The Great British Bake Off inspires hundreds of people across the country to cook. Such is the diverse appeal of the Pastry TV Show, which bakers of all skill levels and ages are tapping into every week and joining in at Pastry Shops.
It’s comfort television at its best, and one of the important things about this cooking show is its aspiration. It makes people want to step out of their usual comfort zone and try to cook something different.
One of those people is me. I baked a handful of breads in my time so to really push myself I made donuts.
I test my own recipes twice, to verify that they taste good and that the measurements and methods are all correct as well.
If it’s a recipe outside of my usual remit, I’ll look for other recipes and try to recreate them.
My only experience with donuts so far is stuffing them in my face. I once drove 150 miles round trip to Manchester to collect what are, in my opinion, the best donuts in the UK.
I have never made a donut and with bread week ahead I decided to give it a try. If you’ve ever baked bread, you’ll find that it’s an enriched bread mix that goes through two different “trials”.
Of the 40+ donut recipes I reviewed, those by Chetna Makan and Justin Gellatly stood out the most. Here is a recipe that takes the best of both, to create a plate of 24 donuts.
Makes 24 donuts (1kg of dough)
Preparation time: 45 minutes, plus rising and cooling overnight
Cooking time: 3 minutes per donut, fried in batches of two
500 g strong white bread flour
60g caster sugar
10g fine salt
8g fast-acting dry yeast
Zest of ½ lemon
150g cold water
125 g unsalted butter, softened
3 liters of sunflower oil for frying
Vanilla powdered sugar for mixing donuts (regular powdered sugar works well if you can’t get the vanilla flavor)
Raspberry jam or garnish of your choice
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Put everything except the butter in a bowl and mix with a wooden spoon. Once the dough starts to form after about a minute, use the dough hook in your blender and mix for 6 minutes. You can do this part by hand, increasing the kneading time to 8 minutes.
Let the dough and machine rest for 2 minutes. Both will be quite hot.
With the mixer running on medium power, start adding butter by tablespoon to the dough. You are looking for the butter to be completely absorbed into the dough, which should take about 2 minutes.
Scrape the dough every few minutes, just to keep the bowl clean.
Blend an additional 4 minutes, this time on high power, until the dough is stretchy and elastic. If you are doing it by hand, knead the dough for about 7 minutes.
Flatten the dough into a neat ball, cover with cling film and leave in a warm room.
Once the dough has risen and has roughly doubled in size after about 3-4 hours, push the air out, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
Divide the dough into 24 pieces. Roll each piece into a tight ball in your palm. Place on a floured baking sheet and cover with lightly oiled cling film.
Prove dough for another 3-4 hours or until doubled in size.
Fill your deep fryer or deep pan filled with sunflower oil.
Gently place your donuts in the fryer. Handle with care as puffed donuts will deflate when you put them in the fryer.
Fry each donut for 1.5 minutes on each side at 160 ° C until golden brown.
Toss them in a bowl of powdered sugar while they are hot and let cool.
Poke a fillet knife into the side of a donut and insert it in the center, turning the knife all the way around to make an inconspicuous but substantial hole.
Fill a pastry bag with jam or your favorite filling and fill the donuts until wrapped.
Some recipes recommend weighing the pieces of donuts before shaping them into balls. It is not imperative. I weighed mine at 43.4 grams each which took another 25 minutes and my donuts still aren’t the same size. Some were a little deflated, others remained inflated with air.
Some recipes for a 500g flour mixture will say make 20 donuts. I find them too big and it can be difficult to finish a filled donut. Making them slightly smaller means you can enjoy a stuffed donut without feeling stuffy.
Feel free to use a pan for frying, however a deep fryer is recommended. This allows you to have full temperature control and you don’t need to keep taking the temperature to make sure it’s constant while frying.
Feel free to fill your donuts with whatever filling you want. Jam, Nutella, and Cream are your usual suspects, but ‘Nduja and Arrabiata are other sauces you might want to consider. Do not dust the donuts with sugar if you are going to use these toppings.
Donuts can be difficult to make. I spent the weekend doing them and yes it is worth it but it takes patience.