Good Eats and Sweet Treats from My Small Boston Kitchen

Daring Bakers October: Yeast and Cake Donuts

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

I have to say, this challenge was an exciting one. Donuts, until now, were rather daunting to me. I don’t really know why, it’s not like they are terribly difficult to me — I think it had more to do with the method of cooking: plopping doughy rings into a boiling-hot pot of oil. Somehow, that just doesn’t sound so yummy. And after making my entire house smell like boiled oil, I maintain that I a not a fan of frying, but these donuts were well worth the sacrafice.

I decided since this was a DB challenge to go all out — I made yeast AND cake donuts. I’ve been on a pumpkin kick lately (but to be honest, who hasn’t been on a pumpkin kick lately?) so I made the pumpkin cake donuts, and a basic yeast donut recipe that I glazed with a couple of different flavors. Overall, I was extremely pleased with the result. Donuts are something that either look right or they don’t — you can’t just wing it, you have to do it correctly, but if you do, the results are astounding. My donuts came out looking like the donuts you’d see in a class case at your neighborhood bakery, which to me was a sign of a job well done. I have a few issues with the end results of both the cake and yeast donuts, but by and large, this challenge blew me away. I can bake donuts! I’ve done it once, so I can, and will, do it again! It’s like a whole new world has begun to blossom in my little cocooned baking world, just by opening up the donut door. But I digress… let’s get to those recipes, shall we?

I began with the yeast donuts, a recipe provided for the challenge from Alton Brown of the Food Network. The dough is extremely easy to make, comes together beautifully, and creates a moderately dense yeast donuts with a wonderful, mild donut flavor.


1 1/2 cups milk
2 1/2 ounces vegetable shortening, approximately 1/3 cup
2 packages instant yeast
1/3 cup warm water (95 to 105 degrees F)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
23 ounces all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surface
Peanut or vegetable oil, for frying (1 to 1/2 gallons, depending on fryer)


Place the milk in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat just until warm enough to melt the shortening. Place the shortening in a bowl and pour warmed milk over. Set aside.

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let dissolve for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, pour the yeast mixture into the large bowl of a stand mixer and add the milk and shortening mixture, first making sure the milk and shortening mixture has cooled to lukewarm. Add the eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and half of the flour. Using the paddle attachment, combine the ingredients on low speed until flour is incorporated and then turn the speed up to medium and beat until well combined. Add the remaining flour, combining on low speed at first, and then increase the speed to medium and beat well. Change to the dough hook attachment of the mixer and beat on medium speed until the dough pulls away from the bowl and becomes smooth, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a well-oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to 3/8-inch thick. Cut out dough using a 2 1/2-inch doughnut cutter or pastry ring and using a 7/8-inch ring for the center whole. Set on floured baking sheet, cover lightly with a tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oil in a deep fryer or Dutch Oven to 365 degrees F. Gently place the doughnuts into the oil, 3 to 4 at a time. Cook for 1 minute per side. Transfer to a cooling rack placed in baking pan. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes prior to glazing, if desired.

Next up were the pumpkin cake donuts. This recipe came from Epicurious. These donuts were pretty delicious — I glazed a few with maple glaze, slathered a few with pumpkin cheesecake frosting, and rolled a few in cinnamon sugar — the cinnamon sugar ones reminded me fondly of apple cider donuts. The dough was extremely loose and very tricky to cut and transfer to the oil, but I found the cooked donuts to be on the dry side — go figure. But a few days after I made the donuts, these re-heated like a charm, which it a plus for me because I can’t eat a dozen donuts in one sitting!

Spiced sugar (I made mine with half brown sugar — yummy!)
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
Canola oil (for deep-frying)

For spiced sugar:
Whisk all ingredients in medium bowl to blend.
For doughnuts:
Whisk first 8 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until blended (mixture will be grainy). Beat in egg, then yolks and vanilla. Gradually beat in buttermilk; beat in pumpkin in 4 additions. Using rubber spatula, fold in dry ingredients in 4 additions, blending gently after each addition. Cover with plastic; chill 3 hours.

Sprinkle 2 rimmed baking sheets lightly with flour. Press out 1/3 of dough on floured surface to 1/2- to 2/3-inch thickness. Using 2 1/2-inch-diameter round cutter, cut out dough rounds. Arrange on sheets. Repeat with remaining dough in 2 more batches. Gather dough scraps. Press out dough and cut out more dough rounds until all dough is used.

Using 1-inch-diameter round cutter, cut out center of each dough round to make doughnuts and doughnut holes.

Line 2 baking sheets with several layers of paper towels. Pour oil into large deep skillet to depth of 1 1/2 inches. Attach deep-fry thermometer and heat oil to 365°F to 370°F. Fry doughnut holes in 2 batches until golden brown, turning occasionally, about 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Fry doughnuts, 3 or 4 at a time, until golden brown, adjusting heat to maintain temperature, about 1 minute per side. Using slotted spoon, transfer doughnuts to paper towels to drain. Cool completely.

I used a basic sugar glaze recipe, shown below, and dipped half my donuts in the basic vanilla glaze before adding maple syrup. I found the addition of maple syrup made the glaze a bit too runny, and as a result it didn’t coat the donuts as thoroughly as I’d have liked, but just another lesson learned right? The glaze still worked wonders on the donuts — with the glaze, they were simply delicious.

Basic Sugar Glaze

1 ½ cups (150 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted to remove any lumps.
3 to 4 tablespoons milk or water
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (optional)

Place the sugar in a medium bowl and slowly stir in the milk and vanilla, a little at a time, to make a smooth pourable glaze.

For the most part, I was quite pleased with the outcome for this challenge. The yeast donuts make perfect replicas of the kind of donuts you’d find in a Dunkin Donuts — the dough is smooth and even, and when cooked they look beautiful (yes, I consider donuts to be beautiful). I felt a strong sense of accomplishment when the first batch came out of the oil! The cake donuts, on the other hand, weren’t quite as pretty when all fried up, but the flavor was really quite wonderful. If I make donuts again anytime soon, I’m going to give apple cider donuts a try — those are my favorite!

I’ve got a few posts in my queue, waiting to be written, but too busy a schedule these days! Some things never change I guess… but now I am looking for a new apartment, which is like a second job in itself! So blogging will wait, patiently, as it always does, until I find a new home! But stay tuned… I’ll be back! I always am 🙂

With love, and sugar. Enjoy!

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