Who doesn’t love sugar doughnuts? They’re light, they’re crispy, and they’re coated in sugar… and that’s just the ones that aren’t filled!
Did you know there are two main types of doughnuts? Cake doughnuts, and yeast doughnuts. Cake doughnuts are quicker to make and use baking powder as the raising agent, but they’re also denser (think of those mini chocolate-coated doughnuts you buy from the supermarket). Yeast-risen doughnuts are, in my opinion, proper doughnuts and, of course, they use yeast as the raising agent. Yes, they take a couple of hours to make but most of that is proving time; you just leave them to do their thing.
Doughnuts can be dated back hundreds of years to Medieval times in the Middle East, where cooks would cook chunks of enriched dough in oil and coat them in sugar. It wasn’t until the 1400s that they became popular in Europe, but it’s safe to say we’ve been consuming them in quantity ever since.
I’ve made this recipe as versatile as possible as I know not everyone likes the same fillings and some prefer just plain sugar doughnuts. So, the main recipe is for a plain sugar doughnut but the variations at the bottom should cover most of the common fillings. If I miss any, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.
- 50 g bread flour
- 30 g caster sugar
- 7 g one sachet fast action yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 egg large
- 75 ml water luke warm
- 65 g butter softened
- 2 L flavourless oil such as vegetable or sunflower
- Extra sugar for dusting/coating
- In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, yeast and salt (being careful to ensure the salt and yeast don’t touch each other at this stage, as it may retard the yeast during proving.)
- Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the egg and water to the bowl. Mix the ingredients together until the dough forms a ball and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
- Next, if you have a stand mixer, knead the dough for approximately 10-12 minutes on a medium speed, adding the butter in small pieces gradually. Don’t worry if the butter doesn’t mix in straight away and it all looks like it’s gone terribly wrong, it will come together eventually to form a tight, elastic ball of dough.
- If you don’t have a stand mixer, you’ll need to incorporate the butter by hand. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes then start to fold in the butter. It will be a bit messy at first, but keep going. In total, you will need to fold and knead for about 15-20 minutes, until an elastic dough is formed with a smooth skin.
- Leave the dough to prove for around an hour or until the dough has doubled in size. I usually leave my dough on the kitchen side if it’s the middle of Summer otherwise I put it into the airing cupboard.
Time to shape
- Once proved, knock back the dough and cut into eight equal pieces.
- Form a cage around the dough with your hand and roll each of dough pieces between your hand and the work surface, applying a little pressure, to form round balls.
- Cut a sheet of baking parchment into eight 5 x 5 inch squares and place the squares on one or two baking sheets so the baking parchment doesn’t overlap.
- Place each dough ball onto a separate square of baking parchment and leave to prove for a further hour (the dough should double in size as before.)
Frying the doughnuts
- Once the dough is proved, heat your oil in a fryer or heavy bottom pan (preferably enameled cast iron) to 180°C.
- You will need to check the temperature of the oil to ensure it stays at around 180°C. Any higher and the oil with start to smoke (resulting in doughnuts that are raw on the inside and burnt on the outside). Much lower than about 175°C and you’ll end up with greasy doughnuts. (I recommend a digital thermometer for this, as it’s more accurate and easier to read.)
- Fry the doughnuts one or two at a time by place them in the oil with the baking parchment still on them (baking parchment on top), keeping hold of one corner of the baking parchment. Remove the baking parchment from the top of the doughnuts once they’re in the oil. If necessary, submerge the doughnuts under the surface of the oil with a chopstick or skewer to help them peel off the parchment.
- Fry the doughnuts for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden. Remember, the doughnuts with continue to darken once removed from the oil so they should be slightly paler than desired.
- Place the fried doughnuts on a wire rack to cool slightly.
- Fill a bowl with sugar and when the doughnuts are warm (but not hot) roll them in sugar.
- Leave the doughnuts to cool for at least 20-30 minutes before serving.
Fillings: Variations on a theme…
If you wish to fill your doughnuts once they’re cool, you can do so by piercing them on the side with a knife or skewer and injecting them with your desired filling using a piping bag fitted with an filling nozzle. There’s no need to heat the following fillings before piping:
- Raspberry jam: I find Hartleys seedless raspberry jam is perfect for doughnuts.
- Chocolate: try using Nutella (or perhaps a chocolate spread that’s free from palm oil).
- Custard: Birds custard works fine but you’ll need to make it with about half as much milk as specified in order for it to be thick enough to fill doughnuts.