Aunt Francis' Strawberry Bismarks

Many of my childhood summers were spent on extended family visits to the home of my Aunt Francis and Uncle Sam on Big Pelican Lake in Minnesota. They had a garden which included a huge patch of "Klondike" strawberries, which they harvested and sold. My uncle was known as "The Strawberry King" of Brainerd, Minnesota. Aunt Francis made preserves from their culled berries. It was from observing her that I learned to make my own.

Francis was also highly regarded for her bread and pastry making, which she baked in a mammoth wood burning stove, heated by birch that she split herself. Her "Jelly" doughnuts were always filled with homemade strawberry preserves.

3-31/2 cups unbleached organic all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon. active dry yeast
3/4 cup whole milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup sweet butter, softened
1 tsp. salt
2 large free-range eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Strawberry preserves
1 egg white
confectioner's sugar

In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups of the flour and the yeast.
In a small bowl beat the eggs and vanilla together. Set aside.

Heat the milk, sugar, butter, and salt, in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan.. Stir it constantly until the butter almost melts and the temperature is barely warm, about body temperature. Pour the liquid mixture to the dry mixture and stir to roughly combine. Then add the eggs and vanilla.

Beat the batter at low speed with an electric mixer for a minute, scraping the sides of the bowl, until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Then beat it at high speed for 3 minutes. By hand, stir in enough flour to make a moderately soft dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 5-8 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic.

Shape the dough into a ball, and place it into a lightly greased bowl, turning the ball once to grease entire surface of dough. Cover and let the dough rise in a warm place until it is nearly doubled in bulk. Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Roll each half about 1/4-inch thick and cut with a floured 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter. Place a heaping teaspoonful of strawberry preserves into center of one round. Brush its edges with egg white, place a second round on top and seal edges. Combine dough scraps and roll out to use remains for more bismarks.

Cover the Bismarks with a floured dish towel and allow them to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or until dough is very light.

Fry the doughnuts in a deep fat fryer or kettle at 350̊ F, until they are golden brown. Drain on brown paper and sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

© Elissa Rubin-Mahon 2006