Those who know me well, know that I have a thing for doughnuts. I’ve made them a few times before and achieved decent results. My recent foray into bread baking gave me the urge to try to make the best doughnuts I’ve ever eaten. By chance, I think I may have done it.
The process that follows is not for the baking novice. There are some great recipes out there that are much less involved. I’ve tried them and this one is my favorite. The resulting doughnuts are as light as air, crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The natural yeast gives a special depth to the flavor that I’ve never had before in a basic yeast doughnut.
The recipe is an amalgam of several other recipes, none of which were meant for doughnuts. Most of the measurements are by weight, the most practical measurement for the serious baker, except for things like butter or eggs, where I thought weighing them was a waste of time, or the glaze, where it doesn’t matter how precise you are.
150g Leaven (Saving the remainder to act as your starter)
200g Poolish (Using all of it)
150g Warm Milk
1 Stick of Melted Butter (Cooled slightly)
4g Instant Yeast
500g AP Flour
3 cups Powdered Sugar
½ teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Vanilla
½ cup Cold Milk
Oil for frying
It’s okay if some of these ingredients seem like complete Greek. I’ll try to explain them, although this is an advanced recipe. Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of the dough-making process, as I was making bread the same morning and had to get breakfast on the table.
This is the part that makes my method unique. I use a natural yeast leaven (sourdough), along with a commercial yeast poolish. This is the spot where, if you’ve never worked with a leaven, you might want to figure that out before continuing.
The night before I plan to fry, I mix 100g of water(78°F) and 100g of flour that is 50/50 white/whole wheat, to a teaspoon of mature active sourdough starter. Cover with a towel and leave overnight at cool household temperature (64°F). A spoonful of your leaven should float in water when it’s ready.
Also the night before, mix 100g of water with 100g of flour and 2g of instant yeast. Leave in the fridge overnight. It should also float in water the next morning.
In a large bowl, mix together the leaven and poolish with the warm milk. It will be gloopy and probably won’t come together well. That’s okay.
In a medium bowl, mix the butter, eggs, salt, and sugar. Add this to the ingredients in the big bowl. Add the yeast.
Mix it all together until it forms a smooth wet dough. It will look shaggy and will likely still not seem like a very cohesive dough. Again, that’s okay.
Plop the dough into a clean container to begin the bulk fermentation. I did this step at room temperature.
During the next 2 hours, perform a stretch and fold every 30 minutes. How to stretch and fold can be found here.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough to about ½ inch thick. Cut with a doughnut cutter and place onto a floured parchment-lined cookie sheet. These could also be chopped with a bench knife to make a sort of beignet.
Cover the doughnuts with plastic wrap and allow to proof 2 hours at room temp. This is where I got started with the photos.
Fill a Dutch oven with about 3 inches of light oil like canola. Heat to 375°F.
Ready a slotted spoon or spider, as well as a set of chopsticks or wooden skewers. These are great for flipping.
Set out a stack of paper towel 4 layers thick. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of this step. Without the towels, you will have greasy doughnuts.
Make your glaze by mixing all the ingredients together in a flat-bottomed bowl and whisk with a fork.
Fry the doughnuts for about 1-2 minutes on each side, until they’re a deep golden brown.
As soon as they can be handled, drop them into the glaze, flipping them once, and then placing them on a wire rack to cool.
These are best eaten in the first few hours, although the more careful you are to keep your frying temps at 375°, the less oil they will hold and the better they will taste later in the day.