Sunday, June 24, 2012

Yeasted Doughnuts

When I was growing up, we spent the summer at a cottage whose back door was conveniently located across the street from a doughnut shop. Every morning my parents would buy a dozen of them for everyone--except I was a little weirdo and liked the plain doughnuts best, so they always had to get one or two of those for me.

I've tried making doughnuts a few times over the years and they've always ended up a bit of a mess with flour and grease spattered all over the kitchen and me close to tears. No more! I was determined to do it right this time. So given my tiny--TINY!--obsession with the show Good Eats, I decided Alton Brown's doughnut recipe was as good a starting place as any. On top of making the doughnuts vegan, I had to do a few things differently because I don't own a stand mixer. Or a doughnut cutter. Or pastry rings. Or a deep fryer. And I don't keep instant yeast around the house. And I can't really be bothered to break out the scale every time I cook. I also wanted to try to make filled doughnuts, which this recipe doesn't provide instructions for. Since I'm sure a lot of people are in the same boat there, I rewrote the recipe with my substitutions and instructions on how I did it. But it's totally based on his.

Basic Yeasted Doughnuts
makes about 2 dozen, depending on shape

1 1/2 cups plain almond milk
1/3 cup earth balance
4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water
1/2 cup plain soy yogurt
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
5 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting

canola oil for frying (amount depends on the size of your pot or deep fryer)

Heat the almond milk and earth balance until the earth balance has melted. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine yeast and warm water (not too warm! about 95 degrees, or your yeast will die and your doughnuts won't rise) with a pinch of sugar. Let sit for five minutes, or until bubbles form.

When the almond milk and earth balance is cooled to about lukewarm, stir it into the yeast mixture along with the soy yogurt, sugar, salt, and nutmeg. Add half of the flour and stir until incorporated. Add the rest of the flour in small increments until you have a cohesive dough. Transfer dough to a very well-floured countertop and knead for 5-10 minutes--you may end up adding quite a bit of flour at this point to keep the dough from sticking, and that's okay! Transfer your dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with a dish towel, and let rise for an hour or so. It should double in size.

Once the dough has risen, lightly flour a counter or cutting board and a baking sheet. Fold the dough over several times on your work surface to distribute the bubbles evenly, then roll it out to a little less than half an inch. How you cut out the doughnuts depends on what tools you're using: a doughnut cutter or pastry rings are the obvious choices, but I have neither, so I used a glass and a (clean) cap from a 2-liter bottle of seltzer. First I cut out the doughnuts with the glass (I got an even dozen) and then cut out the middles. Transfer the doughnuts to the baking sheet and let rest, covered with a dish towel, for another half hour.

Roll up your scraps into a ball and let it rest for at least a half hour before re-rolling and cutting a second batch of doughnuts. For filled doughnuts, just cut out rounds and don't cut out the middles, obviously. I did this for the second batch, and used the scraps to make slightly misshapen twisted doughnuts.

Heat your oil to about 360 degrees F. (I used a pot and a frying thermometer, so you don't really NEED a deep fryer for this.) Fry the doughnuts two or three at a time, for one minute each side. Remove and place on your cooling/draining rack--I use a cooling rack and paper towels, but paper bags and newspaper work too.

A word about the number of doughnuts to cook at once: if in doubt, go with one fewer. Don't be a hero and try to fit as many doughnuts as possible; crowding the pan will cause the oil to drop too much in temperature, and then you'll have greasy doughnuts, or your doughnuts might stick to each other, or both, and you will be frustrated and unhappy.

Wait until doughnuts are cool to decorate. For the unfilled doughnuts, you could sprinkle with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar, or go all out and make a glaze and use sprinkles, if you have them. For the filled doughnuts, you'll need a pastry bag with a large tip filled with jam or custard. Poke a hole in the doughnut with a chopstick and widen it a little bit. Fill using the pastry bag. Tada! Jelly doughnuts. Of course, if you're a little weirdo like me, you'll leave one or two plain, just in case.

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