My mom’s doughnuts are one of those fleeting, kind of mythical things that only comes around once in a blue moon. I’m pretty sure they are my mom’s favorite thing to make, and she only does so like once a year. I love that they’re not insanely sweet (*coughKrispyKremecough*) and actually aren’t horrible for you either. I mean, they’re not zucchini, but they could be worse.
The secret? It isn’t a doughnut recipe at all. It’s a recipe from the Joy of Cooking cookbook from eight million years ago, for panettone (an Italian Christmas treat), and the glaze is made up.
Is it “donut” or “doughnut”? I’ve literally wondered this since I was a kid.
Here’s the other really important thing—you have to eat these right away. Yes, you could eat them as leftovers, but it has been scientifically proven that homemade fried doughnuts are 927% better if eaten within the first 24 hours, and are absolutely best within the first few hours. So consider that permission to devour.
Let’s get started, shall we? Put the yeast and warm milk in a bowl, cover and let sit for around 10 minutes to proof.
It should look like this when it’s ready.
In the meantime, cream the softened butter in a mixer.
Add the sugar and beat til fluffy.
Add in the eggs (2 large or 3 small) and 1 teaspoon of salt.
Next, beat in the sponge (yeast proof mixture). Gradually beat in 3 1/2 cups of flour.
At some point you’ll need to switch to dough hooks. Once the flour is integrated, beat the dough for five minutes more.
Cover the bowl with a cloth and let rise about two hours or until almost doubled in bulk.
Punch down the now-risen dough, and turn it out onto a lightly-floured surface.
Roll out the dough quite thin (½ to ¾ inch thick), like maybe a half inch at most. It will rise again, and you don’t want it to be too puffy (and you want to make as many doughnuts as you can out of this)..
Cut out the doughnuts using a biscuit cutter with a middle hole attachment, and lay out on a big baking sheet. Use the doughnut holes too, they are delicious to just pop in your mouth like candy. My mom usually makes as many donuts and holes as she can in the first cutting, then smooshes the leftover dough back together and rolls it again because…
…we’re going to cut some into strips and twist into cruller shapes or even just twist logs. I recommend using a pizza cutter.
Now we’re in business.
When you’ve used up all the dough, lay the donuts on baking sheets and let them rise in a warm place, about ½ hour.
They need to about double in size. We’ve found it’s best to turn the oven on for a few minutes, then turn it off (that part’s important!) and put the doughnuts in the warm oven to rise (if you think it’s a little too warm, crack the door).
While they’re rising, you can make the glaze.
There aren’t exact amounts for the glaze, I’d start with about a quarter bag of powdered sugar and close to 1/2 cup of milk (better to go light on the milk and then add more). Add some vanilla and blend. You don’t want it too liquidy.
Risen and awesome.
Not gonna lie, I kind of just want to eat them like this. But alas, we have one step left.
Heat oil in a pan (we use a stainless steel frying pan, but a deeper one would be better). We’ve used peanut or canola most of the time. Take a small strip of dough to dip into it to see if it begins bubbling immediately. That is when the oil is hot enough.
Donuts will brown quickly, so only give each side 30 seconds before flipping to check on the doneness. My mom said she’s never had the insides be doughy when the color looks “done” on the outside, so go by that. With the holes, you need to do a batch with just holes, so you can basically roll them the entire time, as they don’t flip over from one side to another.
Keep a close eye on them, they’ll overcook very easily. As you pull them out of the oil, set them on a paper towel to remove excess oil and keep them from getting soggy.
Let them cool just enough to where you don’t burn your fingers when you touch them.
Then dunk them in the glaze, getting them fully coated. Don’t be afraid to get messy, that’s part of the fun.
Lay them back out on their baking sheets to set. Or eat immediately. I prefer to let the glaze cool and crystallize for a few minutes.
And devour. Seriously, all of them. Remember what I said about leftovers. It’s your civic duty to eat them all. Get friends. Get family. Get your eating pants on.
Mom’s Famous Doughnuts
For the doughnuts:
- 1 cup 105 – 115 degree water
- 2 packages active dry yeast (about 5 teaspoons or a tiny bit more)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup butter
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 to 3 eggs (two large, three smaller)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 ½ cups flour
For the glaze:
- About a 1/4 bag of powdered sugar (confectioners sugar)
- About 1/2 cup of milk
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
Combine warm water and yeast (maybe sprinkle in 1/4 teaspoon of sugar to help it activate) and let stand for about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of flour. Cover this “sponge” and let rise about 30 minutes in a warm place.
In your mixer, beat 1/2 cup of butter until soft and fluffy, then add 1/2 cup of sugar gradually (still beating). Beat in 2 large eggs (or 3 smaller) one at a time, along with a teaspoon of salt. Then beat in the sponge (yeast proof mixture) and begin gradually beating in 3 1/2 cups of flour—at some point you’ll need to switch to dough hooks. Once the flour has all been added, beat the dough for five more minutes.
Cover the bowl with a cloth and let rise about two hours, or until almost doubled in bulk. Punch down, then turn out onto a lightly-floured surface. Roll to ½ to ¾ inch thick (quite thin, but it’s important). Cut with a doughnut-cutter and/or use a pizza cutter to make strips for braids or twists. We usually cut as many doughnuts/holes as we can in the first cutting, then put the dough back together and roll it out again and do the strips with that portion of the dough. Lay the doughnuts on a baking sheet and let rise in a warm place til they’ve doubled, about ½ hour. Hint: we usually turn the oven on for a few minutes to get it kind of warm, then put the doughnuts in there to rise.
While they’re rising, mix up the glaze. Simply blend together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla.
Heat oil (we usually use peanut or canola) in a pan. My mom uses a stainless steel frying pan, but a deeper one would be better. Take a small strip of dough to dip into it to see if it begins bubbling immediately—that’s how you know the oil is hot enough. Fry a few doughnuts at a time. Doughnuts will brown quickly, so only give each side 30 seconds before flipping to check on the doneness. We’ve never had the insides be doughy when the color looks “done” on the outside, so you should be fine. With the holes, you need to do a batch with just holes, so you can basically roll them the entire time, as they don’t flip over easily from one side to another. Put down paper towels on the baking sheets and place the fried donuts on them as they come out of the oil.
When they’ve cooled to where they don’t burn your fingers, dunk in the glaze, place back on the baking sheets to let cool and set slightly, and you’re ready for eating. Enjoy!!!