As Daring Bakers, our monthly challenges mostly involve quite a bit of baking. Occasionally though, we take a break do challenges that do not involve baking and this month was one such challenge.
This October, our hostess for the month challenged us to make ourselves some doughnuts. While many of us chose to fry our doughnuts, some others chose to bake them. We had the choice to fry them, bake them, glaze them, fill them, or make them any which way we wanted to, but we had to make some doughnuts.
The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.
Lori wanted us to make doughnuts using one of the four given recipes, but beyond that we were free to experiment with shapes, flavours, glazes or anything else we could think of. Having made doughnuts before, this wasn’t a challenge for me but it was an opportunity to try a new recipe, and I'm always happy to make doughnuts.
I have rather nostalgic memories about doughnuts because they are a part of my student days at the university. Back then, there were many days of the week when my classes used to be back to back, and I had about 15 minutes of lunchtime out which I spent 10 minutes running from one department to the next for my classes. The remaining 5 minutes would be spent at this small store on the way, which sold jam filled doughnuts.
Now that I think back, I must say they weren’t the best doughnuts I have eaten but back then, they were just the thing. They were inexpensive (student’s budget, you know), made a great “lunch on the run”, and gave us the sugar boost-carbs-calories combination that we desperately needed to face the next class!
I initially made a half recipe of the Alton Brown doughnuts and though they were not bad, I found them too soft with a very strong flavour of yeast. It did seem to me that 4 1/2 tsp yeast for 4 2/3 cups of flour a bit on the higher side. A lot of my fellow DBs who made the same doughnuts don’t seem to have felt this, so maybe its really a matter of taste.
While I do like soft doughnuts, I also consider them comforting kind of food. I do not like them so light and spongy that they’re almost not there when you bite into them.
So I made some changes to the recipe by reducing the amount of yeast and increasing the rising time for the dough.
I also reduced the egg by one. I think you could leave the eggs out completely and still have pretty good doughnuts, if you’re looking for an eggless doughnut recipe.
I used 5 cups of flour and still had a some what sticky dough. Please resist the urge to add more flour, otherwise you will end up with tough chewy doughnuts.
So I shall bake doughnuts another day. For now, here are my adapted recipes for this month’s challenge. You can find the detailed challenge here.
This video of Alton Brown making his doughnuts is worth a watch.
(Adapted from Alton Brown)
1 1/2 cups milk
70 gm butter
3 tsp active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
5 cups all purpose flour + extra for dusting
oil for deep frying
Warm the milk in a pan, over medium heat, just enough to melt the butter. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water and 1 tsp of sugar and wait for about 5 minutes till the mixture is foamy.
You can mix up and knead the dough in a mixer, but I did it with a wooden spoon.
In a large bowl, put the dissolved yeast, the butter-milk mixture, the egg, sugar, salt and about 2 1/2 cups of flour. Using a wooden spoon, mix well till the flour is incorporated.
Now add about 2 cups of flour and mix till a rather sticky dough forms. If your dough is very sticky add another 1/2 cup of flour, but no more. Do not give in to the temptation to add more flour.
Mix the dough again with the spoon until all the flour has been well incorporated into the dough and looks smooth. It will still be a bit sticky.
Lightly dust your palms with flour, and shape the dough into a ball, and place it in a well oiled bowl, turning it to coat it with oil. Loosely cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise for about 1 1/2 hours. Then place the risen dough in the fridge for another hour or so till it rises and is almost double in volume.
Dust your work surface with flour and place the dough on it. Using your hands (dust your palms if necessary), lightly press the dough out to flatten it a bit and the roll it out to 1/2" thickness. Flour your cutter and cut out the dough into desired shape/ size.
I made three different shapes – the traditional round ones with a hole in the middle, some square ones, and some flower shaped ones. I used my doughnut cutter to cut small round doughnuts. For the square ones, I used my pizza cutter to cut out squares and then punched out the holes in the middle with a small piece of metal piping.
For the flower shaped ones, I first cut out circles with a pastry ring and then used my dough scraper to make 6 equally spaced cuts from the edge towards the centre.
