
“My mother made potato doughnuts,” she said. “That seems like a lot of work to me.”
Bowers herself makes apple cider doughnuts from a newengland.com recipe.
She likes molasses doughnuts but said she can’t make them light.
Easing the job is a countertop fryer by TFAL, which has a filtration system to clean the oil. The parts can go into a dishwasher.
“When I first started I dug out the old frying pan,” said Bowers. “I couldn’t get the oil to stay at the right temperature.”
Doughnuts are easy to make, she said.
It takes a bit of experimenting to know how long to fry them.
“I like them a little crispier so I like to leave them in around a minute and a half on each side,” Bowers said.
She uses a pair of chopsticks to turn the doughnuts while they’re frying and to pull them out of the hot oil.
Finally, the doughnuts are dipped in bowl of cinnamon sugar before laid to cool briefly on a rack.
“I think they’re good the day of,” said Bowers.
Bowers and her husband, Don, who owns Hancock Homes with his brother, attribute their love of homemade doughnuts to Amy McGarr.
Many will remember McGarr’s donuts when she made them at Chester Pike’s Galley on Route 1 in Sullivan.
“We were first at the door for ten years,” Bowers said. “This is all Amy’s fault. She made molasses, blueberry, pumpkin. She made all kinds of doughnuts. So that got us in the homemade doughnut mode.”
You can make the recipe easier by making the dough ahead of time.
“The dough freezes really well,” she said. “I usually double this recipe. I probably make two dozen or so when I bring them in.”
Bowers also learned about cooking from her older sister, Russette L’Itlian.
“To me, cooking is definitely a labor of love,” Bowers said. You do it because it makes people happy and it makes me happy.”