Raise your hand if you grew up in the Chicago area and vacationed on a lake in Wisconsin as a kid. Yep. Me too.
Is that a requirement for a proper Chicagoland upbringing or something? Is it written in stone somewhere? I’m thinking yes, because it seems like every family had a spot in Wisconsin they returned to year after a year. As a child of the greater Chicagoland metro area, thou shall:
- Enjoy assorted field trips to the aquarium, planetarium and Art Institute.
- Stop putting ketchup on your hot dogs by the age of 10.
- Spend at least a week every summer “Up North”
See, it is written.
For as long as I can remember, my family went up to Northern Wisconsin for a week every summer to stay on Plum Lake. At 4, at 11, at 18 there are pictures of me standing on the shore, smiling my wide “school’s out” smile. I look different in each one, but the background is frozen in time. My mom stayed on that very same lake every summer when she was a girl. The beach, the pier, the slanty, rugged cottages – everything looks exactly the same, whether it be 1960, 1990 or beyond. It’s pretty near and dear to our hearts to say the very least!
Here we are! Mom at Plum Lake circa 1962 and me around 1989. The best parts of these photos? Mom’s bathing cap. That.is.Awesome! Gotta keep that nasty lake water out of your hair! And my life jacket. Like I’m going to drown there in three inches of water. That whale is the best! I forgot about that thing… Thanks for pics, Mom and Dad!
Plum Lake is miles and miles from the hustle and bustle of the big city – under a dark, cool canopy of lush, green forests. Nestled among the trees is a beautiful, clear, sandy bottom lake and clusters of tiny cottages straight out of days gone by. A week at the lake was a week full of casting a line off the pier, boat rides and skipping rocks. A week full of sand in your bed, swing sets and drippy ice cream cones. Slamming screen doors, supper clubs, and small town shops. Salt water taffy, buckets of minnows and belly laughs.
And donuts for breakfast. Every.single.day. The best part of all! Hey, it’s okay on vacation, right? Waking up in the morning, watching the sun toss millions of tiny sparkles across the lake, and sinking my teeth into a soft, fresh donut was one of my favorite parts of the trip.
A tiny bakery in St. Germain was the source of this delicious bounty. Every couple days, I’d get up early and head to town with my mom. Once inside, I’d breathe in the heavenly aroma of sugar, butter and frying dough. Marveling at the piles of treats in the glass case, my stomach would begin to grumble. Choosing was always the hardest part! These were some seriously good donuts. Me personally? I was partial to the cake donut with chocolate icing (they slathered it on nice and thick too. No wimpy, tasteless, crumbly glaze here. There were TEETH MARKS in the icing after you took a bite. Now that’s what I’m talking about!) and the apple fritters bursting with juicy bits of real apples and drenched in glaze that stuck to your fingers and lips.
Up North. What a great place to be a kid. And eat donuts.
It’s been about 10 years since I’ve visited Plum Lake but I’d really like to get back there someday to carry on the tradition with my own kids. Maybe I’ll even have a donut or two while I’m there, considering I can’t even remember the last time I had one.
See, donuts are just not real high on my list of acceptable foods to eat. Apples, broccoli, brown rice. Acceptable for every day. Fried dough covered in sugar? Not acceptable for every day. Personally, I think it’s kind of hard to find a good donut – not to mention all the unnecessary calories – so that’s why I tend to avoid them. And since I don’t fry at home, I don’t see homemade donuts in my future any time soon.
Instead, I’ll just rely on these baked donut muffins to curb any fried dough cravings. I spotted this recipe over at Elly Says Opa! and have had it saved for a while just waiting for that donut craving to hit. Not saying these are healthy by any means, but baked usually beats fried. It’s like scissors to paper, if you will. These are so easy to make and really do mimic the flavor profile of a cake donut – soft, moist with just a hint of spice. The chocolate glaze makes them just a little bit naughty while still remaining mostly nice. And who can resist colored sprinkles?? Not me! They may not be the same as the real thing I remember so fondly from my childhood, but they’re a good grown-up stand in. Eric had a hard time deciding if they were breakfast or dessert. I told him, it’s okay to swing both ways.
For the Muffins
- 2 cups AP flour
- scant 1 cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp. allspice
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1-1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
For the Glaze
- 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tbsp. corn syrup
- 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
- sprinkles (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a standard muffin tin.
- Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the egg with the canola oil, butter, milk and vanilla with an electric mixer until well blended. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, combining gently by hand until just moistened.
- Spoon the batter in the prepared muffin tins and bake for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely.
- To make the glaze, combine the chocolate chips, butter, corn syrup and vanilla extract in a double boiler (or in a stainless steel or glass bowl over some simmering water). Stir until the chocolate is melted and everything is incorporated.
- Dip the tops of the muffins into the glaze and immediately top with sprinkles, if using. Makes 12 muffins