Place the doughnuts on a floured surface and cover them loosely with a clean kitchen towel and allow them to rise for about 30 minutes.
Then heat enough the oil in a pan (or fryer to 185C/ 365F), about 3” deep. I don’t have a fryer or thermometer, but because I have done a lot of deep-frying before, I can gauge the temperature of oil well enough.
Slide the doughnuts, about 3 or 4 at a time, and fry them on both sides till they’re a uniform golden brown. Remember the oil temperature needs to be right. If the temperature is low, the doughnuts will absorb a lot of oil and be greasy. If it is too hot, the doughnuts will turn dark quickly and be uncooked at the centre.
Drain them on paper towels and allow them to cool a bit. Drop them into a paper bag containing cinnamon sugar and shake well to coat the doughnuts with sugar.
Otherwise let them cool completely (about 15 to 20 minutes) before glazing them. This recipe makes about 20 to 25 doughnuts depending on the size and holes.
If you would like to freeze some of your doughnuts, you can do it now before glazing them. Let them cool to room temperature.
Place the doughnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer. When they’re completely frozen, put them in a freezer bag and seal well.
Whenever you would like some, remove the doughnuts from the freezer, place them on a sheet and heat them in a 200C (400F) for about 10 minutes. Dust them with sugar, fill them or glaze them, and serve.
Tangy Saffron Cardamom Glaze
(Adapted from Alton Brown’s Doughnut Glaze)
1/4 cup milk
a few threads of saffron
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 cups icing sugar
1/2 tsp powdered cardamom
Put the milk in a small pan and warm it over medium heat. Take the pan off the heat, add the saffron threads and let them steep in the milk for about 10 minutes, so that the saffron colours the milk.
Put the pan back on medium heat, and heat the milk till it is warm again. Add the icing sugar and whisk well. Add the lemon juice and whisk again till the glaze is smooth. If you feel the glaze is a bit on the thinner side, add a little more icing sugar and whisk it in. Take the pan off the heat and place over a bowl of warm water.
Working quickly with one at a time, dip one side of the doughnuts in the glaze. Place on a rack positioned over a cookie sheet, for about 10 mintes till the glaze sets.
This recipe should be enough to glaze about 20 doughnuts, depending on the size.
(Adapted from Alton Brown’s Chocolate Glaze)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup whole milk, warmed
1 tbsp honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ to 1 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
1/2 tsp instant coffee powder
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
Put the butter, milk, honey and vanilla in a pan, over medium and stir until the butter has melted. Turn down the heat to low and add the chocolate and the coffee powder. Whisk until the chocolate has melted. Take the pan off the heat and add the icing sugar. Whisk until smooth. Place the pan over warm water and dip the doughnuts, one at a time in the chocolate glaze. Place the glazed doughnuts on a rack over a cookie sheet for about 30 minutes for the glaze to set.
This recipe makes enough chocolate glaze for about 20 doughnuts depending on the size. You can store this glaze in an airtight container for a few days and use it to drizzle over cookies or pancakes. Just warm it over warm water first.
The doughnuts I made using the original Alton Brown recipe (with 4.5 tsps of yeast) were a little too soft and they tasted and smelt very strongly of yeast.
Once I reduced the yeast, the doughnuts turned out light with great texture and taste. One other thing I liked about these doughnuts is that they’re not sweet at all, so they’re just right when glazed.
If you like yeasted doughnuts, I would recommend this recipe if you haven't tried it yet.
We like our doughnuts best, lightly dusted with sugar or cinnamon sugar but I decided to experiment with one sugar glaze and a chocolate glaze.
The combination of saffron, cardamom and the tang from the lemon made this sugar glaze out of this world, so much so that I’m quite pleased with this “experiment” of mine.
As for the chocolate glaze, I thought it was very good. I cut down on the sugar and increased the chocolate and the glaze was like chocolate ganache. I don’t like chocolate glazes where you can feel/ taste the icing sugar on your tongue so I really liked this particular glaze. Of course, it didn’t quite set like the sugar glaze but that wasn’t a problem for me.
And since I know you haven't had your fill of doughnuts yet, let's go get some more!