Well it’s January, which means that it’s the WORST month of the year, and also I’m not in class. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend schools that have optional Jan-terms, aka “of course I’m not taking a fucking class if I don’t have to.” The seasonal affective disorder is also STRONG y’all. Even though I live in California, it’s still cold and dark and I don’t want to go outside. All of this means that I say I’m taking “time for me”, but really I’m just desperately trying to fill the hours between when my body flings me into consciousness and when I can crawl back into bed. That means baking! (Or frying, I guess.)
If you follow me on Instagram you might have seen my poll where I asked whether I should learn how to make donuts or puff pastry this month. Both are things I’ve wanted to make for awhile, but honestly I’m glad that donuts won. Not JUST because they’re easier and puff pastry is SCARY, but because I love donuts. I’ll choose a donut over a cupcake anytime, and even sometimes a cookie. Even grocery store ones. (shout out to Roth’s in Oregon, I miss those donuts every day.) But they do require frying and that can be intimidating, so I’ve put off trying to make them.
“But Lara there are BAKED donut recipes ALL OVER PINTEREST, what about BAKED donuts” You say, and you are correct! I have made many a-baked donut in my day! I even have the stupid special pans that can only be used for making the baked donuts; they are taking up space in our cabinets as we speak! But every time I’ve made baked donuts they’ve turned out…very mediocre. Like really it’s just cake baked in a ring shape and honestly I’ve never experienced a baked donut with a texture that wasn’t just a little bit off. Like they’re fine. Make them if you want. But they really don’t compare to the real fried deal. So it’s oil time!
This is the first of 3 rounds of donuts that I’ll be attempting. I decided to start off easy and go for a non-yeasted (aka old-fashioned, cake donut, sour cream donut, whatever) recipe because it’s less time and effort and therefore less stakes. Luckily for me my boy Chris Morocco from Bon Appetit has a recipe for cake donuts that are quick and easy. Here’s the link!
Of course since it’s ME I can’t just make the recipe as it is, and after scouring a few internet comments, I modified the recipe by adding 2 whole eggs instead of just the yolks, added a 1/4 tsp of nutmeg, and opted for a traditional vanilla glaze rather than the lemon one. Sorry Chris, I’m trying to go old-school here. Other than those changes I followed the recipe and method exactly.
The dough came together SUPER quickly and easily. The only slightly finicky part is that you have to put a TON of flour on the parchment paper and on top of the dough otherwise it is extremely sticky. Then you have to brush off all that flour so it doesn’t burn in the oil. But even that wasn’t so bad once I got the hang of it, and soon I had eight little donut babies and holes ready for their crispy fates.
Look, deep frying is intimidating. The oil is literally 350 degrees which means it can and will incinerate your face if it gets the chance. Also grease fires are a thing, and even though I TECHNICALLY know what to do if there’s a grease fire, I’m pretty sure if one actually started I would just kind of make distressed noises at it while frantically running around. But since I got a cast iron pan I’ve been dabbling in fried chicken, so I wasn’t too worried about the frying process. I even got an ACTUAL deep-fry/candy thermometer (if I can ever get over my caramel grudge I might attempt some caramel) so that I could be super precise with my oil temperature. (The key to frying, apparently)
Frying the donuts was a breeze. I was nervous at first because the donuts didn’t quite want to stay together in a ring, especially the ones that were punched out after re-rolling the dough. But once they went into the fryer they puffed up into beautiful golden brown bois. Honestly the only tricky part was keeping the oil temperature consistent. I had to keep a close eye on the thermometer and increase/decrease the heat on the stove to make sure the oil wasn’t too hot (burnt donuts) or too cold (oily donuts). It probably would be easier on a gas stove, but alas, we are an electric household. It went much faster than I thought it would too, the whole process took maybe an hour and a half at most.
Obviously I had to try a donut straight out of the fryer, or in this case a weird franken-fritter looking thing that I made with the leftover dough scraps. These donuts are DELICIOUS y’all. They are crispy with a soft and light inside, and the nutmeg really gave them that classic donut-shop taste. (Whatever that means lmao.) Since I tried it without the glaze it was only lightly sweet, but you know that’s kind of nice sometimes! This recipe also used greek yogurt instead of sour cream, which gave the donuts a nice subtle tangy flavor that was actually really good. I would say that they aren’t exactly the same in texture to the old-fashioned donuts you get at the store, but they are still cakey and craggy. They’d probably be awesome with coffee.
My main concern through this process was keeping the donuts fresh. I planned to take them into work the next morning and as EVERY FUCKING RECIPE will tell you, donuts are best eaten as soon as possible after frying. But after some scooby-dooing I found a tip that said to wrap the donuts in napkins and then place them in a ziploc bag. So I wrapped up my unglazed donuts overnight, and then glazed them this morning. The glaze didn’t harden quite as much as I would have liked, so next time I might have made it thicker/used less liquid. That would have made it more visible as well. But I promise there’s glaze on there, and it was still very tasty! Obviously they still weren’t as fresh the next day, but after nuking them for a few seconds they were still pretty tasty!
So here are my thoughts after Round 1 of Donuts:
- This was MESSY recipe y’all. Between all the flour on the counter, the oil, and all the glaze dripping everywhere there was a lot of clean-up.
- Chris Morocco’s’ donut recipe is great and he is great.
- Cake donuts really are best when they’re fresh, but if you store them in an airtight container and revive them in the microwave they’re still perfectly good
- Deep frying isn’t scary, just takes a lot of adjusting the temperature and some common safety sense (and like, google what to do if there’s a grease fire first)
- Overall, the whole donut process seems to be much easier than I thought it would be, but this was the “easy mode” recipe, so there’s still plenty of chances to fuck something up!
Round 2 of Donut Mania will be classic yeasted ring donuts, so we’re makin enriched dough baby! Stay tuned.