Let’s take a minute and talk donuts. And not about those stale cake-y ones in the pastry case at the coffee shop. Or even Krispie Kreme, I mean they’re ok but they’re made on a conveyor belt. I’m talking Bob’s Donuts on Polk St in San Francisco frying up those little devils 24 hours a day, filling the gap between asphalt and thick fog layer with the intoxicating aroma of fresh, fried, airy, sweet dough. I’m talking donut holes taken right out of the fryer and thrown in a brown paper bag with a handful of cinnamon and sugar, then shaken lovingly to coat those puppies in sweetness while the warm grease spots darken the lower half of the bag. Oooh baby, mmm.
Sorry, one can get carried away easily when on the topic of a crisp, puffed, sugar coated circle of love. Where was I?
Everyone knows that donuts are not all created equal, and I am very happy to report the ring shaped delights born from this recipe were near the top of my best donuts ever list (what, you don’t have one?). So lets make some already!
Are you excited? Well you should be, but I’m going to have to bring you back down from your fluffy donut dreams for a second because I have some news. You know why there is such a range between lame donuts and heavenly ones? Because donuts are one of those things that you have to put a lot into to get a lot out of. A lot of what? Time. Patience. Coordination (as you’ll see later). Love. Accuracy. And I know you’re thinking to yourself, as I did when I read this recipe, “Oh, that disclaimer is just for people who aren’t really familiar with baking. I’ve made tons of things with yeast, it can’t be that intense.” Uh, yah. That’s why MyJo didn’t get his promised donuts until after midnight… but don’t worry, they were so good he didn’t mind pausing our marathon of 24 for a little snack. Even Jack Bauer can wait for these, and in our household that means a lot.
The only problem I had with this recipe, other than the fact that I’m a spaz and burnt the bajeezus out of my hand with hot oil, is that it makes so much dough and so many donuts, that unless you’re cooking for a group, you won’t be able to eat them all before they get cold and start to go stale. The thing about a yeasty dough is that you can’t really save it for later since it gets dry and crusty on the surface, and even if you cook it all, nobody likes donuts if they aren’t fresh. I used about a third of the dough that I made, simply because MyJo and I really don’t need more than three rings and four holes each, and ended up tossing the rest instead of taking the time to fry it, only for it not to get eaten (or worse, get completely devoured and send us both into cardiac arrest). However, I’m afraid to try and halve this recipe because there are a lot of chemical reactions with the yeast going on and I don’t want to risk messing that up. So I guess you have a few options: make all the donuts and invite some friends over, make all the donuts and slowly die inside as you’re faced with a plate of 2 dozen tempting baby heart attacks, or do as I did and only cook what you think you can eat (plus a few more, you’ll be surprised how many of these you can shove in your face). I guess you can always be bold and try to halve the recipe and see if it works, which I will do some time and report back.
So without further ado:
Glazed Doughnuts (via The Pioneer Woman, who explains this in much more detail and who, I’m sure, doesn’t try to deep fry her hands)
Wait! There are two notes I have to share with you before we start. First: Read this recipe thoroughly before starting, it’s quite a time commitment and I suggest that you make the dough and let it rise overnight, so you don’t end up with midnight donuts like I did (not that fresh donuts at midnight aren’t a perfect treat). Second: You need some hardware for this… particularly a food thermometer, two circle things to cut the donuts with (I don’t have any round cookie cutters so I used a big glass and a skinny shot glass instead, feel free to be creative with your cutters), and paper towels. You can’t make this recipe without those things, so add them to your shopping list if you don’t have them. Also, if you’re thinking about learning to bake or you bake often, you need to get a Kitchenaid or other brand of stand mixer. We’ll talk about that more later, but for this recipe I used the dough hook attachment and so should you. Ok. Now let’s get cookin’.
