old-fashioned doughnuts

I know; you thought I’d given up.  I could make a lot of excuses, but all I have to offer is this:

Yes, there’s a new little lass in the clan, and the months leading up to her May arrival robbed me of much of my creativity and appetite – and the hijinks of her big brother and sister robbed me of my time and remaining energy.  All to the good, though; if something had to fall by the wayside, best it be butter- and sugar-based.  Or fried, like these:

Don’t think I’ve suddenly reverted to form, undertaking a long and complicated cooking project this Father’s Day; it was all I could do to have a dinner that included both meat and potatoes tonight (though it turns out the Lad and Lass are true carnivores – they loved the ribs!)  No, these beauties were what I made last Father’s Day; but they were delicious, and a hit at brunch, and I really would have liked to have had them again today.

Now, I’m not even a big doughnut person.  I tend more toward muffins or sweet breads when it comes to breakfast pastries.  But these are special – they’re sweet, but not too sweet, and an overnight rise of some of the dough gives them a deeper, more sourdough-y flavor than you would expect.  And they’re substantial, nice and toothsome – even chewy – and like nothing I’ve ever gotten at a Dunkin Donuts or Honeydew.


The recipe hails from Thomas Keller, so it should be no surprise that it elevates frying bread to a new level.  And because it’s a Keller recipe, it should also be no surprise that these are no small undertaking.  They take time, though a fair bit of that time requires no energy or attention from the cook.  They take energy – you absolutely need a stand mixer, and I even had to knead the two doughs together by hand in small batches in order to not burn out the motor on my heavy-duty Kitchenaid.  They take fat – and a lot of it; but if you fry at the right temperature, not much of that fat ends up in the doughnut.  And they take restraint; but good luck with that – if I remember correctly, I served these at a brunch attended by six adults, and I’m pretty sure none of the two dozen doughnuts I’d made were left by the afternoon.

Despite all of the above (or – if you’re like me and a little nutty in appreciating a culinary project – because of all of the above) these are worth the effort they take.  Fried dough might be one of the oldest and simplest foodstuffs out there, but not much compares with freshly fried dough dusted with cinnamon and sugar when it comes to old-school indulgence.

Yeasted Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnuts
(adapted from The French Laundry)
Note: Start the dough preparation the day before you plan to fry & serve the doughnuts, and plan to be up early to finish them up the next morning.  Or, start two days before, and plan to refrigerate the dough overnight and fry up on the third day.  I have not tried this tactic, but I think it would work.  Also, these don’t keep well, so plan to fry them up right before you want to serve them, for the best experience. 

3 tablespoons dry yeast, divided
1 1/4 cup warm water
8 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup warm milk
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
12 egg yolks (from large eggs)
1/2 cup melted butter
Canola oil for frying
Cinnamon-sugar mixture

Day 1: Mix 1 1/2 tablespoons yeast with warm water. When mixture foams, put 4 cups flour and the yeast mixture into the bowl of a large mixer. Using a dough hook, mix and knead until thoroughly incorporated. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Day 2: Mix remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons yeast with the warm milk. Place remaining 4 cups flour, salt and sugar in large mixing bowl. When yeast foams, add yeast mixture, yolks and melted butter to dry ingredients, mixing until incorporated. Let mixture rest for 1 hour.

Combine the two doughs in a mixer, using a dough hook, until completely incorporated. This may take 5-10 minutes on a low speed – and you might need to do some of it by hand, like I did.

Roll dough to 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick and cut into desired shape for doughnuts. Cover dough pieces with a damp towel and let rest at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Uncover and let rise in a warm place.

Meanwhile, heat 2 inches of oil to 325-degrees F in a large, deep, heavy pan, like a Dutch oven.  Working in batches, fry the doughnuts (and holes!) until golden – about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and then roll in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.

Serve immediately.

  1. lou said:

    So nice to have you back, even if it’s just briefly or intermittently. The best donut I’ve ever had was a homemade one made by my high school friend’s mom. This sound just like that one. Alas, I have neither the stand mixer nor the patience, I’m sure.

    But holy sweet baby! Is that a professional picture or just more evidence of your genius? Gorgeous. Can’t wait to meet her this summer.


  2. christine said:

    So glad you’re back–and what a worthy excuse for an absence!!

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