"Food: Science, Art, Passion, Pleasure, Adventure & Exploration"

Friday, January 7, 2011

Baking Adventure 20: Old-fashioned Glazed Buttermilk Doughnuts

Glazed Buttermilk Doughnuts!

First, I'd like to wish everyone a Happy New Year!

I hope everyone's year is getting off to a good start, as mine surely is.

It's been awhile since I've posted an update to my food blog. A lot has happened since my last entry in early December and I am feeling recharged and rejuvenated for 2011. There are lots of foods I'll be exploring, learning, and sharing, so I hope you guys are ready to continue this journey with me. :)

Although not technically a BAKING adventure, I finally got around to making doughnuts!

I love doughnuts, have always wanted to make them from scratch, and these days, it's hard to find a really good doughnut in most bakeries. Buttermilk doughnuts have always been my favorite amongst the vast assortment of doughnut types.

Doughnuts are as iconic as cupcakes, but the popularity of doughnuts has died down a bit in the last few years.  Before the cupcake craze in North America, there was the doughnut craze, thanks to the influence of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and various other doughnut chains. Although Krispy Kreme was established in 1937 and doughnuts have long been enjoyed by so many, widespread and rabid consumption of doughnuts began in the late 1990s and peaked in the early 2000s.

There are a bunch of ways to prepare and make doughnuts, and many cultures have their own spin on doughnut-making techniques and doughnut flavors.

Cake doughnuts and yeast dough doughnuts are the two prominent categories of doughnut types. Cake doughnuts can be fried or baked, but traditionally doughnuts have been fried for the best of taste and texture. I personally enjoy fried doughnuts over baked, and yeast dough doughnuts over specialized cake batter doughnuts (although beignets in the U.S, which are French New Orleans doughnuts, are traditionally made from choux pastry dough like éclairs).
What Do You Know?: Canadians consume the most doughnuts and have the most doughnut shops and bakeries per capita, compared to other regions globally.
Doughnuts can be made with honey, various fruits, custard, and cream fillings, buttermilk, butter, shortening (animal or vegetable), maple syrup, brown sugar, and so on. The list seems endless.

Doughnuts also come in a variety of shapes but the most common and traditional shapes are:
  • rings (the most classic shape of all, round with a hole in the middle)
  • twists (think of crullers; ring-shaped doughnuts made from twisted dough)
  • rectangular bars (these resemble flattened éclairs and are sometimes called Long Johns)
  • rounded squares (with or without holes)
  • round, flattened spheres (usually made to inject with different fillings)
  • knots or bits (usually doughnut holes removed from the middle of ring-shaped doughnuts)
I personally feel that a good old-fashioned glazed doughnut can never go out of style. The taste and texture is classic and this is the first doughnut recipe I decided to try. I plan to go on a "great doughnut expedition" in the next month or so, trying out various recipes to document and compare.

So let's start talking about my adventure in making glazed buttermilk doughnuts.

The first step, of course was gathering all of the ingredients and equipment I needed, including a deep fryer (although using a deep skillet is a great alternative for frying your dough in). The ingredients were rather easy to obtain and you'll most likely find many of them already stashed away in your pantry.

Various things I needed for doughnut-making

In a large bowl, I placed 1 tablespoon of dry active yeast with 1/4 cup of warm water and let the yeast mixture sit for 5 minutes. You'll notice how peculiar the yeast smells as it reacts in the warm water. It's an acquired smell but one I've come to appreciate.

A standard pouch equals about 1 tablespoon of dry yeast (I used Fleischmann's).

After the yeast and water sat for 5 minutes, I added sugar (yeast feeds on sugar so that the dough can expand and rise), buttermilk, salt, some of the flour, baking powder, and melted shortening. I mixed the dough thoroughly, and gradually added more of the flour that remained as needed, until a soft dough formed and the mixture was no longer sticky and very wet to the touch.