Buy These Things:
1 1/8 cup Whole Milk
1/4 cup Sugar
2 1/4 tsp Instant or Dry Active Yeast (this is the same amount that comes in one of those individual packets)
2 Large Eggs
1 1/4 stick Unsalted Butter
4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/4 tsp Salt
At least one medium sized container of Canola Oil
For the Glaze
3 cups Confectioners Sugar
pinch o’ salt
splash o’ vanilla
1/2 cup Whole Milk
Make the dough (for morning donuts, do this part the night before… it only takes about 30 minutes)
Pour your milk into a bowl and zap it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Take it out, give it a swirl to even out the temperature, and put back in for 15 second intervals (swirling in between) until you decide that it is definitely warm and definitely not hot. If you stick your (clean!) finger in it, it won’t be too hot to touch.
Add the sugar to the warm milk and stir to help it dissolve.
Empty the packet of yeast into a small cereal-sized bowl. Yeast is crazy.
Pour your warm sugar-milk mixture over the yeast and give it a stir to combine. Then set it aside to do its thing for about ten minutes.
Get out two more cereal-sized bowls. Crack your two eggs into one of the bowls, and chop your butter into chunks and place it in the other bowl. Beat your eggs like you’re going to make scrambled eggs, the more mixed and the more air in there the better. As for the butter, you’re going to melt it in the microwave, but you really want to keep the temperature as low as you can. To do this, microwave it for 20 seconds and then stir, put it in for another 10 seconds and stir. As you stir, more and more of the lumps should melt… try to use the residual heat of the melted parts to melt the non-melted parts. Does this make any sense? If you’ve gotten my point, you will have a bowl of melted butter that is not too hot. If your butter is too hot, when you mix it into the eggs it will cook them and you’ll end up with lumpy bits. So if you’re in doubt, stir your butter or let it hang out for a little bit before pouring in the eggs.
Alright, now that your butter is melted but not egg-cooking hot, slowly pour the eggs into the butter. Stir constantly to bring air into the mixture and cool it off. Once you’ve mixed the eggs and butter together, pour it into the bowl of your mixer. Make sure you’re using the dough hook attachment and not the paddle. Turn the mixer on at a low speed, and pour in the yeast, which now looks all frothy and weird.
Let the mixer run for a few minutes until the egg-butter-milk-sugar-yeast stuff is all combined. While that’s going on, measure out 4 cups of flour and throw in 1/4 tsp of salt. I would tell you to sift it together, but I don’t have a sifter so I whisk mine together until there aren’t any lumps and the salt is all mixed in. By now, your egg-butter-milk-sugar-yeast stuff should be all mixed up and ready for some dry ingredients.
Add the flour to the mixture a little at a time (1/2 cup or less) until it’s all combined. Scrape the bowl, then turn the mixer back on a medium low speed for five minutes. After the five minutes, scrape the bottom of the bowl (the sides should be clean, but if they aren’t you can scrape them too) and then turn the mixer back on for another minute. Turn it off after a minute and leave the dough alone in the bowl for 10 minutes. Make yourself a snack or get a head start on cleaning up. Or find a surprise in your cupboard.
Transfer the dough from the mixer bowl to another large bowl that your have lightly but thoroughly coated in oil. Roll the ball of dough around in there to make sure it’s all covered in oil and is nice and shiny. Yeast doughs tend to dry out, so the oil keeps the surface moist, allowing it to expand without drying and cracking. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge. Leave it there for at least 8 hours or overnight.
When you return to your dough, it will have puffed up a lot.
Lightly flour a board or counter, and then plop the dough onto it. Also flour a baking sheet to put the donuts on as you cut them out. The dough should roll very easily, but use more flour to prevent sticking if needed. I like fat donuts, so I rolled my dough out to about 1/2 an inch thick, though I wouldn’t go thicker than that. I forgot to take pictures during this part, but it’s just like making cookies. Cut out as many big (about 3 to 4 inches in diameter) circles as you can. Then use your smaller circle cutter to cut out the middles. Transfer the rings and the holes to the baking sheet that you floured. Re-roll and cut out the dough until you use it all up. You should now have a baking sheet full of flat rings and holes. Cover this sheet with a light towel or other piece of cloth. Here is where I made my first blunder… for some reason I don’t have any dish towels in my apartment. When I made bread and pizza dough, I learned a trick to covering the dough with a dampened paper towel or two rather than a damp cloth towel. That doesn’t work here as pizza and bread dough is a lot sturdier than donut dough, unfortunately.
