Maitland has made it clear from day dot that he would like to see doughnuts included in the roster. I humoured him by reading a couple of recipes but they all looked so…involved. Starting things the day before. Heating a huge amount of oil to a scalding temperature. Flipping things in the oil with haste and assurance. Making fillings. I mean, this is a bread blog and all, but who has the time?
Apparently me. The recent news that insta-favourite doughnut chain Doughnut Time has gone into liquidation coupled with my personal apathy towards doughnuts meant that this week was the perfect time to give these a go! And if you’re thinking that my concerns about how involved they are prompted a quest for a simpler alternative, then think again!
As noted above the process begins the day before you hope to enjoy the fruits of your labour. I immediately got off on a bad foot. I measured my ingredients into the bowl of my food-processor-fitted-with-dough-hook and without exception overcatered on all of them and had to fish things out to get quantities back on track.
I then started mixing, decided the dough was too dry, added some of the additional water, way overshot the mark and corrected using flour. I was also sure I’d put in too much salt (it said 2g in the recipe but the scales weren’t registering so I just sort of kept going). I then became convinced I’d put in too much flour AND too much water while sort of realising it would be hard to have done both. I wasn’t quite despondent when I put the dough in the fridge to yeastify overnight, but I was highly skeptical about my chances of success.
To make matters worse, we then watched new Netflix show ‘Nailed It’. Sidebar: this monstrosity of a television cooking show is right up my alley. Although it is full of super cheesy American tropes, it also features genuinely hilarious moments of seeing the contestant’s attempt to recreate baking feats that were frankly hideous to begin with. Screenshot below for proof.During one of the episodes contestants were required to make and decorate pirate themed doughnuts. What luck! I decided I could use this shocker of a show as both light entertainment AND an educational opportunity.
All three (admittedly hopeless) contestants produced doughnut disasters. Too big, too puffy, raw inside, under-filled and generally inedible. Great. My eyes were so wide with horror that I failed to glean any useful lessons – as far as I could tell the outtake was that my doughnuts were doomed.
The next morning I decided that I would leave as little as possible to chance. After separating my dough into 10 equal pieces (36g each. I weighed them.) and then rolling them into little balls then letting them rise briefly before squashing them and rolling them into balls again (what? why? what was wrong with the first little balls? I DON’T KNOW BUT I COULDN’T LET THESE DOUGHNUTS FAIL JUST BECAUSE THE INSTRUCTIONS SEEMED COMPLETELY STUPID TO ME) I went to buy things.
When in doubt that is always my solution – spend money I don’t have until the problem is eclipsed by a bigger financial problem. To solve the doughnut issue I bought a candy thermometer, strawberry jam (Maitland is not a fan of the much better raspberry, apparently), caramel and lemon curd. I neglected to buy readymade vanilla custard, which I then found out was also ‘equal first’ on Maitland’s list of desired fillings. So, somehow, as I heated a vast amount of oil to scarily high temperatures (180°C) I also attempted to make vanilla custard. Did I mention there was an orange boiling away on the stove also in preparation for hot cross buns? There was.
Finally the oil hit the right temperature and further delays could not be justified. The two minutes that each bit of dough spent in the oil was horrifying. They brown SO quickly and turning them over is a nightmare. Obviously I burned one of my finger tips and amazingly I didn’t do more damage. I had to get Maitland to help. I was extremely flustered and absolutely convinced I was heading for my own episode of Nailed It.
Resigned to my fate, I proceeded to drain the (too brown? still raw? IMPOSSIBLE TO KNOW) little blobs on paper towels.I coated them in cinnamon sugar. (You know I’m having a full meltdown because Maitland is trying to make everything ok by taking lots of action shots)
I made a wee cut in the top of each of them and filled the piping bag with strawberry jam.
And once I repeated the process with the lemon curd something unexpected happened. Maitland and his brother tried them. And. They. Were. Delicious.Somehow, in spite of everything, these were heavenly. NOT raw, NOT under-filled, NOT inedible, but the complete opposite. And, when all lined up on the baking tray – jam, caramel, vanilla custard and lemon curd – they looked so goddamn fancy. Guys, I think I might have peaked.
Care of Michael James’ The Tivoli Road Baker
Makes 10 (they’re smaller than I would’ve guessed)
190g bakers flour (I used more)
25g caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon
8g fresh yeast / 4g dried yeast
40g water (way less than you think)
10g lemon oil (good EVOO will work fine as well)
2 medium eggs, at room temperature (I used large because who has medium lying around?)
