Friday, June 21, 2013

Doughnuts (or Donuts) for Dinner!

It turns out that June 7 was actually “National Donut Day” here in the United States. For many, this designation is akin to a “National Breathing Day” – in other words, donuts are celebrated each and every day of one’s life.  Why do so many have this unwavering devotion to these little fried cakes? I’m guessing the primary reason is because they taste so darn good! Plain, glazed or dusted, filled with jelly, custard or cream, round or rectangle, in all variations the donut has become a part of regular indulgence for many of us.

Some spell it doughnut, which I understand is the proper way. My Webster’s New World College Dictionary lists it as “doughnut” and notes that “donut” is the informal spelling. It is defined as “a small, usually ring-shaped cake of sweetened, leavened dough, fried in deep fat.” Sounds good to me! But for our purposes, I’m going to refer to these little delights as “donuts,” because we are fairly informal about such things here at Cavalcade of Food.

In honor of the donut, we decided to make our own from scratch. I researched a number of recipes, and found that donuts generally fall into either the “cake” or the “raised” category. It depends on whether you use baking powder or yeast as your leavening. We opted to make the cake-style donuts, which seem more old-fashioned and better matched for coffee dunking. 

Making donuts from scratch takes time and preparation. But for special occasions, or if you have some extra helping hands around the kitchen and you want a fun project, homemade donuts are well worth the extra effort. Our “research” indicated that these donuts are best when eaten warm, with coffee, tea or apple cider. They are not good the next day (on the off chance that you have any leftovers), so make a point of eating them all soon after making them!

Homemade Donuts
3 eggs
2 TBSP butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup buttermilk or sour milk
3 ¾ cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp ground nutmeg
¾ tsp cinnamon
Vegetable oil for frying
½ cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Using an electric stand or hand-held mixer, beat the eggs, butter and sugar together until well combined. 

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking powder and spices. Set aside.

Add the buttermilk or sour milk to the other wet ingredients and beat together until well combined. To make sour milk for this recipe, put two teaspoons of white vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup and then fill with room-temperature milk to make 2/3 cup. Let stand for about 10 minutes.

Gradually add sifted dry ingredients to wet ingredients beating together until dough forms. The dough will be on the loose side and very sticky. Scrape down bowl to get all the flour incorporated. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour – two hours is even better.

Prepare your rolling surface. I use a very well floured pastry cloth on top of a board, and a rolling pin cover that is also well floured. This is a sticky dough, even when chilled, so keep some extra flour handy. You will also want to dip your donut cutter in flour prior to each cut. Put some flour on your hands, too – this will help it from sticking so much to your fingers.

Start bringing your oil up to temperature. A frying thermometer is an excellent tool here, but you can also use an electric skillet or fryer set to 375 degrees. It is very important that the oil gets to 375 and stays there – if the oil is too cool the donuts will absorb a lot of oil making them greasy.  You want the oil to be at least 2-inches deep in whatever utensil you end up using (a Dutch oven will also work fine). 

Remove half the dough from the refrigerator (leave the rest chilling until you are ready for the second batch).  Roll the dough out on floured surface until it is ¼ inch to ½ inch thick. Start cutting out the donuts, dipping cutter in flour before each cut. If you don’t have a donut cutter, you can use a biscuit cutter and then just cut out the center hole with a knife. Place cut donuts on waxed or parchment paper. 

Gently drop donuts one at a time into hot oil. DON’T CROWD THEM – you should only fry three or four at a time. They will first sink and then pop up to the surface and begin frying. When they have turned a nice golden brown on one side, gently flip them over (I use a slotted spoon) and fry the other side. Donuts fry up quickly, so this will go fast. 

When both sides of the donuts are done, remove from oil and place on a sheet pan with layers of paper towel or brown paper bags. This will draw some of the oil out of the donuts.

In a large bowl, combine ½ sugar and two teaspoons cinnamon. When donuts are still warm, toss them in this coating and it will stick to them.  You could also toss them in a bag of powdered sugar, or make a glaze for them – this is where you can really get creative!

These are best when still warm!

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