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These are as close to “those doughnuts” as I’ve been able to make at home. Speaking of “those doughnuts,” the shop that makes them is owned by an older resident of our town whose temperament can range from kind, welcoming, and gracious to a complete mirror of a certain soup purveyor in a certain long-running series starring a certain man with the last name of Seinfeld. Think I’m kidding? The doughnut guy in our town once made my summer babysitter, fresh-faced and home from college, cry.

Stuck working cattle, I called her one hot July morning to beg her to run to the doughnut shop and bring the working crew a few dozen. The doughnut man didn’t like her request, for some reason—I think he took it personally that she wanted to buy so many at a time after he’d worked so hard, and so early, to make them—and by the time she left the store she was in tears. She immediately called me and said, “For the sake of my emotional health, I don’t think I can buy doughnuts for you anymore.” And I chuckled, knowing exactly what she was talking about.

The flip side is this: if you catch the doughnut man on a good day, he’s a complete delight. And his doughnuts…they’re perfection. He sinks his whole life and passion into them; I can completely understand why Haley wanting to rip several dozen out from under his wings would upset him. They’re his babies. Long story short: the doughnuts I’m sharing with you today are pretty darn close. I tried to keep the instructions below as specific and precise as I could. The printable recipe at the bottom of the page has numeric instructions so as to leave no doubt. Here’s how to make ’em!

Begin by measuring 1 1/8 cup of whole milk. Just go between the 1 cup and 1 1/4 cup lines.

Yes, I’m aware you didn’t need me to explain that to you.

Warm up the milk so that it’s warm to the touch, but not hot. If you have a thermometer, make sure the milk is between 105 and 115 degrees F. I usually err on the side of too warm, but that can be a little dangerous.

Add 1/4 cup sugar to the milk. Stir it around a few times.

Now, you can certainly use active dry or rapid rise yeast…but I have had great success with this SAF Instant Yeast, which is sold at my local smalltown grocery store. It’s good stuff, guys, and as I was reading about it on the internet recently, I discovered that SAF yeast is the only yeast used in the King Arthur Flour test kitchens. And this one-pound bag, which could make around 90 to 100 loaves of bread, costs about six dollars.

Again, though, if you’d like to use whatever yeast you have in your house, feel free to substitute active dry or rapid rise.

Measure 2 1/4 teaspoons of the yeast granules into a bowl. This is the same quantity that comes in one individual packet of yeast, so the two can be easily interchangeable.

Pour the warm milk/sugar mixture into the bowl with the yeast.

Stir it around just a couple of times, then let it sit for several minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.

NOTE: It is NOT necessary to dissolve instant yeast before adding it to the dry ingredients. I like to do it in this recipe, just to maintain a consistent process should I ever have to use a different variety of yeast…and the recipe simply works this way.

Next, add 1 1/4 sticks of unsalted butter to a separate bowl.

*This is one of the rare cases I use unsalted butter. It just seems to work better in this recipe.

Melt the butter in the microwave until it’s just barely melted, then stir the butter to finish the melting process. The reason I do it this way is that I don’t want the melted butter to be too hot. I’m going to add it to beaten eggs in a sec.

Crack a couple of eggs into a separate bowl…

Then beat them senseless with a fork.

Next, making sure the butter’s not overly warm first, pour the beaten eggs into the butter.

Stir the mixture with the fork until it’s all combined.

Now, pour the egg/butter mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer, with the mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Turn the mixer on speed 3 (if it’s KitchenAid), or medium-low.

*NOTE: If you do not have an electric mixer/dough hook attachment, just pour this into a regular large mixing bowl.

With the mixer running, grab the yeast/milk mixture, which, eight minutes later, is now totally freaky and bubbly and weird looking.

Freaky, bubbly, and weird: when it comes to yeast, these are all very desirable attributes.

Carefully pour the mixture into the bowl of the mixer…


Allow the mixer to gently stir the ingredients together.

*NOTE: If you aren’t using a mixer, just stir the wet ingredients gently with a whisk for about a minute.

Let the mixer run and keep stirring up the wet ingredients while you measure out 4 cups all-purpose flour. This is where I’ve really done some experimenting (with cake flour, self-rising flour, etc.) and wound up coming back to the regular stuff. Sometimes simple is best, baby.

Add 1/4 teaspoon salt to the flour and stir to combine.

I seriously can not explain the freaky pink alien hand in this photo. It’s the lens…or the lighting…or maybe I really am just a freaky pink alien and I’ve tried to deny it to myself all these years. Either way, try not to be disturbed. Focus on the doughnuts.

Make sure the wet mixture looks nice and combined, then begin adding the flour mixture in 1/4 to 1/2-cup increments…

Mixing for several seconds after each addition.

Keep this up…

Until all the flour has been added.

*NOTE: If you’re not using a mixer, just add flour to the wet ingredients in increments, stirring and/or kneading after each addition.

Next, just let the mixer go for a good 8 to 10 minutes. You’ll hear the satisfying sound of the dough slapping against the sides of the metal bowl…ahhh. There’s not a more satisfying sound in all the world.

Except maybe those grunting sounds a newborn baby makes for the first two or three weeks of his life.

But I can’t let myself go there. That’s more dangerous than a doughnut.

Stop the mixer, then scrape the bottom of the bowl and turn the mixer back on for one more minute. Then turn off the mixer and remove the hook attachment…

…Leaving the dough in the bowl for a few minutes.

