Monday, September 24, 2012

Homemade Doughnuts

Let me just begin this post by saying I'm sorry. And you're welcome. I apologize in advance for the amount of broccoli you'll have to eat to counterbalance these bad boys; and yet, I suspect even as you reach for your third helping, you'll be praising my name for bringing your attention to the most crispy-creamy-tender-chewy-glazey-golden-confection you'll ever make.

While store-bought is ordinarily kind of a dirty word in my mind, there are a select few things that I strive to make homemade versions of that are as delectable as their commercial counterparts; the list includes: Oreos, and a perfect, glazed, yeast doughnut. I crossed the first one off the list with Deb's absurdly delicious recipe (actually, she overshot the mark a little and made them out-of-this-world-better-than-store-bought), and now, finally, I can put a giant, proverbial check mark next to these holey wonders. They're tender, chewy, pillowy, and airy, with enough crispiness on the edges to keep your teeth entertained. The glaze adds just the right amount of sugary sweetness, and shatters delightfully as you bite down; in other words: eat your heart out Krispy Kreme.

The only thing is, this recipe makes a lot of huge, insanely delicious doughnuts (or even more small ones if you choose to use a smaller doughnut cutter), and while they are passably decent on the second day, they lose their incredible texture after day one. So here's what I'm thinking: have a doughnut party! These things are worthy of a celebration all their own, and if you need another excuse, heck, it's Fall, and a doughnut party sounds cozy. Invite your friends to don their plaid flannels, and come on over while these babies are still warm and glistening, and your house smells like a doughnut factory. And if it seems like your party is a bit on the small side and you might have extras...well, feel free to invite me. :)

Crispy, Creamy Doughnuts

Makes about 14 large doughnuts and doughnut holes.

For Doughnuts
2 (1/4 ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105°-115°)
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup shortening (I use this organic, non-hydrogenated stuff)
5 cups all purpose flour
1 quart vegetable oil for frying (I used canola)

For Glaze
1/3 cup salted butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
4 Tb. hot water (more or less, as needed)

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water, and let stand for at least 5 minutes, until foamy (this is called "proofing" your yeast). If mixture doesn't foam, toss it and start over with new yeast.

In a large bowl, mix together the proofed yeast, milk, sugar, salt, eggs, shortening, and 2 cups of flour. I opted to do this in my KitchenAid stand mixer, but you can also do it by hand. Beat in the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, until dough is no longer super sticky. You may be tempted to use more than 5 cups of flour, but I strongly recommend that you don't- more flour will result in a denser, breadier texture. Knead for a few minutes (by hand or with dough hook) until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a very large, greased bowl, cover, and set in a warm place to rise. Let dough rise until doubled (generally about an hour, but keep an eye on it). You can tell the dough is ready if you poke it and the indentation remains.

Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface, and gently roll out to approximately 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with a floured doughnut cutter (I have this one. You could also use this one if you want smaller, more Krispy Kreme sized doughnuts). As you're cutting, make sure you press straight down with your doughnut cutter, and don't twist it from side to side. Twisting can seal the edges of your doughnut, and prevent it from rising fully (this is true for biscuits as well). Remove the doughnut holes, and space them out so you have a few inches between all the doughnuts and holes (I put mine too close together, and had to cut them apart. They puff up like crazy!). Cover loosely with a cloth, and let them sit out on a floured surface to rise until doubled.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, and stir in the powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in hot water one tablespoon at a time, until icing is thin enough for dipping, but not watery. Set aside.

Pour oil into a dutch oven or large pot (I used my cast iron dutch oven and it worked like magic), and attach a deep fry thermometer to the side. Heat oil to 325° (it's not an exact science, but try to keep it as close to 325° as you can. I found 350° browned them a little too quickly, but if the temp is too low, the doughnuts will absorb the oil and feel greasy). Prepare some cooling racks (I recommend lining a cookie sheet with paper towels and placing it under the racks to catch drips), and get ready to rock.

Very gently pick up a doughnut with a wide spatula, and slide it into the hot oil. They may deflate a little as you slide the spatula under them, but don't worry, they puff up again beautifully once they're in the oil. I was able to cook two at a time in my 5-quart dutch oven. The doughnuts will cook very quickly- less than a minute per side...or until they are as golden as you like them. Turn them over as they rise to the surface (these OXO tongs are invaluable for this part) and fry the other side until golden. Remove from oil and set on wire rack to drain.

If your glaze has developed a sugar crust by this time, just heat and stir for another moment to re-liquefy it. Dip doughnuts into the glaze while still hot, and place them back on the wire racks.

Repeat this process until all your doughnuts and doughnut holes are fried and glazed, and you are in olfactory heaven.

P.S. For the record, I actually love broccoli.

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