I floured a suitable surface and kneaded and rolled out my dough on it a few times until it turned into the consistency similar to pizza though.

You don't want to overwork doughnut dough; you are looking more for a texture that is still somewhat tactile to the touch but that is smooth and pliable enough to handle, shape and cut into easily.

If you're dough sticks too much to the rolling pin or surface you're working on, you have not incorporated enough flour into it. If your dough cracks and crumbles a great deal, is very dry, and doesn't seem to come together well when you roll and knead it, then you've put too much flour.

Created my own "doughnut cutter" using two circle cookie cutters
I finally rolled the dough out to about half an inch. I have a large collection of cookie cutters in various shapes. I used two circle-shaped cookie cutters - one to create the ring of the doughnuts and one for neatly and evenly cutting out doughnut holes or centers.

I could have used the doughnut holes for making fried doughnut bits, but I decided to incorporate them back into the dough each time around to make more doughnuts.

Cutting out doughnuts

Doughnuts resting for a brief rising period

Once all of the doughnuts were cut out, I let them rise for about 45-50 minutes until they were puffier. I prepared my deep fryer by pouring in 2.5 to 3 standard-sized bottles of vegetable oil.

You can use a variety of oils to fry doughnuts in, such as corn, coconut, and peanut oil. Some people fry their doughnuts in shortening, and traditionally doughnuts were fried in animal fat or suet.

I prefer frying my doughnuts in vegetable or coconut oil (coconut oil is far more expensive of course but might give an interesting flavor and texture to the doughnuts).

I heated my deep fryer to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and dropped in 4-5 doughnuts in the fryer basket. Each doughnut took about 2 minutes to cook, one minute per side. I flipped the doughnuts once and aimed for a deep golden brown color and a crisp outer texture.

 You have to keep a close watch on these or they'll burn before you know it. Also, doughnuts puff up a great deal when they fry, so they'll be even bigger once they're done.

All of this was so exciting to do and watch. I felt giddy the entire time making them and watching them come to life!

Doughnuts done on both sides

Doughnuts being lifted out of the fryer
My dough produced about 16 doughnuts. As the doughnuts rested on a rack after frying, I prepared the glaze to coat them in.

Most doughnut glazes (including poured fondants) are made from icing sugar (confectioners' sugar) and some form of dairy, usually milk, although cream can be substituted for a richer, thicker, and cloudier glaze.. Bakers can get quite creative with developing all sorts of glaze flavors and styles. I personally have many custom glaze recipes developed for all sorts of desserts so far.

For my first try, my glaze consisted of a mix of whole milk and confectioners' sugar. I worked the glaze into a a smooth, non-lumpy consistency that resembled a dipping sauce. Not too thick and not too thin that it was watery.

My doughnut glaze - simple first time around

A few of the fried buttermilk doughnuts waiting to be dressed with sweet coats of translucent glaze
I dipped each doughnut twice in the glaze. The glaze didn't take long to dry out to a signature flaky texture that complimented the crispy exterior of each doughnut, as you can see in the very first photo in this entry.

The texture on the inside of each doughnut came out beyond wonderful.

Light, airy, and moist with the quintessential taste of a great doughnut.

Since the first time making these doughnuts, I've made them a few more times and I feel I've established the perfect glazed buttermilk doughnut recipe.

I would love to share the finalized and enhanced recipe, but on the other hand, I plan to add doughnuts to my bakery menu very soon and sell them using this recipe (including glazes) that I've perfected.

Let's just say that each time I make these doughnuts, they disappear as quickly as the Cheshire cat, and the wide, delightful, but mischievous characteristic grin that it's known for is instead left on the faces of the eaters.


  1. Man, those look amazing! I'm usually not a huge donut person, but this post really got me drooling. I might have to try this sometime!

  2. we use only Vanilla  extract as it tastes better but if you
    only have essence then add half as much again. She doesn't recommend
    vanilla flavouring.