The recipe

Take one english pint of flour take 3 eggs taking out 2 of the yolks, beat it with suggar, till they be like a thin sirup grate a little ginger, & 2 or 3 cloves & nutmug among it, take as much butter as eggs, & as much milk as eggs and butter both, put the butter & milk to the boyll together, then pour it in among the flour, stirring it with a spoon, then put in the eggs still working it up like paste, roull it out with a roulling pin, like a cake, cut it in what form ye please, have a pan boylling with a good deall of butter, so putting them in the boylling butter little & little, let them boyll till they be crisp, then take them out if ther be butter enough to color them ye may put in & take out till the butter be quite broun.

Notes for a modern kitchen

Makes 24+ 2-inch (50 mm) donut rounds.

  • 3 eggs (one whole egg and two egg whites)
  • ¼ cup (50g) sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground or grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup (250g) milk
  • 17 tablespoons (238g) butter, divided – 9 tablespoons (125g) butter for the dough, 8 tablespoons (113g) for frying
  • 2 cups flour (272g), plus additional flour for rolling out dough
  • Optional: powdered sugar for serving

Separate the whites from the yolks of two eggs. You will use one whole egg and two egg whites for the batter.

Whisk together the eggs, spices, and sugar. Set aside.

Melt butter and warm milk together in a saucepan or the microwave until the mixture begins to bubble.

Measure out the flour in a large bowl. Pour the hot butter and milk mixture and stir to combine. Then add the egg mixture and form into a soft dough.

Put the dough on a floured surface and flatten with your hands and/or a rolling pin to approximately ¼ inch (1/2 cm) thickness. Cut the dough into rounds or strips that will fit in your frying pan or skillet. (I used a 1 inch (50mm) pastry ring to cut small, circular donuts.)

Heat butter in a sturdy frying pan or skillet until sizzling. The butter-level should be high enough that the thin donuts are almost entirely submerged.

Fry the donuts in butter until golden brown and crispy. Flip the doughnuts so that both sides brown. Depending on your stove and pan, this should take approximately 1 minute for each side. Not all your donuts will fit in the pan at the same time. Do not crowd them and instead cook in approximately three batches.

Consume your donuts immediately. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving if desired.

The significance

This donut recipe comes from a handwritten recipe book kept by Christian Barclay from 1697-1723, which includes cooking recipes, home remedies, instructions for dying cloth various colors, and two pages of marriage and birth records of her children with Alexander Jaffray. The recipe book is part of the Robert Barclay of Ury family papers and maps, 1685-1835 collection.