Doughnuts, all kinds
No matter what kind of doughnuts you prefer, the cooking technique translates, whether you fry a batch of cake, yeast-raised, or apple cider doughnuts. Click through the slideshow, which demonstrates the procedure, and gives you some extra tips that are specific to yeast-raised doughnuts, along the way.
You can't have doughnuts without dough
Doughnuts all begin with dough. If you're making yeast-raised doughnuts (pictured) you'll want to make the dough the night before and chill it overnight first. When you're ready to begin, remove the dough from the fridge, dust with flour, and press the dough out flat on a floured surface. If you're working with cake or cider doughnut dough, mix according to the recipe, and press out in the same manner (don't be afraid to use a lot of flour to ensure that the dough doesn't stick).
Roll out the dough
Once you've pressed the dough flat, roll it to an even thickness of 1/2 inch using a rolling pin. Use more flour as necessary to prevent sticking.
Cut the doughnuts
Flour cutters liberally each time before cutting the doughnuts. In this photo I'm using a doughnut cutter, which gives perfectly formed circles each time.
Cut the doughnuts with two cutters
Or, if you don't have a doughnut cutter, cut one circle using a large, circular cutter, then cut out the centers with a smaller one. Be sure to dip the cutters in flour between each cut to prevent sticking.
Gather and re-roll scraps
Once you've cut as many doughnuts as you can, dust off the excess flour and gather the dough back together. If you're working with a yeasted dough, it's okay to work it a bit, but if you are using tender doughs, as with a cake doughnut, give the dough just a few careful folds to avoid overworking the dough (which will make it tough). Allow the recycled dough to rest for at least 10 minutes before rolling it out, so it relaxes a bit.
Lay doughnuts on a floured tray
As you cut the doughnuts, place them onto a floured tray lined with plastic wrap, or a silicone mat (don't use parchment for yeasted doughnuts, or it will stick). For yeasted doughnuts, be sure to space them a few inches apart to accommodate rising.
Proof yeasted doughnuts
Yeasted doughnuts will need to proof completely before frying. Hold the dough in a warm, moist environment and allow the doughnuts to rise. They will puff significantly and be very delicate to the touch. If you need a warm place to proof the dough, prehat the oven to 200°F degrees, allow it to cool to 90°F, and then place the doughnuts inside. Proofing will take between 45 minutes and 1 hour.
Getting ready to fry
Place a thermometer in the bottom of a large pot with a heavy bottom (a dutch oven is great for this) and put a few quarts of your frying fat in the bottom (options include crisco, lard, or neutral oil). Slowly heat the oil to 375°F. Set up towels (paper is best, I used cloth here) and cooling racks, and get tongs, spider, or strainers at the ready.
Once the oil reaches 375°F, gently place the doughnuts into the oil one at a time, taking care to place the doughnuts into the oil without splattering, which can burn you.
A delicate dance at 375°F
The biggest challenge with frying is maintaining the temperature in the 370°F–375°F range. Control it by turning the stove up and down.
Watch the doughnuts for puffing and color
Allow the doughnuts to fry on one side until they turn a deep golden brown, then flip them over and allow them to cook on the other side. It's a little more challenging to gauge how long to cook doughnuts made with dark doughs (such as chocolate cake doughnuts), so cut one of your first ones open to test and see how long they will take until they are cooked.
Watch the doughnuts and the thermometer carefully
Pay attention to the oil temperature and the color of the doughnuts. Do not walk away from the pot when you are frying or while the heat is on under hot oil!
For filled doughnuts, hollow out the inside
Use a chopstick or skewer to hollow out the inside of solid doughnuts to make room for fillings.
Then, stick the tip of the piping bag into the holes and gently fill the doughnuts. Use a steady hand to avoid blowouts (filling escaping out the top).
Glaze the doughnuts
If you are using a glaze, submerge the doughnuts into it, one side at a time. I find that my fingers are the best tool for dipping doughnuts.
Allow the doughnuts to dry
Place the doughnuts on a rack where the excess can drip off and the glaze can dry to a crackly, somewhat translucent glaze. The two doughnuts on the right are dried, the one on the far left has been sprinkled before it dried, and the one on the near left is freshly glazed.
Doughnuts for all!
I love all the different ways you can dress up simple doughnuts using glaze, sprinkles, and flavored sugars (sugar with spices or zest).