So I tried updating the doughnut recipe. I didn't have the special hardwood to burn to make the lye for pearlash. However, since I learned everything important in life from Louisa May Alcott, I knew that just a decade or two after our Frugal Housewife wrote her instructions, folks started using baking soda (baking powder didn't come until a bit later). Louisa also taught me that soda (and this can be said about pearlash too) gets its leavening powers from combining with acid. So I chose the orange and the bit of sour cream to activate the soda. I have no idea what Lydia Childs was using for that. I think Louisa could have taught Lydia a thing or two. Anyway, the result suffered less because the leaven didn't leaven (it did!) and more because I am not adept at deep fat frying. I ran out of steam after the first 5 doughnuts and spread the rest into a pan for a nice quick coffee cake. I go into detail about the process here in the next post, if you are interested.
Would I make these again? I doubt it. Unless at some point someone can teach me to make real doughnuts and how to fry them just right. Then maybe.