Thursday, May 26, 2011

Baked doughnuts

"Doughnuts. Is there anything they can't do?" - the great Homer Simpson.

I had the intention of making some bagels last night. Somewhere along the lines, the bagel became a doughnut. Arrrrgh. Don't you hate it when some unknown force just steers your brain away from you? Perhaps it was the Simpsons marathon I organised for myself last night? Season Five — you know the episode where Homer sells his souls for a doughnut and has to go to Ironic Punishment Lab in hell to pay for his gluttony?

Damn you Homer Simpson. (I take it back!).

I don't share Homer Simpson's idolation for doughnuts but I like them all the same. Not all the time, dozens at a time; but one or two every now and then. My favourite doughnut is the basic version that is just sprinkle-coated with some granulated sugar. I don't actually like the glazed ones or the chocolate covered ones or the ones that are filled with cream AND glazed with icing sugar. Oh! I can feel my arteries clogging up just talking about them.

No, I like mine simple. I little cinnamon with the sugar is fine. If it has to be stuffed, some jam will do.

So after watching five episodes of Homer back to back, I felt like making nothing else but doughnuts. I'd made fried doughnuts once before — about a year ago, at least, but I wanted to try baking the rings instead. I'd bookmarked Heidi Swanson's (101 Cookbooks) recipe for baked doughnuts a while ago and tonight was the night to try it.

Now, a serious doughnut connoisseur, like Homer, will most likely scoff at the idea of a baked doughnut much like a fried chicken fanatic may disregard the baked alternative. No oil? Whaaaaat? No doubt about it, a baked doughnut tastes decidedly different from a deep fried one. 

The fried doughnut is crispy on the outside and the oil that seeps into the dough while frying makes it a little greasy (but good sort of greasy, you know?) inside too. Just a little. It also browns evenly because it's deep fried.

The baked doughnuts (these are yeasted, so they rise and are quite fluffy) are more healthy but no less tasty. The surface is pale except for the tops which are a little golden.

Both the fried and the baked versions use a yeast dough that's pretty straightforward to prepare. No need for a sponge (my earlier doughnut recipe from joepastry required a sponge and therefore took a while longer to make).

Heidi's portions are kinda big: 500g flour which yields about 25 medium to large doughnuts. One thing about baked doughnuts: they are best eaten warm, fresh out of the oven even. So, if you're not cooking for a party of 15 or 20, you could halve the recipe or follow the recipe but freeze half or three quarters of the dough for another day. 

Heidi's Baked Doughnuts 

11/3 cup milk
21/4 tsp active yeast
60g butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
5 cups all purpose flour
A pinch or two of ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt

Granulated sugar OR Icing sugar (I added cinnamon for some)
2 tbsp butter, melted

Heat the milk till it's tepid. Take 1/3 of the milk and pour it into the bowl of your electric mixture. Add the yeast and stir lightly; let it sit for 5 mins. 

Stir the butter and butter into the remaining warm milk; the warm milk should melt the butter. Add too the yeast mixture. Now, with a fork, stir in the egg, salt, nutmeg and salt into the liquid. A rough dough should start to form. Now, with the dough hook attached, mix the dough till it comes together as one smooth ball of slightly sticky dough. If it's too wet, add a couple of tbsp more flour. If it's too dry, add a bit more milk. 

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 3 mins. shape into a ball and transfer into a well oiled bowl. Cover with clingfilm and let it rise; about an hour.

Once its risen, deflate it and transfer in onto the work surface once more, lightly floured. Roll the dough out till its about 1 cm thick.

Using a 3 to 31/5 inch-cookie cutter, cut circles from the dough. 

Transfer the circles onto a lined baking sheet. Now using a smaller circular cutter, cut circles in the middle. I left some whole, to be filled with jam later!

Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise again for about 45 mins.

Preheat the oven to 180. Bake the doughnuts for just about 8 to 10 mins. Be careful not to over bake them or they'll be too hard and not so fluffy. 

While they're baking, melt the butter for the coating and get your sugar ready. Once the rings are out of the oven, dunk them in the butter and then coat them with the sugar of your choice. 

If you too want to fill some whole ones with jam, fill an icing bag (with the nozzle attached, of course) with jam. You could also use a squeeze bottle. Puncture a side of the doughnut slightly with the nozzle and squeeze in the jam. 

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