How wonderful are doughnuts? OK, a bit of a leading question. But I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like a good doughnut (or even a bad one, if I’m honest). Whether ring doughnuts, plump doughnut balls filled with jam or custard, or the aptly named ‘Yum Yum’ (a kind of twisted doughnut stick covered in a sugar glaze), they seem to be loved by everyone. Including Ed. So I made him a few!
Although doughnuts like the ones in this post are definitely all-American in appearance and flavour (I like to think they’d make Homer Simpson proud), it occurs to me that this type of doughnut is sort of like a traditional English iced bun, in a way? Fluffy, bready, slightly sweet, with sticky sugar glaze on the top. The best of all worlds. Except of course, these doughnuts are fried, and in my opinion, there are few foods which are not enhanced by frying.
You don’t have to put glaze on them, of course – they are equally as fantastic rolled in sugar (or sugar and cinnamon?) straight out of the fryer. We tried that too. Highly scrumptious.
But if you glaze them you can go to town with gaudy sprinkles, comme ca. And you can tint the glaze a scarily bright yellow (if, like me, you are a bit trigger happy with the old gel colours- I feel “d’oh” is appropriate here).
These are made with a yeasted dough, so the dough needs two rises, and they take a bit of prep…but I think that’s ok. Good things are worth waiting for…and I love making yeasted doughs anyway (got to have a hobby, haven’t you).
Just one thing: eat them the same day you make them (i.e. fry them). Once things have been fried, they don’t really keep so well (ever tried a less than fresh McDonald’s chip?) and these are likely to taste very stale the next day.
It can be a bit intimidating to deep fat fry things, I know… For one thing, you have to emotionally deal with the sheer amount of oil or shortening required to fry the chips/doughnuts/peanut butter cookie dough balls. I can’t help you with that one, but I recommend you just put it out of your mind, like I do, and think of the delicious delicious fried food that’s on the way!
Then you have to heat the oil and that can be scary. But it’s good to be scared a bit, because hot oil burns are no joke and you have to be careful. Use a deep fat fryer if you can; if you don’t have one, make sure your saucepan of oil heats at the back of the stove, and keep pan handles pushed to one side where you won’t accidentally knock them. Keep children and animals out of the room… and wear shoes! No oil drips on the toes, please. It’s a good idea to get all your equipment ready before you begin too – a slotted spoon to lower the doughnuts in/out of the oil, a plate lined with kitchen towel to receive the fried doughnuts.
And you have to heat the oil to the right temperature and keep it there…if it isn’t hot enough, the doughnuts will absorb a lot of the oil and you don’t want that. Too hot, and you’ll burn them. Use a food thermometer to make sure the oil is at the right temperature before you dunk the doughnuts. As soon as you put them in, the temperature will drop a little so make sure you don’t overcrowd the pan to help minimise the temperature drop (and it will give you more room to turn the doughnuts).
But all the hassle of the fry is so worth it when you taste these babies. On the subject of hassle…I know not everyone has a stand mixer or food processor with a dough hook, but if you do have one or can beg, steal or borrow one, I’d recommend using one for this recipe. The dough is very sticky to work with by hand – but by all means go for it if you want to attack it with your hands. Just don’t let the sticky drive you mad! (Maybe that’s just me…)
Remember, you could top these with whatever you like- chocolate glaze, maple glaze, sugar…. I’d love to know if you try them and how you get on!
Recipe: The Best Doughnuts with Vanilla Glaze
(Makes 15-20 doughnuts, depending on size, plus doughnut holes!)
