And now, our first guest post! By our friend and superior cook, Angela Kim. Apparently she spells the word "doughnuts," because she is fancy. [See! I am not the only fancy one! - Turk]
I classify doughnuts in a category called dream foods. Fresh doughnuts are just so delightful that if they were good for you, or if they had no calories and not bad for you, I would pretty much eat them all the time (other examples of dream foods: Coke, bacon, Wegman’s sheet cake, oh the list goes on! [don't forget Ben & Jerry's! - Court]).
Like bagels, doughnuts are almost always bought to eat, I guess in part because of a certain fear factor. In this case, it’s not necessary ingredients like malt syrup or even the yeast (as you know, we have conquered yeast!), but the hot vat of carefully temperature-controlled oil that you need to cook doughnuts properly. Why wouldn’t you just watch the little machine do its work at Krispy Kreme from a safe distance?
The night before Carb-Fest 2010, I mixed up the dough for Tasty Kitchen’s Homemade Glazed Doughnuts. The recipe seems a little nuts at first glance, with 16 steps, but I can attest that it took all of 30 minutes (most of it waiting 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there for the yeast and dough to do its thing) and the KitchenAid is a wondrous, wondrous thing.
After an overnight rise and a drive to Court’s, we were ready to make some doughnuts! Except . . . Courtney does not have A) a candy/frying thermometer [and no one asked me to bring one . . . Turk] or b) round cookie cutters. Problem B was pretty easily solved. We used pint glasses to press out the large rounds (extremely effective on the soft dough) and for the smaller doughnut holes, we used, um . . . a plastic breast pump part. I will emphasize that it was totally clean and also the perfect size (thanks Tom Groeneveld for that piece of genius!) If you don’t have plastic breast pump parts, I assume you can just freehand cut with a sharp knife, or, make doughnuts without holes, which would make you a weirdo. [Or maybe, a genius who wants to fill them with jelly. Why didn't we do that? - Turk]
Once the doughnut rings were formed for the second rising, I turned to problem A. It took nearly an hour and trips to TWO Safeways to track down a thermometer, but finally we were ready to get down to the business of frying.
Unfortunately one of the weaknesses of this recipe is that it doesn’t have very specific instructions on how to achieve good frying results. It says “Heat plenty of canola oil in a large pot until the temperature reaches 375 to 380 degrees—do not let it get hotter than 380 degrees! 375 is ideal; keep the thermometer in the pan to continually monitor.” Kind of vague for newbies who only consume store-bought doughnuts . . . [Seriously. "Plenty" of oil? This would have been enough to make me skip this recipe - Court] [And that is why we made Angela do it - Turk] [Ha! Sucker! - Court]
So what the recipe means by “large pot” is a deep, heavy pot, like a Le Creuset dutch oven. The cast iron heats the oil effectively and evenly, and it’s deep enough that there isn’t excessive splattering all over the stove. And when it says plenty of canola oil, that’s a depth of about two inches, enough room for the doughnuts to float freely around and cook up nicely. Also, I would recommend heating the oil gradually over medium heat until it reaches the desired temp. After the grocery store odyssey, I was really impatient for some doughnuts, so I cranked up the heat to high. I kept checking the thermometer but the oil heated up so quickly that I couldn’t get an accurate measurement [Maybe because we had a candy thermometer that didn't clip onto the pot, so we were just kind of holding it in the oil with our bare hands - Court].
I put the first batch of doughnuts into oil that was much hotter than 375 and they got fried to a dark brown in about 20 seconds total, when it’s really supposed to take about 30 seconds per side. After that batch, I turned down the heat and tried to moderate the temperature better, but it took another two or three tries to get it just right. Once we got some nicely golden brown ones, I got distracted by the various glazes that Courtney and Andrea were making up, and oh yeah, STUFFING my face with hot doughnuts, that I let the oil get too cold. The last few batches took longer to cook and absorbed more oil than the others. Lesson: maintaining ideal frying temp requires constant vigilance! [Mad-Eye Moody would be so proud - Court]