Time to make the doughnuts!

Page's apple cider treats aren't hard to make - but do take some practice

"Big Mike" Sirin already has the wet ingredients working in the mixer when I arrive Monday afternoon to learn how to make Page's famous apple cider doughnuts. I'm invited to take a large scoop of doughnut flour out of the 50-pound bag and drop it in the mixer. Then I'm banished from the kitchen.

"I'll finish," he says, noting the mix still needs more flour. "I've got to do that by eye," he explains.

Sirin is one of four people at Page's who make these popular treats, owner Cissy Rallo tells me. She first learned of apple cider doughnuts about 10 years ago when the owner of the pumpkin farm where she was working told her she should learn how to make the popular East Coast treat.

"I was like, 'Apple cider doughnuts? All right.' Then my mother and I went to a few bakeries. We found a bakery that helped us come up with a recipe," Rallo related.

Baking, she noted, requires precision.

"It definitely is a science," she said. "Everything matters. The air temperature around you matters, what the building is at, humidity, all that."

The restaurant, which Rallo owns with her mom, Kathy Barbara, turns out anywhere from the eight dozen or so made this week for Valentine's Day to more than 10 times that during September and October.

"You're talking well over a hundred dozen at the peak," Rallo says.

Before too long I'm called back to the kitchen. The hopper has been filled with batter and it's time to fry my batch.The hopper is fairly heavy and it takes some finger strength - which I've never had - to pull the lever to release the circle of dough. And I'm slightly intimidated by the large fryer of 350-degree oil I'm working over.

"You're going to have to give it some oompf there," Rallo tells me.

There's nothing to do but get started, so I do.

I'd like to say that with each release, my circles of dough became more and more uniform, but that was not the case.

"That's good," Rallo tells me. I drop a few more.

"That's good, Pam. You've got enough," she says, clearly not wanting me to waste any more batter.

I watch as my disparate circles of dough start to turn golden in the fryer. Knowing when to turn them is a lot like knowing how much flour to use.

"When they start looking like that, because it's a smaller one, then you can flip it," Sirin tells me, pointing to one of my mini doughnuts.

At the appropriate time - or maybe a little early, given the size of some of my doughnuts - I use the long stick to flip them. Then Sirin takes over again, trying to make sure the larger ones are cooked all the way through.

After they're pulled from the fryer, they need sit for a few minutes until they are cool enough to dunk in a glaze made of powdered sugar and water.

The glazed doughnuts need to be left out to dry, she notes, and can't be packed up too soon.

"They might get mushy," Rallo said. "They're fine sitting out. You want them to set overnight."

We can't wait that long, of course, so we head out to the counter to give the doughnuts a try. They taste great, whether they look like doughnuts, Bundt cakes, cinnamon rolls or - as Rallo's friend Andy who stops in says - meatballs.

Page's currently sells only apple cider doughnuts, but Rallo has plans to change that.

"We're going to start to play with a blueberry doughnut for the spring," she says. "Fresh blueberries. Nothing artificial - all fresh."

Soon Big Mike has completed his batch of doughnuts, which all look absolutely perfect. Pru and Paul on "The Great British Baking Show" would be pleased.

As for my doughnuts, well ...

"That's probably your best looking one," Sirin says. Emphasis on one.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean