Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"It's time to make the doughnuts!" - Michael Scott

I've never really thought about frying doughnuts at home.  I don't have a deep fryer, don't particularly care for doughnuts, and I had a horrifying accident as a child when flaming cooking oil was splashed down my left leg.  The doctor said I'd have the huge, puckered scars for life, but my grandpa embarked on a home remedy treatment that eradicated them after two years.  Suffice it to say, though, I now avoid heated oil like the plague.

Still, I wasn't able to get doughnuts out of my mind last week, in part because I'd been looking for a special treat to end Todd's extra-hectic work week.  Thursday's treat, a molten lava cake with a chocolate/strawberry center, was a bust, since I removed it from the oven and promptly dropped it on the floor.  Todd gamely ate the scraps, but I couldn't help but feel like it was a bit of a letdown.  And Todd, who doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, loves maple doughnuts.  I tried to resist the idea, but when I found myself musing, "I wonder if they carry maple extract?" when passing by a grocery store on Friday morning, I knew it was all over.  

I will warn you now that I have no "glamour shots" of this process.  I tried one dough recipe that was a total flop, so it was almost 4:00 (and with rapidly fading light) before I found a great recipe and was able to get the process going!  The photos are poor, but I hope they're still helpful.

I was really surprised to learn that making doughnuts at home is not much more difficult or time-consuming than making a loaf of bread.  You mix up the dough ingredients, let it rise, roll it out and manipulate it into the desired shape(s), and let it rise again.  Instead of popping your loaf into the oven, you drop your shapes into hot oil for a little over a minute total...and you're basically done!  While messy, it was surprisingly easy...and I was absolutely caught off guard by how amazing a freshly-fried doughnut tasted.  I'm not a maple fan, but the maple flavoring was so subtle.  Todd declared these "THE BEST DOUGHNUTS I'VE EVER HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!!" and at the risk of tooting my own horn, I'd have to agree.  I had a regular Tom Hanks moment (a la Castaway), strutting around the kitchen and crowing about my accomplishment. Really, though, it's not due to my skill, but to good basic ingredients and following proper form.  

Let's dive in...

Maple Variety

Dough recipe from How Sweet It Is

Maple Cream recipe from She Knows, slightly modified


1 ½ cups milk                                                                

1/3 cup water                                                                 

1/3 cup butter, unsalted                                                 

1 tablespoon honey                                                        

4 ½ teaspoons yeast                                                     

2 eggs, lightly beaten

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon nutmeg

5 – 5 ½ cups flour

oil for frying at 2 – 4” depth

1 stick butter, unsalted
4 tablespoons maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon maple extract (to taste)
2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons milk


4 tablespoons butter, unsalted

1 teaspoon honey

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon vanilla

1+ teaspoons maple extract (to taste)

12 ounces powdered sugar

4 tablespoons milk (to reach desired consistency)


Heat milk, water, and butter together in a saucepan until butter is melted.  Let cool from “hot” to “warm” and then add yeast and honey.  Combine, and then add eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and half of the flour.  Mix, then with dough hook attachment in place, add the rest of the flour and knead for about 7 minutes.  Dough will be sticky but if it doesn’t form a loose ball, add more flour until it does.  Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 – 60 minutes. 

When it’s fully risen, slide the dough out onto a well-floured surface and roll to a one-inch thickness.  Cut it into desired shapes and cover again, placing in a warm place and letting it rise for another 30 minutes or so.  I used my crumpet cutters to make these shapes and since I was going with a filling, opted not to cut out a center hole.  You could also cut long rectangles...anything you want!

 Meanwhile, heat your oil.  I used canola oil, which made a terrible ‘fishy’ smell but didn’t affect the taste of the bread.  I’ve heard that peanut and vegetable oils are less offensive.  Dip your thermometer into your 2 – 3 inches of oil and heat it to about 350 degrees.  Watch it…don’t let it get over 370!  When it’s ready, place your doughnuts in, 2 or 3 at a time.  The oil will sizzle when you drop the dough in...don't worry!  It startled me, but when no flames erupted, I felt able to continue with the process, albeit shakily.  :)  Let the dough cook for about 45 seconds.  Use a slotted spoon and turn, letting it cook for 20 seconds on the other side.   Remove and let oil drain off.  

A nice golden brown!

While doughnuts are cooling, whip up your filling by creaming the butter, syrup, and extract, and then adding the powdered sugar.  Add as much milk as you need to achieve a pipe-able thickness.

 For the frosting, combine butter, honey, salt, vanilla, and maple extract.  Add powdered sugar and mix, and then add milk to reach your desired thickness.  For both the filling and the frosting, add the maple extract in small increments until you have the desired flavor.  

Wait at least 30 minutes for the doughnuts to cool before filling.  Using a wide-ended tip and a filled pastry bag, poke into the bottom of your round doughnut (or in a long line in a rectangular one) and squeeze in a healthy amount of filling.   

Wide tip...

Resulting holes:

You could probably cut a corner in a plastic sandwich bag if you don't have a metal tip.   I didn't have time to let my doughnuts cool before filling and frosting, since I was an hour behind schedule.  You can still fill and frost hot doughnuts, but you'll need to keep them turned upside-down to keep the hot filling from running out!  I highly recommend waiting, though.

Use a small spatula to slather frosting on top.  Because I frosted these doughnuts hot, and the fading light, they don't look very nice, but let me repeat:  a freshly-fried doughnut will rock your world. 

 Doughnuts are best enjoyed the first day, but reheat nicely.

The basic dough recipe is amazing, and there are really almost endless possibilities for frostings and fillings.  I try not to make fried food (I actually can't remember the last time I fried something), but this is a great treat and freezes well.  I halved the recipe above and it made 7 round doughnuts.  I had one, Todd had one, and the rest got popped into the freezer, individually wrapped, for another day.  

I hope you give it a try.  I always feel such a sense of accomplishment when I attempt something that intimidates me and I succeed.  I know that if he could, Tom Hanks would say, "I HAVE...MADE DOUGHNUTS!"  And Michael Scott would say, "Your doughnuts make me go nuts!"  They're THAT good. 

Have a great week!

1 comment:

  1. Sorry about the crazy formatting! I pasted in part of the blog and was unable to get everything aligned properly.