Friday, May 31, 2013

Homemade Doughnuts (Yes You Can!)

Having tried my hand at every other passing dessert fad--pie, cupcakes, macarons--it was really only a
matter of time before I broke down and made an effort at crafting my own homemade doughnuts as the craze sweeps through town. Right off the bat, I'll tell you that homemade doughnuts are both easier and harder than you would think. Easier in that deep frying is very intimidating but actually SIMPLE if you invest in an accurate thermometer, and harder in that it takes a loooooong time, plus you have to deal with that eternal prima donna: yeast.

Add to that, there are approximately 9, 537 doughnut recipes which claim to be "THE BEST EVER!" I even purchased three different cookbooks devoted exclusively to doughnut recipes, and each book espoused a completely different recipe and method. So. That being said, if you think all of this might already be a little much for you, you can still have delicious baked doughnuts at home with half the hassle. But, I encourage you to take the yeasty doughnut plunge, because it was totally worth it.

I have to say, I loved these doughnuts. They were tall, thick and--my favorite part--chewy. If you're more of a Krispy Kreme fan, this is probably not the recipe for you. But, if you like your fried dough to have a bit of chew, then you should definitely give this one a whirl. Also, having subsequently tried a recipe using less flour, these doughnuts were also considerably stronger and easier to handle, so they might be a good option for beginners.

Have you ever had one of those "Ah ha! Why did I never think of that before?!" moments in cooking? That definitely happened to me with Top Pot's doughnut recipe and their description of using a pan of boiling water to create a proofing box out of your oven. Pure. Genius. If you don't actually have any "warm, draft-free" areas in your home and always have trouble getting yeast doughs to rise, this will change your (baking) life.

Overall I was thrilled with these doughnuts and plan to make them again, though you only have to read about the recent difficulties encountered by Zeke's DC Donutz to understand one of the big downsides of doughnut making--you may want to open a window

A few notes: You absolutely need a thermometer for these doughnuts to work. You don't need anything fancy, and the candy thermometer you bought years ago, used once for fudge, then lost in the cabinet will work just fine. I also recommend any type of steel or metal implement for transferring the doughnuts from the baking sheet to the oil--a metal spatula, offset spatula, or some other heat-resistant implement that you can dunk directly into the oil is ideal. When transferring the doughnuts to the oil, try to shake off as much excess flour as possible, as it's these particles that can pop and burn, leading to a fire. Finally, I would recommend halving the frosting recipe unless, well, you really ingest doughnuts purely as a glaze delivery mechanism :)

Raised Glazed Ring Doughnuts
     makes 12-14, plus holes
     From Top Pot

3 Tbs (four 1/4 oz/7 g packets) active dry yeast
1 cup very warm water (about 105 degrees)
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 Tbs
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground mace (optional)
2 tsp salt
4 to 4 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for rolling/cutting
1/4 cup vegetable lard
 3 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Canola oil, for frying

1. Whisk the yeast, water, and 1 Tbs of the sugar together in the work bowl of a stand mixer and set aside for 5 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, mace (if using), salt, and 4 cups of the bread flour. Set aside.

3. Add the shortening, egg yolks, and vanilla to the foaming yeast mixture. Mix with the paddle attachment on low speed for 1 minute, to break up the shortening. Add about a third of the dry ingredients and mix until blended on low speed, then repeat with the second third of the dry ingredients.

4. Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining dry ingredients, mixing on low speed until no white spots remain each time, adding additional flour as necessary, until the dough is dry enough to clean the bottom of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and knead for 2 more minutes. (It should be smooth like bread dough, but still a little tacky).

5. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet sprinkled with 1 Tbs flour, shape into a flat disk 6 inches in diameter, dust lightly with flour, cover with a dish towel and set aside.

6. Create a proofing box in your oven: Bring a large kettle of water to a boil. Pour 8 cups of the boiling water into a 9x13 inch baking dish and set it on the floor of your oven. Place the sheet with the covered dough on the middle rack of the oven, close the door, and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

7. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll into a roughly 12 inch circle, about 1/2 inch thick, with a lightly floured rolling pin. cut into 12 doughnuts, flouring the cutter before each cut. (re-roll the dough for additional doughnuts). gently transfer the doughnuts and holes to two baking sheets sprinkled with 2 tbs flour each, arranging them at least 2 inches apart, and let rise in the oven (with new boiling water), uncovered, for another 30-45 minutes, until doubled in size.

8. Using a candy thermometer to measure the temperature, heat oil (at least 2 inches deep) in a deep fryer, large pot, or high-sided frying pan over medium heat to 350 degrees. when the doughnuts have doubled, carefully place a few in the oil, taking care not to overcrowd them, and fry for about 30 seconds. (Note that the doughnuts will look more brown when they're done than they do in the oil). Carefully turn the doughnuts and fry for another 20-30 seconds, then transfer to a cooling rack set over a layer of paper towels to cool, rounded side up.

9. While the doughnuts are still very warm, dip the rounded side of each into the warm glaze. let dry on cooling racks, glazed side up, for 10-15 minutes.

Simple Chocolate Icing

4 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tsp light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbs hot water
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted

1. Place the confectioners' sugar, corn syrup, salt, vanilla and hot water in a alrge mixing bowl. Using a whisk, blend until the mixture is smooth and all of the sugar has been incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if necessary. Add the chocolate, and stire to combine completely. If the icing seems too thick, add more hot water a teaspoon at a time.

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