I am happy to report that ever since I started baking, family and friends seemed to have enjoyed my offerings greatly. Muffins are regularly requested for breakfast. Cakes are requested for special occasions. Tarts are requested for afternoon refreshment. And pies? Well, pies are not just requested – they’re practically expected almost every other weekend. I am more than glad to oblige requests and it does my little old heart (and baking confidence) some good to see them get happier with every little bite.
However, this last weekend I learned that no matter how much my loved ones enjoy my other baked treats, nothing will summon people as fast as a freshly fried doughnut.
I mean it. As soon as they hit the pan and smells of pillow-y, yeast risen dough rose in the air, people came out of their rooms and darted for the kitchen. I had to keep an eye on my doughnuts as they cooled and swatted hands away as they tried to reach for them as they came out of the bowl, freshly rolled in powdered sugar. I asked for their patience and promised jam filling and an extra doughnut for those who behaved. (And as I write this, my sister is looking over my shoulder going “mmmm doughnuts.)
Perhaps it’s because we all know that there’s just nothing like it. Fried doughnuts will keep for a day or a day and a half, but they are best when freshly made; when they come out, a perfect combination of pillow-y softness and sugar-y crispness. Fillings, frosting and coatings are a mere bonus – nice but not needed.
My trusty little oven took the weekend off and my deep fryer was put to work. There’s room in the world for baked doughnuts to be sure, but when you want the real thing, frying is the only way to go. But if you don’t have a deep fryer, you can easily take your favorite sauce pot or pan and fill it with oil 2-3 inches up. The trick is making sure your doughnuts will have the room to float.
Since this was my first time to make fried doughnuts, I stuck to this Saveur recipe pretty closely (but did put in some minor adjustments). Now that I’ve seen it at work though, I feel more confident to play around with the dough a bit more. Perhaps I will add a bit of spice or zest next time I make a batch. My doughnuts were filled with some lovely fig and sweet tomato fruit preserves, but you can go with whatever jam, jelly or sweet preserve you like most. You can even make your own filling if you like.
For the doughnuts:
two 1/4 oz packages active dry yeast
4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus a little more for dusting
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 whole egg + 3 yolks
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp kosher salt
canola or vegetable oil for frying
For the confectioner’s sugar:
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
Make your dough. Combine milk and yeast. Let sit for 10 minutes or until yeast has dissolved and mixture is foamy. Beat 1/2 cup sugar and butter until fluffy. Add yeast mixture, vanilla, salt, egg, and yolks. Beat until well-combined. Slowly add flour. Mix by until dough comes together smoothly. Transfer to a lightly greased bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Put inn a warm place for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.
On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 14in round about 1/2in thick. Using a floured ring cutter, cookie cutter or a large-mouthed glass or mug, cut dough into 20 rounds. Gather and reuse scraps if needed. Transfer rounds to lightly greased parchment paper—lined baking sheets. Make sure they are at least 3in apart – you will need the room for when they rise a second time. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for about 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
Fry your doughnuts. Heat your oil to 350ºF. If you don’t have a deep-fry thermometer, you can test the oil by throwing in a pinch of flour. If it sizzles, then you’re ready for frying. For easier transfer, cut the donuts out of the parchment paper, leaving about 1in of paper around the sides. Place donuts in oil, paper side up, using tongs to quickly peel off and discard paper. Cook on each side for 1-1 1/2 minute or until puffed up and golden. Be watchful! Your doughnuts will brown easily. Transfer to a baking sheet with a wire rack. Set aside for a few minutes or until they are cool enough to handle.
Assemble your fried goodies. Take each doughnut and toss in a bowl of confectioner’s sugar. Coat evenly. Place on baking tray. Cool for 20-30 minutes. Take a knife, cut a hole in the side of each doughnut. Cut through halfway and turn your knife to make the hole slightly bigger. Take a piping bag or pastry syringe and fill each doughnut with your jam or jelly of choice.
And now your jelly-filled reward. Have some doughnuts. They’re great with coffee. Try not to eat too many of them. Key word being “try”.