My father has always been an early riser. Most days I wake fairly early, but he has a knack for being up before the sunrise on any occasion. When I was little, he would sometimes surprise the whole family by driving fifteen miles into the nearest town and picking up doughnuts fl. If he was feeling particularly generous, he’d go to the bakery and get the fresh-baked doughnuts and pastries. I remember waking to see the box on the counter and peeling back the parchment paper to see what delicious goodies he had brought home. Those mornings were some of my favorite childhood memories.
Today, I only get doughnuts at the office, mostly mass-produced and standard glaze. It’s not the same and I normally opt out. I love a good doughnut, don’t let my previous comment fool you. I would just rather have something made with love that didn’t have help from major machinery. I’d go as far as to say you can taste the difference, but I know most people wouldn’t agree.
Sometimes you just want a really good, homemade doughnut, am I right?! I was craving that deep-fried pastry for a few days, and I was wasn’t going to let anything get in my way. I knew from my churro adventure that I could and wanted to deep fry the dough. I had just discovered a heck-of-a-bargain on an artisan cast iron skillet at TJ Maxx, and I was itching to break it in. I also knew I wanted a yeasty doughnut that had a soft exterior and fluffy interior. I set to work on building a recipe.
Knowing that cake flour leads to more tender dough, I used two types of flour, combined. To add a bit more structure, I combined all-purpose flour with cake flour. I assume you could try it with one or the other; if you like a more firm doughnut, I’d go completely with all-purpose or bread flour. I also have an option for two rising methods. One is for those impatient like myself, while the other is for the planners who want a want to spend less time making breakfast. Doughnuts are not for the person searching for a quick morning fix, however, they are well suited for a lazy weekend.
- 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 vanilla pod scraping
- 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature and softened
- 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/3 cups cake flour
- 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan pink sea salt
- vegetable oil for deep-frying
- 1/2 to 2/3 cup jam or preserves of your choice
- a handful powdered sugar
To make in one day:
In a small sauce pan, warm the milk on the stove. You’re not making it hot; you should be able to put your finger in without burning. If it steams, you’ve heated it too much. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the yeast, sugar and milk together. Set aside for 5 minutes until it begins to foam. Add in zest, yolks, and vanilla scrapings and whisk until the yolks are incorporated. Add butter and whisk until it’s mostly broken up. In a separate bowl, whisk both types of flour together.
Add half of flour into the large mixing bowl with the liquid ingredients in it, and stir until combined. If you’re using a stand mixer, use the lowest setting and a dough hook. Then, add the rest of the flour and salt until it begins to form into a ball that’s smooth and stretchy in texture, about 5 minutes. If you must up the speed, don’t go higher than the third setting on your mixer. If it sticks to the side of the bowl, add a little extra flour, but only a little at a time. The more flour you add, the tougher your doughnuts will be in the end, so use your best judgement. A little sticky isn’t all that bad.
Lightly oil the inside of a large bowl and place the dough inside. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rest for 1-1 1/2 hours at room temperature. It should double in size. I actually doubled my recipe to share for later, then I forgot I doubled it when it came to rising… I ran into a ‘we’re gonna need a bigger bowl’ situation. It was quite humorous, but I worried it would dry out a bit too much with the plastic wrap lifting, so I kept tucking it in. I lost a bit of surface dough from the plastic being a bit too tight on the top, so be mindful of your bowl size!
On a lightly floured surface, softly roll out dough to a rough 1/2″ thick. With a round cookie cutter, cut circles into the dough. Continue grouping up the scraps into smaller balls, and re-roll into another mass until you don’t have enough to cut anymore. You can use the scraps later to test the oil. If you want traditional holed doughnuts, use a smaller cookie cutter to slice out small holes from each center. Loosely cover the doughnuts with a tea towel and let rise for another 30 minutes at room temperature.
To make the night before:
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the yeast, sugar and cold milk together. Set aside for 5 minutes until it begins to look slightly foamy. Add in zest, yolks, and vanilla scrapings and whisk until the yolks are incorporated. Add butter and whisk until it’s mostly broken up. In a separate bowl, whisk both types of flour together.
Proceed with the same process of mixing as the same day method, then place in a large oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge overnight. The next day, roll out, cut and let rise, covered in a tea towel, for 30 minutes.
Frying the doughnuts:
Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil to 350°F/175°C in a cast-iron frying pan or heavy pot. If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, this is where the scraps come in handy. You can practice and get an idea of how quickly the dough will cook. It should sizzle and brown quickly when you put it in, and brown evenly when you flip.I had a little fun with the scrap pieces by softly forming them into random shapes. One at a time, add a doughnut to the oil with a spider strainer or on a piece of parchment paper, wearing an oven mitt. Watch your hands! they can spit droplets of oil, so just take precaution to avoid burns. Cook the first side until deep golden brown underneath, roughly 10 seconds, and keep a close eye on it. Flip and cook the other side until golden brown, then remove and spread out on a paper towel lined cooling rack to absorb extra oil. Repeat with the rest.
When cool enough to handle, you can fill the doughnuts you didn’t cut the center out of from the tops or sides. I used a meat injector and some homemade lemon curd. with a fine mesh strainer, shower doughnuts with powdered sugar, or roll the doughnuts gently in a bowl of it. If you’re feeling fancy, you can find many glaze recipes online, or melt a little butter, lightly brush the tops and sprinkle with a hint of Swedish pearl sugar.
You can store these in an unsealed container overnight as well, but they are much better the day of. You might need to re-powder the tops in the morning, as the sugar will absorb with the oil.