Is it doughnuts or donuts?

October 27, 2010 § 7 Comments

I can recall exactly two times when and places where I have loved donuts. The first was at 6 a.m. on weekend mornings, when my parents dragged me out of bed and into the car to head out of the city for my swim meets. We would stop at the Safeway by our house on the way — the only time in my childhood when I was allowed to eat this kind of junk food — and I got to pick out two donuts. One was always an old-fashioned glazed donut, which remains my favorite to this day, and the other was some variant of yeasted donut, chocolate-iced maybe, maybe dipped in sugar other times. When I stopped swimming, these donut trips stopped coming too. The only other times I have excessively enjoyed a donut were as a high school senior, when I used to run down to the Irish donut shop with my then-boyfriend. He always got the complicated ones — the apple turnovers and the cream-filled, glazed donuts — but I stuck true to my favorite, the maple-iced cake donut, which was topped with colorful sprinkles. I don’t play the field when it comes to my donuts.

Any other time I have eaten a donut, I have been disappointed by their dryness and have been left feeling predictably sick to my stomach. (Although Nopa once served these incredible, warm sugar-dusted donut holes alongside caramel sauce, and I’m a huge sucker for churros at the zoo, and I have been known to like Tim Horton’s chocolate donut holes, and I also tried deep-fried Oreos at the Italian Street Festival in NYC and will admit to liking them). I can’t say, with this challenge, that my opinion of donuts has changed all that dramatically. I stirred, I kneaded, I battled to the death with sticky dough, I tried it twice, I deep fried, I sugar dusted, I Nutella iced, I ate a couple, and then I wowed my French co-workers, who eagerly took them all off my hands to eat alongside the morning’s French-pressed espressos. The outside was a bit crunchier than I would have liked and the inside could have been a bit fluffier; maybe I’ll try making them again when I am home and not cursing the 12 inches of counter space I have here, but honestly donuts are not high on my to-bake list.

Still it was a challenge, and every challenge has its high points. For instance, I discovered that deep-frying is nowhere near as difficult or as messy as I thought it was. And the grease leftover quickly disappeared under the smell of warmed cinnamon-sugar, which instantly makes me smile when I walk into my apartment. Now if I could just have a slice of buttery cinnamon toast with that, I would say that this was a very successful challenge.

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

Yeast Doughnuts
Preparation time: 
Hands on prep time – 25 minutes
 Rising time – 1.5 hours total
 Cooking time – 12 minutes
Yield: 20 to 25 doughnuts & 20 to 25 doughnut holes, depending on size

Milk 1.5 cup / 360 ml

Vegetable Shortening 1/3 cup / 80 ml / 70 gm / 2.5 oz (can substitute butter, margarine or lard)

Active Dry Yeast 4.5 teaspoon (2 pkgs.) / 22.5 ml / 14 gm / ½ oz

Warm Water 1/3 cup / 80 ml (95°F to 105°F / 35°C to 41°C)

Eggs, Large, beaten 2

White Granulated Sugar ¼ cup / 60 ml / 55 gm / 2 oz

Table Salt 1.5 teaspoon / 7.5 ml / 9 gm / 1/3 oz

Nutmeg, grated 1 tsp. / 5 ml / 6 gm / ¼ oz

All Purpose Flour 4 2/3 cup / 1,120 ml / 650 gm / 23 oz + extra for dusting surface

Canola Oil DEPENDS on size of vessel you are frying in – you want THREE (3) inches of oil (can substitute any flavorless oil used for frying)

1. Place the milk in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat just until warm enough to melt the shortening. (Make sure the shortening is melted so that it incorporates well into the batter.)
2. Place the shortening in a bowl and pour warmed milk over. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let dissolve for 5 minutes. It should get foamy. After 5 minutes, pour the yeast mixture into the large bowl of a stand mixer and add the milk and shortening mixture, first making sure the milk and shortening mixture has cooled to lukewarm.
4. Add the eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and half of the flour. Using the paddle attachment of your mixer (if you have one), combine the ingredients on low speed until flour is incorporated and then turn the speed up to medium and beat until well combined.
5. Add the remaining flour, combining on low speed at first, and then increase the speed to medium and beat well.
6. Change to the dough hook attachment of the mixer and beat on medium speed until the dough pulls away from the bowl and becomes smooth, approximately 3 to 4 minutes (for me this only took about two minutes). If you do not have a dough hook/stand mixer – knead until the dough is smooth and not sticky.
7. Transfer to a well-oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
8. On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to 3/8-inch (9 mm)thick. (Make sure the surface really is well-floured otherwise your doughnuts will stick to the counter).
9. Cut out dough using a 2 1/2-inch (65 mm) doughnut cutter or pastry ring or drinking glass and using a 7/8-inch (22 mm) ring for the center whole. Set on floured baking sheet, cover lightly with a tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.
10. Preheat the oil in a deep fryer or Dutch oven to 365 °F/185°C.
11. Gently place the doughnuts into the oil, 3 to 4 at a time. Cook for 1 minute per side or until golden brown (my doughnuts only took about 30 seconds on each side at this temperature).
12. Transfer to a cooling rack placed in baking pan. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes prior to glazing, if desired.

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