So, if you’re following me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ve probably seen by now the mass of doughnuts I’ve been producing lately. There’s something about them … their implied complexity, the danger of a pot full of hot oil, their satisfying woah-I’ve-never-made-homemade-doughnuts-before feeling … and I love it. Surprisingly simple and fun to work with, they’ve quickly become a staple in my breakfast repertoire. I started with apple cider (to ring in the fall of course), followed with pumpkin spice (another seasonal favorite), and now I’ve tried my hand at a yeast doughnut – the lovable, puffy pillows to which cake doughnuts simply cannot compare.
The concept is simple: a slightly sweetened, slightly spiced, yeasted dough is made and let to rise, cut into our beloved ring shape, let to rise again, and fried to a golden brown, like everything important in life. Okay, most things. They’re then topped with a simple glaze, consisting of confectioner’s sugar and water, or in my case … bourbon. (Who do you think I am???) No regrets, only a heaping pile of doughnuts and the powerful punch to your palate.
I adapted Alton Brown’s recipe from his Good Eats show, for sentimental and practical reasons (I used to love that show), and was profoundly happy with the results. Take a gander, and try it for yourself:
Bourbon-Glazed Yeast Doughnuts
Doughnuts: (yields 18-24, depending on how thick you roll the dough)
– 1 1/2 C whole milk
– 1/3 C vegetable shortening (important for the most fluff; butter would yield a denser doughnut)
– 2 packages active dry yeast (or 4 1/2 tsp. if you have a jar of the stuff like I do)
– 1/3 C warm water
– 2 eggs, beaten
– 1/4 C sugar
– 1 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 tsp nutmeg (this is CRUCIAL for that subtle mind-blowing fragrance you’re looking for)
– about 5 1/2 C all-purpose flour (you will use a little more for dusting/kneading, but start with this)
– 1 1/2 – 2 Quarts vegetable/canola/peanut oil for frying (depends on the size of your dutch oven … which you will also need)
– 1 Tbsp bourbon
– 1 Tbsp water
– 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
– confectioner’s sugar
– I am so bad with measuring glaze, so I just started with the whiskey and water and vanilla and slowly started mixing in spoonfuls of sugar (probably about a cup) until it was the right consistency. Keep stirring until it’s nice and smooth. You want it thick enough to fall in ribbons from your spoon when you pull it out. Feel free to add more liquid or more sugar to get your desired consistency, and you can keep adding bourbon/sugar to make more if you run out.
1) Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat, and once hot, add the shortening. Stir until dissolved. It will separate in oily bubbles, but that is perfectly alright. Once dissolved, set aside to cool. It needs to be only lukewarm before the next step, so do this early if necessary. And DON’T put it in the freezer if you can avoid it – some bits of the shortening will re-solidify and kind of defeat the purpose, even if it speeds up the cooling process.
2) Add your yeast to your warm water (please not hot, don’t kill them!) in a large bowl, give it a stir and wait a few minutes for little bubbles to form. This is always a good way to “test” your yeast and make sure they’re alive and hungry. Add the COOLED milk/shortening mixture to your bowl, followed by your eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and about half of the flour. Stir it briefly and start adding the rest of the flour until it’s all in there. Continue to stir it with a spatula until it all comes together in a shaggy ball and starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl, 3-4 minutes.
3) Turn your dough out onto WELL-floured surface and knead for 3-4 minutes, adding sprinklings of flour as necessary to keep it smooth and not sticky. It should feel start out feeling weird and gloopy and end up feeling smooth and pliant. A little sticking to your fingers, but overall a round, fluffy orb. Re-flour your surface, put your dough blob on it, and turn your bowl over it. DON’T PEEK FOR 1 HOUR. It needs to sleep.
4) One hour later, take off the bowl, lift up your dough blob (by now twice the size and twice as fluffy-feeling) and drop it back onto the counter from about 2 feet. You want to deflate it. Don’t knead it again, but start rolling it out into a sheet, about 1/2 inch thick. Using a doughnut cutter (seriously, buy one, it’s three dollars) or 2.5/3″ and 1″ cookie cutters, cut up all your doughnuts, re-rolling leftover dough as necessary. Arrange your doughnuts on well-floured baking sheets, cover with dishtowel, and give them a half hour or so to sleep again. Dough is very lazy.
5) Pour your oil in a deep dutch oven, or some deep, thick-walled pot. You want 2-3″ of oil, so adjust the amount accordingly. Heat over medium-high heat until it reaches about 365°F. Now, I don’t have a thermometer, so I use a little test of my own: throw a little piece of leftover dough in when you think it’s hot. If it bubbles and floats immediately it’s ready, if it sinks first and then floats it needs to get a little hotter. Always keep an eye on the cooking time of each doughnut and adjust the heat accordingly if it feels like it’s getting brown too quickly. It’s a delicate science without a thermometer, so buy one if you’re wary. (Also like, three dollars.)
6) When the oil’s ready, CAREFULLY slide your doughnuts into your pot, one at a time. Don’t overcrowd it. Cook for 30 seconds to a minute and then flip. Cook again until golden brown all over. Remove and set on a cooling rack lined with paper towel. Repeat until DOUGHNUTS. Same goes for the holes, though they’re harder to flip since they get kind of bottom heavy and don’t like to roll over.
7) While doughnuts cool-ish, make the GLAZE: start with the bourbon and add in spoonfuls of confectioners sugar until you’ve got the consistency you need. If you want a non-alcoholic substitute, use water instead of bourbon, and add a little splash of vanilla extract. Or experiment with any other ideas! I made an infusion of fig & pear bourbon a few months ago, and I used the leftovers for this incredible treat. The doughnut is your canvas. Dunk your doughnut’s face in the glaze, lift up, invert and place rightside up on your cooling rack, placed over another baking sheet to catch the drips, which there will be LOTS of.
See my Apple Cider Doughnuts post for some other tips on doughnuteering (it’s a word now), and good luck!