June 24, 2013

We Knead To Bake #6 : There’s Something About Doughnuts - Baked Yeasted Doughnuts (Regular, Glazed or Filled)

ational Doughnut Day is celebrated in the US on the first Friday of June which was June 1st this year, so perhaps it’s somewhat apt that the We Knead To Bake group is baking yeasted doughnuts this month. In 1917, Salvation Army female volunteers made thousands of fresh donuts for homesick American soldiers serving in France during World War I. Apparently the soldiers loved them so much, that it earned them a nickname of “doughboys”!

Then in 1938, first National Doughnut Day was held to raise funds for the Salvation Army. Today though, it’s not surprising that the US continues to dedicate one day a year to celebrate doughnuts considering that the US Doughnut industry is supposedly worth something like $3.6 million annually!
Have you wondered what would be the proper way to spell this confection with a “hole” in the middle? It seems that “Doughnut” is the proper way to do it, though the shortened form of “Donut” is now accepted and can be found in dictionaries along with the longer spelling.

There are some rather interesting, almost improbable stories which are told about how the Doughnut got its start. One theory has to do with a 19th Century sea captain, named Hanson Gregory. It seems his mother used to make a deep-fried dough with her son's spice cargo of nutmeg, cinnamon, and lemon rind.
She would pack them for her son and his crew to take on their long voyages. Mrs Gregory used to put hazel nuts or walnuts in the centre of the doughnut where the dough would otherwise not cook well and this is supposed to have given Doughnuts their name.
However, the hole in the Doughnut is credited to Hansen. Some versions say he was eating a Doughnut (without the hole) while sailing in a storm. Suddenly, the ship rocked violently and a spoke on the ship's wheel impaled his cake, creating the now well-known “hole” in the Doughnut.
Other versions say that Hansen was a bit of a cheapskate and was just trying to save on food costs by making the hole in the middle. Another highly improbable version says he was visited by an angel who told him the doughy centres of the Doughnut had to go!!!
All we do know is that Gregory Hansen put the “hole” in the modern Doughnut and that he came to an unfortunate end when he was eventually burnt at the stake for being a witch in the mid-19th century.

Today, it is mostly agreed that it was the Dutch who brought Doughnuts to the U.S. in the 1800s as “Olykoeks”, or oily cakes which were deep-fried balls of dough. They’re supposed to have accidentally discovered the “Olykoek” when a cow kicked a pot full of boiling oil over onto some pastry mix, turning it golden brown!
Doughnuts and I go back a long way and I love them. I have always fried my doughnuts and a couple of my attempts have made it on this blog. Some time back, I discovered one could bake them too, but for some reason I never got around to baking mine.
A lot of people think that if something is baked, then it’s healthy or at least, healthier than something that’s deep-fried. While this is true in some cases, it’s not true in most. A lot of the taste and the crisp/ crunch in many baked goods come from the amount of butter in them which can be a lot.
And if people use hydrogenated fats like margarine instead of butter, that’s even worse in my opinion. It really might be a better bet to actually deep-fry than bake in some instances where the recipes call for huge amounts of butter!

However, I have always wanted to try baked doughnuts. A while back, I had tested some doughnut recipes for Lara Ferroni when she was writing her doughnut book and she was nice enough to send me a copy of her book. There’s a recipe for baked doughnuts in it, and I had marked that to try out eventually.  I have adapted her recipe a bit and turned it egg-free too.
Are baked doughnuts better than deep-fried doughnuts? It all depends on how you look at them. If you keep an open mind about the whole doughnut business, then you might find both versions appealing, but in different ways. I personally think that fried doughnuts are THE doughnuts.
Yet I must confess that I liked the baked kind as well. They are nice, but in a different way. Right now, they’re a big hit in my home. My daughter just loves them. One nice thing about these baked doughnuts is that they are good even when they’re a few hours old unlike the fried kind which are really best eaten fresh. 
Baked Yeasted Doughnuts


1/4 cup superfine sugar
1 cup warm milk (45C/115F)
3/4 tbsp instant yeast (or 1 tbsp active dry yeast)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups cake flour (or all-purpose flour) divided, plus more for kneading
100gm butter, cut into 1 inch cubes 

For the topping:

75 to 100gm butter, melted
1 cup superfine sugar + 2 tablespoons cinnamon (more or less, depending on your taste), mixed together


jam to fill your doughnuts


Using a processor to knead helps but you can do this by hand.
Put the sugar, milk, yeast, salt and vanilla in the processor bowl and pulse to mix well. Add the cake flour and 1 cup of all-purpose flour and process, adding a little more of the flour as necessary till the dough is thick and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Now add the butter pieces one at a time and process till there no large chunks of butter are left in the bottom of the bowl. Now add a little more flour until your have a soft, pliable and elastic dough that is most but not overly sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently until the dough no longer sticks to your hands. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased large mixing bowl., turning it to coat well. Cover with a damp towel and let it rise till double in volume. This should take about an hour. 
Punch down the dough and roll out to a thickness of 1/2" thickness. Cut out doughnuts using a doughnut cutter or whatever you have on hand to cut out 3” diameter with 1” diameter holes. If you’re making doughnuts to fill with jam, then do not cut out the holes. Place the doughnuts and the holes on parchment lined or lightly greased baking sheets, leaving at least 1” space between them.
Re-roll the scraps and cut out more doughnuts. I used the last left over scraps of dough by pinching of bits, rolling them into balls and baking them too. 
Let them rise for about 20 minutes or till almost double in size and then bake them at 200C (400F) for about 5 to 10 minutes till they’re done and golden brown. Do not over bake them.

This recipe makes about 12 to 14 doughnuts and holes.
Take them out of the oven and immediately brush them with the melted butter and then dip them into the cinnamon sugar mixture. If filling the doughnuts with jam, let them cool.
Put the jam into a piping bag with a writing nozzle/ tip and press into the doughnut from the side and gently press out the jam into the doughnut till it starts oozing out. Jam doughnuts do not need too much jam to fill them.
If glazing your doughnuts, let them cool completely and then dip one side of the doughnut in the glaze of your choice and let it set.

And to round off this post, here are some fun facts about doughnuts.

1.       The average doughnut hole is 4/5” in diameter.

2.      The glazed type of doughnut is more popular than any other type of doughnut.

3.      The average calorie content of a glazed donut is about 200 calories, so perhaps eating five donuts per day would take care of daily calorie needs………..

4.      It seems the U.S. alone makes more than 10 billion donuts every year, and the rest of the world makes its own versions. However, per capita, Canada has more donuts shops than any other country!

5.      The largest donut ever made was an American-style jelly donut weighing 1.7 tons and measuring 16 feet!

6.      Legend says that dunking donuts first became a trend when actress Mae Murray accidentally dropped a donut in her coffee.

7.      On one of his expeditions, Admiral Richard Byrd took along 100 barrels of donut flour, enough for making two years' worth of doughnuts. Now that’s a doughnut lover for you!

8.      According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the record for donut eating is held by one John Haight, who consumed 52 ounces of doughnuts (that’s about 700gms or about 26 average sized doughnuts)in just over six minutes in 1981. This, to my mind, can only be described as doughnut greed!
These yeasted and baked doughnuts are also getting YeastSpotted!