DOUGHNUTS! Pictures, recipes and techniques for making professional quality raised doughnuts at home!

I can't remember what insane impulse drove me to try making raised doughnuts at home. After all, they're so inexpensive you have to wonder why anyone would bother. Yet attempt making them I did... and failed miserably. They were greasy, chewy lumps that I wouldn't feed to a dog. Frustration fired determination and before I knew it I'd spent two weeks frying doughnuts almost every day, gone through 20 pounds of flour and put on almost as much weight from tasting them. But, perseverance paid off and by the time all was said and done I managed to figure out how to make a doughnut that was as good as what's available in doughnut shops. This page presents my technique so that anyone finding it might be saved some of the frustration with which I had to deal.

Please understand that I'm not claiming that the method I developed is anything like the method used in doughnut shops. They have access to temperature controlled raising chambers, super-accurate heated fryers, and ingredients unavailable to home cooks. My recipe and technique is simply a way for people at home to get close to what they can make in a professional kitchen.

In addition to the ingredients and an explanation of the technique used to make doughnuts, this page also presents the results of many experiments to learn how changing certain elements of the recipe effects the doughnuts.

First, let's define the term doughnut. While I readily acknowledge the merits of cake and filled doughnuts, the one true doughnut for me will always be a raised, or yeast, doughnut that has been glazed.

A Little History:

While historians have yet to nail down who invented the doughnut with a hole in the center, the most likely originator is the sea captain Hanson Gregory. In an interview with the Boston Post around 1900 he claimed he invented the first "holed" doughnut when in 1950 he used the top of a small round pepper box to cut the center out of a circle of dough for what was going to be a standard doughnut for the time: something like a jelly filled doughnut without the jelly. (Certain uncharitable historians claim he did it to stint on ingredients.)

The term doughnut itself goes back much further when pilgrims and even people in Europe used to fry nut-sized lumps of dough. These nuts of dough were quickly simplified to doughnuts.

So much for history, let's make some doughnuts.

 
Ingredients:

When I first tried making doughnuts I used several recipes I found on the Internet. Without exception they all came out considerably heavier than professional doughnuts and had a chewy texture reminiscent of bagels. The following recipe that I developed produces a light doughnut that is tender, not bready or chewy. Note: much of the success of this recipe lays with the technique as well as the ingredients. (While measurements are provided in cups and tablespoons, I prefer the more accurate technique of measuring ingredients by weight.)

480 grams (3 and 1/2 cups) all purpose flour
52 grams (1/4 cup) butter flavored Crisco
268 grams (1 and 1/4 cup) milk
38 grams (3 tablespoons) granulated sugar
1 large egg
24 grams (2 tablespoons) dry yeast
3/4 teaspoon of salt

260 grams (two cups poured) powdered sugar
54 grams (3 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons) of cool water

A thermostatically heated deep fat fryer with at least 4 inches of cooking oil in it, heated to 375 (F.) degrees.

A large wood cutting board (10 x 14 inches or larger), rolling pin, and cookie sheet in an oven warmed to 100 degrees. The cookie sheet should be upside down, covered with two layers of paper towel, and topped with eight rectangles of Teflon coated aluminum foil, Teflon side up. Each piece of foil should be lightly coated with flour. (The pan's upside down so you don't have to fight the lip to lift the raised doughnuts up, the paper prevents the highly heat conductive pan from letting too much heat flow into the doughnuts and killing the yeast, and the foil allows you to lift the doughnuts by sliding a spatula under them without disturbing them.)

 
Directions:

Take a cup of the flour and use a pastry cutter to cut the Crisco into it until a very fine crumble forms. Then use the pastry cutter to mix and cut this mixture into the rest of the flour. (I found this two-step procedure ensures a finer texture.) Place this mixture in a microwave for two minutes at the lowest or second lowest power setting. You want to gently warm the mixture but not melt the Crisco.

Whisk the milk, sugar and egg in a metal pan over a medium flame until it is warm but not hot to the touch while the flour heats in the microwave. Add the yeast and continue whisking off the heat until the flour is done heating.

Whisk 1/2 to 1 cup of flour at a time into the yeast mixture. (The reason for adding small quantities it so that you don't accidentally add so much flour that the whisk clogs up and is a mess the clean.) Once the mixture gets too thick for the whisk, switch to mixing with the handle of a wood spoon and add the remainder of the flour. Just before the mixture pulls together into a ball, add the 3/4 teaspoon of salt. (Yeast grows better in fresh water than salt water. Adding the salt at the end like this slows it's dissolving and helps the yeast raise faster.)

Finish mixing until the dough forms a ball. Use a stiff plastic scraper to clean off the sides of the bowl and scoop everything together into a ball. Kneed the dough until it's smooth, about one minute.

Take the warmed cutting board and rolling pin out of the oven, flour both and place the dough on the board. Roll it out so it's a 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Use a 3 and 1/2 inch diameter cookie cutter to cut out six to eight rounds, depending on the shape of the dough. Dip the cutter into flour before each cut. Lift out the surrounding dough and throw it away. (I've tried kneading it smooth and rerolling it but doughnuts made from second-hand dough never raise high enough to make a light dougnut.) Use a 1 and 5/8 inch diameter cutter to cut holes from the center of each round. (Don't worry if the holes look too large. They close up a little as the dough raises.) Pick the doughnut hole up out of each doughnut as soon as it's cut or the sticky sides will glue the hole back to the inside of the doughnut.

By the time you get this done the doughnuts will already have raised 1/4 inch so treat them very gently. From now on the strategy is to do everything possible to preserve the gas the yeast is giving off in the raising process. Bumpling, pressing, or almost any disturbance will cause some of the gas (carbon dioxide) to escape and the doughnuts, which rely on it to expand when they hit the hot oil, will not raise as high. Using a spatula, carefully transfer each doughnut to one of the foil rectangles on the cookie sheet.

Close the oven door and let them raise for 15 to 20 minutes. The doughnuts need to be 1 and 1/2 inches high or higher to puff properly when they hit the oil.

 

Doughnuts-to-be going into a 100 degree oven to raise.

Fifteen to 20 minutes later they should be 1 and 1/2 inches high or higher. If not, then give them another five minutes. Check to make sure the oven is kept at an even 100 degrees. (The reason for warming all the ingredients, cutting board, and raising pan is to to keep the dough warm so it raises faster. Using this technique the doughnuts will raise as high in 15 minutes as they might in an hour or more if cold ingredients and instruments are used.)

Once they've raised, very gently slide a metal spatula under the foil on which one of them rests and lift it out. Close the door of the oven to keep the remaining doughnuts warm.

Gently ease the doughnut, foil and all, into the 375 degree oil until it's floating. Then use the spatula to push the foil down into the oil and away from the doughnut. Again using the spatula, push the foil to one side and up, out of the oil. Be careful not to drip any oil on the top of the doughnut. (This sounds like a complicated maneuver but it really goes all in one step. The reason for all this is again to prevent disturbing the doughnut, which would reduce it's puff.)

Let the doughnut fry for 20 to 40 seconds or until the edge of the bottom is a light golden brown. Gently flip the doughnut over for another 20 to 40 seconds to cook what will be the top. (The second side cooked always comes out rounder than the first and makes a more attractive top for the doughnut.)

Lift the fried doughnut out of the oil, let it drip one or two seconds, then place it on a paper towel.

Quickly use the towel to blot off any oil on the surface of the doughnut. Be careful, even if the doughnut looks dry it can have enough hot oil on it to cause