Makes two dozen
1 cup warm water
21⁄4 teaspoons yeast
41⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
10 tablespoons butter, softened
2⁄3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
zest of half lemon or quarter of an orange
1 teaspoon salt
vegetable oil for frying
“Proof” yeast in water, letting it stand for five minutes or until bubbles form on the mixture. Combine yeast mixture with one cup of the flour, stirring until mixture is smooth. Wrap in plastic and allow to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes to an hour.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (add sugar a little at a time). Add eggs, one at a time, beating by hand or with a mixer with a paddle attachment; continue to beat on medium speed one minute after the last addition. Mix in the vanilla, zest, and salt.
After the yeast and flour mixture has risen, add to the creamed butter mixture, then slowly incorporate the last 31⁄2 cups of flour, a little at a time. Mix on medium speed until the dough forms a mass on the paddle or until the dough pulls from the side of the bowl. Place dough in a greased stainless steel bowl, and allow to double in volume, approximately 11⁄2 to 2 hours.
Deflate the dough by punching it down (kids love this job) and place in refrigerator for 3 hours. Turn chilled dough onto a well-floured board. Roll out to a half-inch thickness and punch out with two-inch-round cutters that have a hole in the middle. Let cut dough rest uncovered for 30 minutes or until soft and puffy. Fry in vegetable oil at least two inches deep, or in a deep fryer at 365 degrees, turning only once after golden brown. Drain on towels; dust with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar, and serve immediately.