For the doughnuts:
360g plain flour (you may well need more, depending on the consistency of the dough – see instructions below)
7g (usually one sachet) ‘Instant’ or ‘Quick’ yeast
50g caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
180ml semi-skimmed milk
1 large egg
25g unsalted butter, melted
For the Glaze:
240g Icing/confectioner’s sugar
2-4 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon golden syrup/corn syrup
1 tablespoon of melted butter
1/2 teaspoons vanilla essence (if you want pure white icing, use clear imitation vanilla)
(Optional) Food colouring to tint -I used gel colours
Enough vegetable or sunflower oil to fill a medium/large saucepan to about 5 inches’ depth – I used 2 litres
How to make them
1. Put the dry ingredients for the doughnuts into the bowl of a stand mixer which has been fitted with a dough hook. Make a well in the dry ingredients, and pour in the wet ingredients. Turn the mixer on at a slow speed to combine the ingredients. (NB if you don’t have a stand mixer, simply do this in a large mixing bowl, and mix the ingredients together with a spoon/spatula).
2. Once the ingredients are combined, turn the mixer up to medium speed and let it whir away for a minute. Stop the mixer and check the consistency – you want the dough to be soft and quite sticky, but not too runny. For example, the dough should not be smeared all over the bowl, but should be coming together in more or less one lump of dough – although it will be very soft and pliable. If you think it’s too runny, add more flour, tablespoon by tablespoon (I added 7 tablespoons to mine) with the mixer running slowly, until the dough has come together a bit more.
Turn the mixer speed up to medium/medium high again and continue to let it do its work for about 8-10 minutes. (If you’re doing this by hand, you will need to turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it. It is likely to be very tricky to manage, as it will be very sticky. Feel free to add more flour as explained above, but don’t overdo it – this is meant to be a sticky and wet dough. Too much, and the doughnuts will be heavy.) The finished dough should be smooth, silky and very elastic, and still sticky and very moist.
3. Generously oil a large bowl with vegetable/sunflower/corn oil, and dump the kneaded dough into it, turning the ball of dough to cover it in the oil. Place a clean tea towel or cling film loosely over the bowl and put the bowl somewhere warm and draft-free for 60-90 minutes (such as the airing cupboard or near a radiator), or until the dough has doubled in size.
4. Knock back the dough by gently punching all the air out of it, and turn the deflated dough out onto a floured work surface. Give it a few kneads to make it smooth again, and pat it down flat. It’s fine to put flour all over it to stop it from being too sticky to work with. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin until it’s about 5mm thick.
5. Take a large circular cutter (the size you want your doughnuts to be) and cut out circles in the dough. Then take a smaller cutter (or any other round item that will cut through the dough – I used a metal icing tip) to cut out small circles inside the larger circles and create your ring doughnut shape. If you want to keep the smaller inner circles of dough, you can- these are your ‘doughnut holes’ and you can fry and eat these too!
6. Leave the cut doughnuts (and doughnut holes if you want to fry them too) under a clean tea towel/ lightly greased foil or cling film for an hour while they have their second rise.
7. Heat the oil to 175 Celsius/350 Fahrenheit – use a food thermometer to check it’s at the correct temperature. If the oil gets too hot, carefully remove it from the heat or turn the heat off, and wait for it to cool before returning it to the heat source.
8. Place a doughnut onto a heatproof slotted spoon and carefully lower it into the hot oil. You may be able to fit a few in the pan at the same time, but don’t overcrowd it. Fry the doughnuts for a minute on one side, until golden brown, then flip them over and fry on the other side for a further minute.
9. Remove the fried doughnuts from the oil with the slotted spoon and place on a plate which has been lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Leave to cool.
10. While the doughnuts are cooling, make the vanilla glaze: sift the icing sugar (so there are no lumps) and place in a mixing bowl or large measuring jug. Add the butter, vanilla and syrup and whisk to combine- add the milk until the desired consistency is reached. You should aim for a thick but runny glaze.
11. Take a cooled doughnut, and dip it halfway into the glaze. Put the half-covered doughnut onto a cooling rack or platter. Repeat for the rest of the doughnuts. Decorate with sprinkles, edible glitter, grated chocolate or whatever floats your boat.
Eat on the day you fry them!