Make fresh doughnuts, and you will be king or queen for a day. You will bring joy and light where there once was darkness and cases of the Mondays. You will be loved by your adoring, doughnut-eating fans. Trust me. I learned this the other morning when I dragged myself from bed in the wee hours to make doughnuts for my co-workers.
When it comes to doughnuts, there's something for everyone. People who skew savory tend to enjoy the yeast-raised kind (especially if they are studded with bacon), while those who like their sweets covet cake doughnuts, which are exactly what they sound like—fried rings of cake, leavened with baking soda or powder. Apple cider doughnuts, which technically fall in the cake category, meet somewhere in the middle, with their mellow apple sweetness and spicy aroma. When I make doughnuts, I usually make a few different kinds, to make the most of being up that early, and using all that oil.
No matter what kind of doughnuts you choose to make, the most important step is the actual frying. Deep-fat frying scares many people, and I think that is a rational and healthy reaction. After all, heating a big pot of oil to 375°F should scare you, or at the very least, cause you to take a moment to consider the risks involved. Here are some important tips for successful and safe frying:
- Fry in a heavy pot with walls high enough to leave at least a few inches clearance above the surface of the oil. I think dutch ovens are excellent vessels for frying.
- Use an oil or fat with a high smoke-point to prevent burning. Canola and Grapeseed oil are good choices (canola is more economical) or use lard or shortening instead.
- When placing the doughnuts into the oil, hover over the surface, and then gently slide them into the oil. Do not drop from high above the surface, which will cause the oil to splatter upward.
- Constantly monitor the temperature of the oil. It needs to be 375°F or a bit lower for frying. Do not allow it to go above, which can cause it to smoke and make it a fire risk. Never leave a pot set on the stove unattended.
- Never pour liquid into hot oil.
With caution and vigilance, you can make doughnuts at home. And while it may suck getting up hours earlier than everyone else, there's nothing like a truly fresh doughnut—and as the cook, there at the stove, you'll be the one to enjoy the honor of taking the first bite, still warm and freshly glazed.
Try it yourself using my recipe for Yeast-Raised or Chocolate Cake Doughnuts.
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About the author: Lauren Weisenthal has logged many hours working in restaurant kitchens and bakeries of Brooklyn and Manhattan. She is a graduate of the Artisan Bread Baking and Pastry Arts programs at the French Culinary Institute. You can follow her on Twitter at @evillagekitchen.