Welcome to the first installment of the March doughnut project! The traditional yeast doughnut -- think basic glazed doughnut. The kind that made Krispy Kreme famous -- you know, the free sample you get in the store, hot and just-ridden-through-the-sugary-glazing-waterfall conveyor belt. (Yeah, you're not the only one drooling.)
This first doughnut recipe was the most daunting of all, largely due to its simplicity. No fancy ingredients like blueberries or chocolate chips, no vanilla or jelly filling... nothing to mask the flavor of the basic doughnut if it turned out to taste like cardboard. What if it didn't rise enough? What if the oil wasn't hot enough? What if this was just a bad idea in the first place? After all, I've only made doughnuts twice before, once using a quick "cheating" method. In other words, I'm pretty new at this.
Of the many bakery items that consumers buy, I'd venture to say that doughnuts are at the top of the list of "foods we buy out because we could never make them at home." And trust me, I know; I love walking into a shop and buying a freshly made doughnut. When a Dunkin' Donuts opened up in Squirrel Hill, I was so happy that I could schedule doughnut walks to count for exercising time. Two and a half miles each way, and a doughnut in between. That cancels out, right? My grandma thinks my walks are hilarious -- "My, that's a long way to walk for a doughnut. It must be good!" Pfffff, of course it is, Grandma. Anyway, I digress.
This first doughnut adventure could've gone a number of ways, but luckily for me and my tasters (and you!), I'd say it was a fantastic success. I love Alton Brown for his scientifically sound recipes, but I had two small bones to pick with the guy: 1. Too much nutmeg. It's very strong, and I know many people have issues with the taste, so I cut the amount in half. 2. In no universe, this one or a parallel one, did this make 20-25 doughnuts like the recipe said. I used a bigger doughnut cutter than A.B. and got twice as many doughnuts. Other than that, this certainly counts as good eats. If you'd like smaller doughnuts, use a smaller biscuit cutter. And fry up the doughnut holes if you're a fan of those, too. Bottom line -- these are much easier than you'd think. Mix, first rise, roll and cut, second rise, fry, cool, glaze. Easy!
(adapted from Alton Brown's recipe)
-makes about 40-45 three-inch doughnuts
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco)
2 packages of quick-rise yeast
1/3 cup warm water (95-105 degrees F)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
5 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
Vegetable oil (enough to have about an inch in whatever vessel you're using for frying)
Walk milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and add shortening, stirring constantly until shortening has melted. If a little more heat is needed, return to burner on low heat as needed. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.
In a small bowl, sprinkle both packets of the yeast over the warm water, and let dissolve for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, pour the yeast mixture into the large bowl of an electric mixer, and add the milk and shortening mixture, the eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and half of the flour. With the paddle attachment, combine the ingredients on low speed until the flour is incorporated and then turn the speed to medium and beat well.
Add the remaining flour and combine on low speed at first, then increase the speed to medium and beat well. Switch that attachment to the dough hook and beat on medium speed until the dough starts to pull away from the bowl and becomes smooth, roughly 3 to 4 minutes. (Note: The dough will still be sticky at this point -- don't worry! Resist the urge to add extra flour since you will add later when rolling out the dough.) Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl, cover with a dish towel and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
On a well-floured surface (told you so!), roll out dough to 3/8-inch thick. Cut out dough using a 3-inch biscuit cutter (the rim of a drinking glass works just fine) and a 1-inch ring for the center hole. Set cut out doughnuts on the floured surface you used for rolling, and cover lightly with tea towels, allowing the doughnuts to rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat one to two inches of oil in a heavy bottomed pot to 365 degrees F. Gently place the doughnuts in the oil, 3 to 4 at a time. Cook for roughly 50 seconds to a minute on each side (checking for desired color). Transfer doughnuts to a cooling rack placed over a baking sheet. Allow to cool for 20 minutes before glazing.
For glaze, whisk together 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar with 3 tablespoons of milk until a thin, runny glaze. I wanted a thinner, run-down-the-sides glaze, so I added a bit more milk. If you want a thicker topping, use less milk or more sugar. I actually tried both, just adjusting the thickness as a I went along. No rocket science here. Dip one side of the doughnut in the glaze and set on cooling rack, glaze side up. (Yes, your counter will be covered with sugar if, in your early morning stupor, you forgot to put wax paper under the rack. Oh well. It was a small price to pay for an apartment that smelled like a doughnut shop.) Enjoy with a tall glass of milk or warm cup of coffee. Go back for seconds, even thirds... since you're at home, no one is watching or judging :)