Recently I did something I have never done before but always longed to – I made doughnuts! Normally I am not a doughnut person. I don’t particularly enjoy the taste of cold greasy dough, crystallised sugar and meagre fillings you often get from shop bought doughnuts, however, freshly made still-hot-from-the-pan doughnuts – now those are entirely different. A warm freshly baked doughnut is divine!
When I was younger and used to catch the bus back from school which involved catching two buses. I had to change buses in town and often had a 20 minute wait for the connecting bus to arrive. Rather than sit in the bus station I used to wander off around the town. In the winter months there used to be a mobile dinky doughnut stand run by a little Italian woman. The smell of hot frying doughnuts was so inviting on a cold day and so, couple of times a month, I used to give in and buy a little bag of dinky doughnuts. You had to wait while they were baked fresh in front of you before being generously dusted in sugar and handed over in a little paper bag. Eating those little warm fried doughnuts paid for with my pocket money used to be such an indulgent and comforting experience. The Italian woman who ran it was very talkative and I soon learnt that if you talked with her and said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ she used to give you an extra doughnut for free! It may only have been a mobile stand in the town centre but she was the woman who showed me how a good doughnut should taste and shop bought ones have never compared.
I forgot about the lady and her dinky doughnuts for a few years until recently when I was out in London exploring and smelt the smell of frying doughnuts again and it made me hanker after some freshly baked doughnuts once more. This time I knew I had to try making them myself. These doughnuts are the results and they certainly satisfied my doughnut craving.
I made three different types. Large doughnuts filled with strawberry jam and nutella (not together), ring doughnuts dusted in plain sugar and doughnut holes coated in cinnamon spiced sugar. My favourites were the doughnut holes – the perfect little doughy bites and of course I can’t resist anything with cinnamon.
I used a new gadget for filling the large doughnuts, it’s a food syringe! It worked for the jam but the nutella was rather too thick to pipe properly – messy but fun. I loved biting into one of the big doughnuts and seeing a generous pool of jam seep out. The nice thing about making them yourself is that you can fill or flavour them any way you choose, curd, jam, cream, fruit, custard? Icing, chocolate, sugar or sprinkles on top?
It was so rewarding seeing them bob about and puff up in the hot oil. Once sugar dusted they had a paper thin golden crispy exterior and a springy doughy centre. Best enjoyed while still warm.
15g fresh yeast
300g plain flour
Approximately 500-700ml oil for frying
Warm the milk and water together until warm to the touch but not hot. Crumble in the yeast and stir until dissolved. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the flour and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
Sift the flour into a large bowl. Whisk the egg with a fork to combine the yolk and white and then pour over the flour followed by the yeasty liquid mixture.
Use your fingers to bring the mixture together to form a sticky dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until well combined, smooth and elastic.
Lightly grease a bowl, place the dough into the bowl and cover the top with clingfilm. Leave it a warm place until tripled in bulk, about 1½ hours.
Once proved, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out until half an inch/1.5cm thick. Cut out large rounds, rings or small balls of dough in your desired doughnut shape. (If you make ring doughnuts, don’t discard the middles, they make great doughnut holes when fried).
Lay the doughnuts on lightly floured baking trays and leave to prove for 15 minutes while you heat the oil.
Heat 2inch/5cm oil in a large deep pan until it reaches around 180C. If you don’t have a thermometer, drop a little piece of bread into the oil and if it turns brown in 30-60 seconds then it’s ready. Whatever you do, DO NOT WALK AWAY and leave the oil.
Carefully drop the doughnuts into the hot oil in batches – no more than three large doughnuts at a time. They should float to the top when ready to be flipped over, do this using a large metal spoon and allow to fry for one minute more until golden brown.
Remove the doughnuts from the oil using a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper to drain.
While the next batch are frying, toss the doughnuts in the plain or cinnamon sugar. Fill any large doughnuts with jam, curd or chocolate of your choice with the help of a food syringe or piping bag.
Eat and enjoy while fresh and preferably still warm.
Makes 10-15 doughnuts depending on size.
Tip: Have the sugars ready in zip-lock sandwich bags. This way you can add the hot doughnuts and shake them easily without getting sugar everywhere.