45g butter, diced and soft
1L vegetable oil (e.g. rice bran or cotton seed) for deep frying. I used more like 3L. Whoops.
125g caster sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Dealer’s choice! You can obviously make all these things yourself (I didn’t and won’t be reproducing recipes here), but equally don’t be embarrassed to use storebought options…you just home-made doughnuts for god’s sake!
– strawberry jam (raspberry would obviously be better)
– lemon curd
– caramel from a supermarket tin which I added a bit of sea salt to
– vanilla custard (I did make this, but just look up a recipe…)
Day 1 – Mix The Dough: You’ll want to start at least an hour and a half before you intend to go to bed/leave this overnight
Mix the flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest in a medium bowl and set aside. Combine the yeast, 20g (half) the water, oil and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the flour mixture and mix on medium speed for 10 minutes, adding more water as needed to make a smooth dough. This is where I added both more water and more flour.
Add the softened butter slowly while continuing to mix. Mix for another 5 minutes until the butter is fully incorporated. The dough should come away from the bowl and form a ball that is smooth, shiny and slightly sticky. Mine was certainly not, so I added a bit more flour and hand kneaded for a bit until it resembled that description. Michael James recommends the window pane test – take a bit of the dough and stretch it gently to see if you can get it nice and thin without it breaking. If it’s breaking easily then the dough needs to be worked a bit longer. Once you’re satisfied that the dough is smooth, shiny, slightly sticky and sufficiently proficient at the window pane test then leave it to rest in the bowl, covered by a damp tea towel, for 1 hour.
After an hour, knock back the dough and fold it by lifting one side up and over and the other. Do this five or six times (develops strength in the dough, apparently). Then transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container (or oil the bowl it’s already in…) and leave it overnight in the fridge, covered by a damp tea towel. This helps it develop ‘a complex, yeasty flavour’, aka ‘yeastify’.
Day 2 – The Moment of Truth: note that the earliest you can expect to eat a doughnut is about 3 hours after you resume doughnutting.
Line two trays (I just used one large one) with baking paper, and spray the paper lightly with oil. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured bench and cut it into ten equal pieces. For Rachel-level precision, weigh your dough first so you can work out how much each piece should weigh.
Now we get into the ball rolling phase. Press each piece flat and fold the sides in. Flip the dough so it is seamside down and then cup your hand around the tiny blob and use firm pressure to roll it on the bench until it forms a nice tight round ball with a smooth even surface. Although I did this 20 times in total, I have no idea if I was doing it right, or why this technique is superior to just rolling it into a ball in your hands. Once you’ve done all ten cover the doughnuts with the damp tea towel and leave them to rest for 15-20 minutes.
Ball rolling phase 2.0 then kicks in. Take each of your balls, squash them and repeat the process of folding the sides in, flipping them over so they’re seam-side down, and rolling into tight wee balls. Apparently ‘putting pressure on the doughnut strengthens the dough so it will rise well’. I guess? Place the re-rolled doughnuts on the lined trays and lightly cover with plastic wrap. Leave to rise for 2-3 hours, you’re wanting them to rise by half and to retain a dent if you press them lightly with your finger. If they spring back then they need more time. While they’re rising mix the cinnamon and sugar for the cinnamon sugar together.
Heat the oil for deep frying in a large saucepan (or deep fryer) to 180°C. Unsurprisingly, the temperature is important – if it’s too hot then the doughnuts will be ‘nailed it’ style, aka burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. If it’s not hot enough then the doughnuts will stew in the oil and become soggy and greasy. So, no pressure.
Fry the doughnuts a few at a time (I did 3 or 4), being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Give them a minute on each side and then flip them. We tried using both a spatula and tongs – they can be tricky to turn. Remove from the oil using a slotted spoon and pop them onto a plate or tray lined with paper towels.
When cool enough to handle dust them in cinnamon sugar and then cut a slit in the side for the filling. Michael recommends putting them into cupcake cases to make filling and eating easier and I thoroughly endorse that approach.
To fill them – spoon your desired filling into a piping bag and use the pre-cut slit as an entry point. Fill generously and obviously you want the goods to be oozing out the top for maximum appeal and blog-ability.