I haven't quite gotten into the Christmas spirit yet, and I think I know why. You see, when you're a kid, you have all these other things leading up to Christmas - a school party, a play, ornaments you made in class, a countdown on the Advent calendar, and peeking into the vent in Mom and Dad's closet to see what's inside. When you're a grown up, things like that pass on by, your calendar fills up with final exams and meetings, and despite the ticking days until the 25th, I'm still not feelin' it.
This semester has been a really tough one, and I'm relieved to say I am officially taking the next one off. I thought that getting married and buying a new house was a good reason to take a break, and after I got over the guilt of taking the courses off my list, I made doughnuts. I was afraid I'd be terribly bored without school - rarely a day went by that I didn't have hours of reading or writing to do, and the first day off, I complained.
I complained to my Mom that I was rotting away, that my brain wasn't stimulated, and I didn't know what to do with myself now that the constant nag of homework wasn't bouncing around my head. She suggested I read a book, and with the help of my new toy, I gave it an honest try. But I kept finding myself thinking about what I should be doing and if there was something more productive somewhere waiting for me. It's a tough habit to break.
So, with all this extra time on my hands, I made doughnuts. Even though they are technically a breakfast food, they really are a half-day chore, so I don't see how anyone could muster up the chutzpah to get up early enough to have these on the table by breakfast. They're the perfect thing to make when you have your first free Sunday in months - you read a chapter while the dough rises, take a little nap while it chills, daydream about your new house while the glaze hardens just a bit, and hang that red sparkly star ornament you made in Kindergarten on the tree with one hand while you eat your doughnut with the other.
This was my first rodeo with raised doughnuts, and if we're being totally honest here, they were a little disappointing. They were still delicious, but not what I'd hoped. I was longing for that unmistakable tang of yeast, and I didn't see how I could miss it considering the recipe includes 3 tablespoons of it, but it just wasn't there. The dough wasn't quite as sweet as I thought it would be, and the oil gave me a bit of trouble (see the recipe notes below). But as it happens, there's nothing a slosh through sugary glaze and a palmful of rainbow sprinkles can't fix.
Glazed Raised Doughnuts
Adapted from Doughnuts, by Lara Ferroni
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
¾ cup of whole milk, heated to 110ºF
¾ cup bread flour
¼ cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon yeast
2 heaped tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 ¼ cups to 1 ¾ cups bread flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Vegetable oil, for frying
In a medium bowl, dissolve 2 tablespoons of yeast into the warm milk. Add 3/4 cup of flour and stir until it forms a smooth paste. Cover the mixture loosely with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm spot (like the oven, turned on to Warm and then turned off) for about 30 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 1/4 cup of the room temperature milk and 1 tablespoon of yeast. Add the rested flour mixture along with the sugar, salt, vanilla and egg yolks. Mix until smooth. Switch to the dough hook attachment and add 1/2 cup of the remaining flour. Mix on low for about a minute then add the butter and mix until it is smooth. Continue adding more flour, 1/4 cup at a time and mixing on medium speed, until the dough pulls completely away from the sides of the bowl. It will be a little sticky, but still pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it chill in the refrigerator for 1-12 hours.
About 10 minutes before taking the dough out, heat a heavy bottomed pot with at least 2 inches of oil. Clip a deep fat/candy thermometer to the side and heat the oil to 360 degrees F. (This is what the recipe states - however, at 360 my doughnuts were getting very dark, not burnt, but browner than the picture shows. I lowered the heat to 340 and it still didn't do the trick. Any lower and I was afraid the doughnuts would just start absorbing the oil and not staying fluffy in the center - so please report back if you have any other ideas.)
Line a baking sheet with a non-terry cloth towel and dust it with flour. Roll out the dough on a flour surface to about 1/2 inch thick. Use a doughnut cutter (or water glass and imagination) to cut out the doughnuts - they should be about 3 inches in diameter with a 1 inch hole. Place the doughnuts on the floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Let them proof in a warm spot for 5-10 minutes or until about doubled in size.
Once the doughnuts have proofed, drop them into the oil carefully, 2 at a time without overcrowding, and fry for 1-2 minutes on each side, and about 30 seconds for the doughnut holes. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and move to a wire rack set over paper towels to catch the excess oil. Allow the doughnuts to cool completely before glazing.
Basic Sugar Glaze
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
4 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Whisk all ingredients together. Dunk the cooled doughnuts in the glaze and return to the wire rack.
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
4 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
4 tablespoons milk
Whisk all ingredients together. Dip the tops of the cooled doughnuts in the chocolate glaze and top with sprinkles, if desired. Allow the glaze to set, about an hour.