*NOTE: If you’re not using a mixer, just knead the dough gently for about 5 to 8 minutes, then let it sit and rest.

And THAT’S IT for the dough. All you do now is put the dough into a lightly greased (with a little canola oil or butter) bowl, toss it around to coat the surface of the dough, then cover with plastic wrap (not foil; important!) and keep in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

This is the next morning.

Now, right away, while the dough is still cold (so it can easily be rolled and handled), lightly flour your rolling surface…

Then plop the dough upside down onto the surface.

Then flour the top and roll out the dough to between a 1/4 and 1/2 inch thickness, lightly flouring as you go along if the pin starts to stick.

Now, lightly flour a baking pan. You can line it with waxed paper or a baking mat first, but you don’t have to.

Now, ideally you would now use a 3-inch (maximum) doughnut cutter, which is a single cutter that also cuts a hole in the middle of each round. I used to have one, but I’m afraid it’s now living at the bottom of our pond, right along with my favorite slotted spoon and about a hundred other household items my boys have used in their various attempts to catch sea monsters.

I don’t want to talk about it.

Next, finding that I was also missing my smaller (1.5 inch) biscuit cutter, I had to choose between these two little fluted numbers.


My boys, not the cutters.

**I’m missing a couple of sequence shots here because…well, because I’m a freak, but basically here’s what went on:

1. Cut a center hole in the larger rounds using a 1 to 1.5-inch cutter.
2. Transfer the doughnuts and the doughnut holes to the floured baking sheet
3. Repeat with the dough scraps until all/most of the dough has been used.
4. Cover the doughnuts and holes with a large tea towel and LET RISE IN A WARM PLACE FOR AN HOUR-PLUS.

I can not emphasize enough the importance of providing the doughnuts with a warm, draft free place to rise. The dough has started out cold, so you really need to aggressively make sure they have the proper environment for rising. My kitchen is extremely drafty—I have four large windows that have seen better days—so I have to go on the offense by heating up my large griddle, then turning it off, then placing my pans of doughnuts on the warm griddle. Now, you don’t want the pan on which the doughnuts are sitting to actually heat up at all—that would mess up the bottoms of the doughnuts. But you do need to really create a warm environment so the doughnuts will rise adequately. How much the doughnuts rise over the next hour is directly related to how light and fluffy they’ll be…so do what you can!

This is after one hour of rising in a nice, warm place.

Compare the difference:

Risen, the doughnuts should not appear “solid”, but should really look light—as if they’d collapse if you breathed on them. Feel free to let them rise an additional 15 minutes or so if you think they need it. Just always keep them covered with a light towel so the tops don’t dry out.

Once the doughnuts are risen, heat a pot of canola oil until it reaches 375 degrees. You’ve really gotta have a deep fry thermometer for this, as the temperature of the oil is extremely important.

Ideally, the oil will remain between 375 and 380, 380 being a little on the hot side.

While the oil is heating, make a quick glaze of powdered sugar, salt, vanilla, and cold water or milk—or a combination of both. Whisk it together until totally smooth.

NEXT: Make a nice, big bed of several paper towels stacked on top of one another. We’ll need to use these to quickly absorb the oil after we cook the doughnuts.

When the oil has reach its temperature and evened out (i.e. isn’t getting hotter by the second) drop in one doughnut first, just to get comfortable with the process. Notice the little “smushed” area: this is where I very gently looped my finger through the hole of the doughnut to drop it into the oil—you can see how light and fragile the dough is. That’s good!

Let it fry and bubble for about 45 seconds…

Then use a slotted spoon to flip it over. See how brown it got in a very short time? That’s why it’s best to start out cooking one at a time. And keep monitoring your oil temp!

I’m bossy when it comes to doughnuts. I should go into business with our doughnut guy in town. I think we’d be very happy together.

45 seconds into the second side, remove the doughnut with a slotted spoon, allowing as much oil to drip off as you can.

Place it on the stack of paper towels. Count to five, then flip it over onto a clean part of the paper towels.

Continue doing this over the first 30 seconds or so of the doughnut’s life, trying to get as much oil onto the paper towels—and off of the doughnut—as you can.

Think of it this way: whatever oil winds up on the paper towel does not wind up on/in the doughnut. It’s a mathematical certainty.

Continue this process, frying one to three doughnuts at a time…

Until they’re nice and golden brown.

Drain them on the paper towels immediately after removing them from the oil.

Then, after the doughnuts have been drained, drop them one by one into the glaze. Submerge them a little more than halfway deep, then remove them and turn them over. (Note: you may dip the doughnuts twice if you like; see examples below.)

Let them sit on a cooling rack for a little bit. The glaze will drip down and start to set a bit, and the doughnuts will just get more delicious by the second.

The “chocolate” doughnut you see in the back row is actually a regular doughnut that cooked a little too long because I let the oil get too hot. It happens.

Next, after all the doughnuts are cooked, throw in several doughnut holes at a time, turning them over after about 25 to 30 seconds.

Okay, that’s it. I’m officially hungry.

Now that is one yummy-looking doughnut.

But doughnuts are not about looks.

Ahhh. Behold the beauty of a plate of doughnuts.

And back to the glaze: this doughnut was dipped once.

This doughnut was dipped twice. A little gloopier and messier, but very sticky and delicious. Whether you single- or double-dip the doughnuts is strictly a personal preference.

And whether you eat one doughnut or seven is matter to discuss with your maker.

And your doctor.