Like the macarons I made with my mom, I’ve been saving this post in the storage box of Bear Makes Brunches for a very special occasion: Father’s Day. Dads are great. They let you eat ice cream for breakfast, French fries for lunch and McDonald’s apple pies for dinner. (Mom, if you are reading this, none of these things have ever happened.)
My dad helps me write papers, overcome illnesses and reduce anxiety even though we are usually thousands of miles apart from each other. When I was younger, my Girl Scout troop would have a Daddy-Daughter dance party around Valentine’s Day. My dad and I killed it in limbo every year. Since then, we’ve moved on to taking road trips up to Oregon, watching Veronica Mars and various anime series, and, of course, making doughnuts.
My dad and I first made doughnuts several years ago, and have since attempted several different recipes and acquired all sorts of doughnut equipment. The first doughnuts we ever made were a yeasty sort of doughnuts, for which we enlisted our deep fryer and a new doughnut cookie cutter. Then we upgraded to a doughnut press, which was even trickier, but still really fun. A couple years ago we decided to try cake doughnuts and bought a nice mini-doughnut pan at Sur La Table. We usually go with classic vanilla glaze, but we’ve done powdered sugar and cinnamon sugar doughnuts too. My dad’s favorite kind of donut is a jelly donut, and one day, we hope to accomplish those as well!
This last attempt at doughnuts consumed most of our day, and so beware, if you are going to do this: dads like to take naps and breaks and more naps. And you might want to watch an episode of Veronica Mars while you do this. And eat lunch, which means going to your favorite takeout place. And my dad and I eat slowly. So make sure you have a whole Sunday for this project, at the very least.
This recipe for vanilla-glazed yeast doughnuts came from a glamorous copy of Saveur magazine that my sister gave me a few years ago. The feature article was dozens of doughnuts, including its history, its legend, and many many recipes for yeast doughnuts, cake doughnuts, baked doughnuts, etc., etc. This is the first time we’ve tried anything from this list, but I hope we can try many more!
Although the recipe is available online, I’ve copied it here, with several modifications. Please note that we have omitted the recipe for the glaze that Saveur suggests, because we used an allergy-friendly glaze of just sugar and water. In addition, while the recipe states that it makes about eighteen doughnuts, we had at least thirty by the end of the night, not including doughnut holes and the doughnuts that were integral for taste-testing.
The ingredients are as follows:
2 ¼-oz. packages active dry yeast
½ cup sugar
1 ½ cups milk, scalded and cooled (we used soy milk, for obvious reasons)
1 tsp kosher salt
6 tbsp vegetable shortening, plus more for greasing
5 cups (1 lb, 6 ½ oz.) all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for dusting
Canola oil, for frying
The first step is to combine the yeast, 1 tbsp. of sugar, and 6 tbsp. of warm water. Saveur states that the water should be heated to 115º F, and that the bowl should be in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. We warmed some water and took it off the stove before it boiled, and used a simple mixing bowl and a spoon. Then, let the mixture sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add remaining sugar, plus milk, salt, eggs, and shortening; mix until combined. This step is where the stand mixer might have come in handy, as you add flour and beat until dough is smooth. We used a simple hand mixer, which worked equally well. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap set in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour and a half.
After the dough rises, spread it out on a floured surface. Our dough was still rather gooey, so we actually ended up adding more flour eventually, and kneading it into the dough. Saveur recommends cutting the dough with 3 ½” and 1 ½” diameter ring cookie cutters, floured or greased, but we have a special doughnut cutter that we used to make the shapes. Reuse the scraps, or save the insides for doughnut holes. Place the rings on greased parchment paper, and then cover them again until they double in size, about 45 minutes.
Saveur recommends heating the oil in a 6-quart saucepan, but we used a large wok, which is more common in our household for deep-frying. If you have a deep-fry thermometer, the oil should be about 325º F; if you don’t, you can use a piece of bread to test the oil. If it turns golden brown within a minute, it is definitely hot enough. You will have to play with the heat of the stove and the oil—as you may notice, our first batch is much darker than the rest of the doughnuts, a result of the oil being too hot.
Saveur suggests cutting the doughnuts out of the parchment paper and slipping them into the oil, paper side-up, and peeling the paper off with tongs. We simply lifted the rings, which were firmer because we added more flour, and slid them into the oil so we could reuse the paper. Because we’ve made yeast doughnuts before, we were comfortable handling the dough and the oil, but for the uninitiated, you may prefer to stick to the script. Cook each doughnut for a few minutes, or until they are “puffed and golden,” and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool.
Saveur’s guidelines state that you should let the doughnuts cool completely before glazing them, but in our experience, it is best to glaze the doughnuts when they are still warm. The glaze that we use is very simple: confectioner’s sugar and a small amount of water, with some vanilla extract if you like. The key to the glaze is to use only a few teaspoons of water, making a thick, sugary glaze that sticks to the doughnuts. Alternatively, you can also roll the doughnuts in a bowl of cinnamon sugar.
As I said before, we only make doughnuts occasionally, mostly because it’s time-consuming, labor-intensive, and very, very messy. However, this particular batch of doughnuts had a surprisingly large yield, so high-risk, high-reward on this recipe.
Regardless of how much work they are, doughnuts are a delicious project that’s perfect for sharing. Not only are they a food that I can rarely eat in a commercial setting, but they are also a treat to make and eat (also rarely) with my dad. Our fluffy, sugary doughnuts far surpass any desserts at my old Girl Scout tea parties, and we don’t have to do the limbo for it either.
In honor of Father’s Day, Bear would like to thank all the fathers in the world, especially the ones that carry him on their heads, let him ride in the front seat, and faithfully, consistently, always read this blog. Jelly doughnuts for everyone!