May I drop another name this week? How about Jess Thomson? She’s an award-winning food writer, a photographer and a recipe developer who once completed a marathon recipe-writing stint by producing a recipe a day — for a whole year. I wouldn’t be surprised if she flew helicopters or designed subway systems in her spare time. Her talents seem endless.
Among her many accomplishments, she also helped write Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts. So, when she asked me to participate in National Doughnut month, I had to say yes. After all, I couldn’t look like a wimp in front of Super Jess.
When the book arrived, I was a bit surprised to see the word “doughnuts” spelled out in full. American spelling slashes letters from British English with alarming frequency. “Colour,” “flavour,” “neighbour,” and “savoury” all lose a vowel the second they cross the border. Having made a batch from scratch, I now know why they stuck to the traditional spelling. “Donuts” describe fast food. “Doughnuts” are not merely homemade, they’re hand-forged.
Reading over the instructions, I realized this easily-distracted Gemini needed reinforcements. So I asked my level-headed Libra of a best friend to help me. She generously agreed. Good thing, too. She solved the issue of the doughnut holes. Without a proper doughnut cutter (and yes, there is such a thing) we had to improvise. A juice glass cut the outer edge, but finding something to cut the hole wasn’t so easy. The apple corer was too small, the shot glasses too wide. In the end, Joanne’s eagle-eye settled on an object that was just right — the cap from an over-sized bottle of mouthwash.
These two common household items did the trick, but as you can see, my centring abilities leave a bit to be desired. I like to think they make the results look truly hand-forged. Or in this case, hand-fudged.
In Which Charmian and Joanne Follow the Doughnut Recipe
While the dough and glaze are easy to make, the frying required undivided attention. So Joanne was in charge of that.
If you attempt doughnuts, let me warn you, there must be no wandering off to check email. Let your voicemail system answer the phone. And if the cat knocks a china vase off the mantel, leave it lay where the feline flang it. Unless the house is burning down, do not leave the stove. Or else your house could burn down.
Working in tandem, Joanne and I made Sour Cream Old-Fashioned Doughnuts with Simplest Vanilla Glaze. I rolled, cut, glazed and ran the timer. Joanne fried, turning the floating dough with great expertise. She didn’t break a single doughnut. The timing is fairly precise, so we found assigning one person to do the frying and the other person to do the less precise/timed tasks worked best.
The results? Tim Hortons, eat your heart out!
Even the holes turned out just fine. For some fun I put them on a stick. Bet they won’t serve them to you that way at the drive-thru!
I’m proud to report our friendship survived the baking. In fact, we had so much fun we’ve decided to tackle an otherwise challenging recipe again soon.
The only complaint? The doughnuts didn’t last long at all. They were that good. And I gotta say, Top Pot was right in their spelling choice. These doughnuts deserve every extra letter.
- 2¼ cups cake / soft-wheat flour, plus more for rolling and cutting
- 1½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon iodized salt
- ¾ teaspoons ground nutmeg
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons shortening / vegetable lard, trans-fat-free preferred
- 2 large egg yolks
- ⅔ cups sour cream
- canola oil for frying
- 3½ cups confectioner's / icing sugar
- 1½ teaspoon light corn syrup / golden syrup
- ¼ teaspoon iodized salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water, (plus more if needed)
- Sift flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg together in a medium bowl, and set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the sugar and shortening/vegetable lard for 1 minute on low speed, until sandy. Add the egg yolks, then mix for 1 more minute on medium speed, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is light coloured and thick.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in three separate additions, alternating with sour cream, mixing until just combined on low speed and scraping the sides of the bowl each time. The dough will be sticky, like cookie/biscuit dough.
- Transfer the dough to a clean bowl and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap/cling film, for 45 minutes (or up to 24 hours).
- Using a candy thermometer to measure the temperature, heat oil (at least 2 in/5 mm deep) in a deep fryer, large pot or high-sided frying pan to 325°F/165°C. Roll out the chilled dough on a generously floured counter or cutting board to ½ in/12 mm thick, or about 8 in/20 cm in diameter, flouring the top of the dough and the rolling pin as necessary to prevent sticking. Cut into as many doughnuts and holes as possible, dipping the cutter into flour before each cut. Fold and gently reroll the dough to make extra holes (working with floured hands makes the dough less sticky), and cut again.
- Shake any excess flour off the doughnuts before carefully adding them to the hot oil a few at a time, taking care not to crowd them. Once the doughnuts float, fry for 15 seconds, then gently flip them. Fry for 75 to 90 seconds, until golden brown and cracked, then flip and fry the first side again for 60 to 75 seconds, until golden brown. Transfer to a rack set over paper towels/absorbent paper.
- Place the confectioner’s/icing sugar, corn /golden syrup, salt, vanilla and hot water in a large mixing bowl or in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Using a whisk, or with the machine on low, blend until the mixture is smooth and all of the sugar has been incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if necessary. If the glaze seems too thick, add more water, a teaspoon at a time.
- To glaze, dip one side of each hot doughnut into the warm glaze, and let dry for 10 to 15 seconds before serving.
This recipe is published with permission from Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts: Secrets and Recipes for the Home Baker by Mark and Michael Klebeck with Jess Thomson.
Review in Brief
Will appeal to: Doughnut lovers and home bakers who want to branch into something new. Sure there are no-fry recipes in the book, but a baked doughnut is a little like kissing your cousin. My advice, read over the Doughnut History and Primer section a few times. It’s got tons of very practical information you’ll be glad to know when you’re timing by the quarter minute and working with hot oil. Did I mention the results are worth it?
Must try doughnut recipes:
- French Toast Old-Fashioned Doughnuts: It’s French Toast. In doughnut form. Can you think of a more decadent breakfast? Except for maybe…
- Dulce de Leche Cake Doughnuts: A chocolate-based version topped with chocolate caramel.
- Doughnut Bread Pudding: In the unlikely event of leftovers, this uses up raised doughnuts
Biggest delight: How delicious fresh-from-the-stove-top homemade doughuts can be. And I’d forgotten the joys of cooking elbow to elbow with a friend.