Summer is pulling on its boots and making for the front door. It’s gone quickly. I remember the hours before landing in Florida from Sweden, where the temperature was comfortable at 60 degrees and I dreaded the drench of humidity to come. But upon landing I immediately felt reintegrated.
I was home, to heat that can mark you with blisters and burns. The summer that belongs to me, that I understand, as familiar as the taste of fresh doughnuts on a weekday morning, baked with love and just because.
A Florida sunsets is a sight to behold. Their attitudes vary with the mood of the weather: either gnashing the oncoming deep blues with blood-stained fangs, or stroking the bellies of soft clouds with a sweet soft cerise and citrus. The sunset is the day’s final exhale, and Florida’s breath is polyhued as it brushes its teeth and prepares for some shuteye. I didn’t much think I missed the sunset during my study abroad, yet when I witnessed my first proper Floridian dusk, my feet were nailed back to the Earth and I realized: Summer. Southern summer. It’s fast and beautiful and meant to be cherished before the autumn swoops in and walks around the neighborhood become strolls around campus. Home along the coast becomes home a bit north and more inland, in my own apartment by my university in a city of more noise and less green. I’m gently ignoring these changes in the atmosphere until they rustle the treetops and send a lose branch of reality to knock me on the crown. School is coming, summer – in its metaphorical sense – is ending, and time to watch the sunsets will diminish as I am forced to cram inside to studiously listen to lectures or sift through notes or serve customers at whatever job I’ll pick up.
Sometimes I don’t realize how little time I have to cherish small things. Or, rather, how much time I have yet choose to spend it doing other strange this-and-thats. In Sweden, I spent many a night lying in bed thinking that tomorrow I could go for a 10 p.m. constitutional down Morkullevägen and back. Then tomorrow became tomorrow-tomorrow. Or Friday. Or next time it doesn’t rain. Finally I’d witnessed my final sunny evening and it escaped me because I was looking forward at tomorrow, a tomorrow that didn’t come. A sunset hidden behind clouds. Now, back in Florida and seated at my dining room table with a cup of Gevalia Colombian, I’m staring out the window at the gentle ebb and flow of the awakening sky – I think it’s going to rain. I decided not to say “tomorrow.” I said “today.” “Today” rolls off the tongue, the final syllable lifting the corners of the mouth into a smile.
I move back to school August 3, and I’m scrambling to organize all of my junk into bins and bags before my final wave to summer. I paused, though, to make these doughnuts. Doughnuts are a nostalgia food, from days my mom would rush home with a dozen cream-filled Long Johns and Blueberry Blossoms from our favorite local joint eight minutes away. I am just as guilty of looking back as I am forward. Remembering, grinning, and growing sad. I’m slowly learning to roll those moments into a ball and squeeze until they become powder and fall to the floor. To sweep the residue into a jar and screw a lid tightly over top. Memories are for looking fondly on, not for dousing yourself with until you choke. Likewise, the future is good to strive for but not to binge on until you’re too stuffed and cramped to fit a sliver of present-time happiness.
Now is all we have. And these days, my now smells like chocolate. Sweet, with a kick of salt and a fragrant frosting made of a most comforting tea blend and Florida’s familiar state fruit. Perfect for breakfast shared with a loved one, during which you enjoy one another’s company and forget about the chore list and the grocery run to come later. So joyful is the now, often, that you’ll abandon the later until the later must comes to pass. Then it becomes the now, and you’re prepared to invite it over for warm doughnuts. They’ll be frosted and ready for eating at that point.
Salted Chocolate Doughnuts & Orange Earl Grey Buttercream
Keep in mind: these doughnuts are meant to be cake-like and fudgy. I put a range for the orange zest so you can customize the flavor as much as you’d like. I’d start with the lowest amount and increase by 1/4 teaspoon until the orange is at your preferred strength.
For the doughnuts:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 T salted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.25 cups buttermilk
For the buttercream:
1.5 cups confectioner’s sugar
2.5 T butter, softened
1 T Earl Grey leaves, ground into fine powder
1/4 – 1/2 tsp orange zest
Milk for consistency (about 2 TBS)
ASSEMBLY: I should mention that I have a doughnut maker in my possession, so the process outlined below caters towards this little piece of technology.
Plug in doughnut maker so it’s nice and hot by the time you’re ready to cook the batter. In the meantime, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder in a metal bowl; set aside. In a separate and larger bowl, whisk together egg, butter, vanilla, and buttermilk. Slowly incorporate the dry into the wet ingredients, and mix until fully blended and the batter is smooth. It should be a consistency slightly thicker than cake batter.
Grease the slots of your doughnut maker (top and bottom). Pour batter in until about 3/4 of the way full. Cook for 7 minutes, then flip doughnuts with a fork (Careful! Don’t burn your fingers) and cook for 2-3 more. Once finished, set onto a wire rack to cool. Grease machine again – you must do this between each batch you cook – and repeat until batter is used up. Let doughnuts cool about 30 minutes.
While your doughnuts are cooling, use a hand blender to mix ingredients for the frosting until it is thick and does not slide easily off of the beater. It should be relatively stiff but creamy. 2 tablespoons of milk sufficed for me, but the amount you need depends on many factors, including but not limited to: amount of powdered sugar, softness of butter, position of New Horizons in relation to Pluto, proximity of the One Ring to Mordor, whether Gollum feels more like Smeagol…The list goes on.
When doughnuts are sufficiently cool, frost thoroughly. Serve with coffee, preferably on the morning of baking – doughnuts stay good for a few days if left in a tupperware on the counter (again, depending on the factors above, and especially humidity levels). After 2-3 days, transfer them to the freezer.
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