Your little babies need a cozy, warm place to rise… which is hard to find in most San Francisco apartments. If you don’t have a draft-free warm spot, here is what you can do. Turn your oven on to its lowest setting. Set the baking sheet of donuts on top of the stove. As the oven heats up below, the heat will rise and create a a perfect warm spot for prime rising. The goal of the towel covering the donuts is to keep them moist while they rise. Well, as the paper towels I used dried out, the dried onto the dough. You will see that this dough is the most tender, delicate, dough ever. Needless to say, picking bits of paper towel out of such lovely soft, airy, slightly sticky dough was a nightmare. If you don’t have a light towel maybe use a (clean!) shirt or something. Just not paper.
Now that your little guys are in a cozy spot, covered by a light towel, leave them alone to rise for at least 1 hour and 15 minutes. I left mine for about 20 minutes longer, just remember that they need to stay moist, and they turned into the puffiest lightest airiest little pieces of heaven.
If you’re making these for breakfast, now is the time to go take a shower and get dressed. You’ll want to look great when you present these sweet morsels!
Ok. Now that you’re looking good it’s time to get frying. Here is what your beautiful babies should look like (note that mine are a little ragged because of the paper towel mishap, yours will probably be a lot smoother).
This part gets tricky. I’m not too experienced in deep frying things, and for some reason every time I step near something hot I burn myself, so it was bound to happen. Please, please be careful with the hot oil. And when heating the oil, realize that it will slowly get hot until a certain point, and then it will rapidly increase heat even if you take it off the burner.
Pour enough canola oil to fill half of your pot. It doesn’t have to be a big pot, because it’s best to only do one or two donuts at a time. Clip your thermometer on the side of the pot so that you can see the temperature easily. Heat on high until the oil reaches 250 degrees. Then turn the heat down to low and let the oil increase heat on its own. It might not get all the way up to 370 degrees, our goal, but that’s ok. Just increase the heat to medium for a little bit and then decrease it again. It is easy to get oil hot, but it is really hard to get it cool again, so take it slow. The oil temp is really important. It needs to be between 370 and 380 degrees exactly. This got stressful for me because I couldn’t get the oil to stop heating up and it got over 430 degrees before it started to cool down, which took a long time and me pouring it into a cold pot which resulted in this, which actually doesn’t look half as bad as it did the next day.
Figure out your oil, do what you need to do to get it at a constant 370-380 degrees, and be careful. Now, make a place to put the donuts after you take them out of the oil. Layer five or six paper towels on top of one another to absorb all the oil.
Pick up a donut very carefully, they are super delicate and will lose their shape easily. Gently lower it into the hot oil, being careful not to splash. The rest is easy. Let it hang out on one side for about two minutes, then using a slotted spoon, flip it to the other side for a couple minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when it’s that perfect brown, donut color.
Then use tongs or a slotted spoon to lift the cooked donut from the pot, allow the excess oil to drip off, and then set it on the paper towels. After a few minutes, flip the donut over so the other side can get a chance to have its extra oil soaked up.
Repeat this whole process until you have fried all the donuts your heart desires.
Don’t forget the donut holes!
Finally, you want to make your glaze. Just combine the sugar, salt, vanilla, and milk in a small bowl until completely incorporated. If you like, replace the vanilla with maple extract for a different flavor. Dip the donuts 2/3 of the way into the glaze, remove, let set for a minute, and then dip them again.
Definitely sneak one in the privacy of your own kitchen before sharing with others.
Congratulations! You are now a donut making rock star!