Doughnuts, for me, represent absolute perfection. Don’t get me wrong: Pie is my number one; cake is near the top of my list; and I’ve never met a cookie I didn’t like. But doughnuts…there isn’t much in this world that’s better than a good — no, a GREAT — doughnut. Sure, they can be doused in sugary glaze and topped generously with sprinkles, but the dough itself isn’t too sweet — it’s just yeasty and soft and pillowy and perfect. It’s the ideal canvas for endless variations to suit your whims.
Now, the reason for this little history lesson is the name. “Doughnut” is the traditional, (and if I may humbly say, accurate) name of these delicious treats. The word “donut” was coined when manufacturers began to try to market the food overseas — they thought a shorter word might be catchier and easier to remember for those who’d never seen it.
Doughnuts are rustic but it’s still important to keep shaping in mind because this is where they can go a bit awry. A doughnut cutter is great, but you can improvise if you don’t have one: For a long time, I used a circle cookie cutter and then the base of a large pastry tip. It’s important to make sure the hole itself is large enough — if it’s too small, it will “fill in” when the dough hits the fryer. I also like to cut square doughnuts (no scraps!), using just a pastry wheel — 2 inches x 2 inches is a good base size.
1 1/2 cups whole milk (12 1/2 ounces)
1/3 cup water (2 1/2 ounces)
4 tablespoons butter (2 ounces)
5 cups all-purpose flour (25 ounces)
1 pinch nutmeg
1 pinch cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar (2 ounces)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
Vegetable oil, for frying
Some finishing options:
Powdered: Toss in powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.
Glazed: Mix 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 3 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream or milk (enough to make a runny glaze), and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional).
Chocolate-Glazed: Mix 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder, and 4 to 5 tablespoons milk or cream.
Chocolate-Coated: Dip doughnuts in tempered chocolate thinned with 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil.
Fruit-Glazed: Mix 1 cup powdered sugar and 1/4 cup fruit purée.