Basic Yeast-Raised Doughnuts

Buttercream Filled Doughnut

This basic doughnut recipe yields yeast-raised, spongy and light treats, with a bit of substance to their texture. The flavor is fairly neutral, which allows them to match well with custards, jelly and all sorts of fillings and glazes. Turn to this recipe for your classic Jelly Doughnut or Boston Cream, or simply toss in sugar as in the image.

Researching this style of doughnut was quite the education. I found many versions to be so light and airy that they practically disappeared in my mouth before I could taste anything, while some made with bread flour were tough. Most were also quite flavorless. There is a difference between a neutral flavor and tasteless; the salt, vanilla and nutmeg amounts in this dough give it enough flavor, but not so much so that any of them become obvious or dominant. Note that I suggest making these 2 ½ inches across if you intend to fill them. I find that larger doughnuts, if filled, become unwieldy. If you are glazing them, feel free to adjust size (and baking time; I usually go with 3-inch).

From A Baker’s Field Guide to Doughnuts. Recipe © 2012 by Dédé Wilson and used by permission of The Harvard Common Press.

Basic Yeast-Raised Doughnuts
Makes: Makes about 28, 2½-inch basic doughnuts or about 24, 3-inch ring-shaped doughnuts
  • ⅔ cup warm water (110°F to 115°F)
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5¼ cups all purpose flour
  • Canola oil for deep-fat frying
  1. Place warm water in mixer bowl and sprinkle yeast over the water. Stir to combine and let sit 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, melt butter and milk in microwave or on stovetop, then cool to lukewarm (110°F to 115°F). Add milk mixture, sugar, eggs, salt, nutmeg, vanilla and 2 ½ cups of flour to yeast and stir with wooden spoon or silicone spatula until combined and smooth. The mixture will have some body but still be very wet and loose. Stir in another 2 ½ cups of flour until the mixture becomes a very slightly sticky, elastic dough, adding additional flour only if necessary. Knead well by beating vigorously with a wooden spoon (or spatula, or flat paddle or dough hook of a mixer). The mixture should be elastic, yet slightly sticky and not dry.
  3. Scrape dough into buttered bowl, making sure there is plenty of headroom. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in warm, draft-free location to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
  4. Generously flour two rimmed baking sheet pans; set aside. Gently punch down dough and divide in half. Roll out one piece of the dough at a time on a lightly floured surface to ½-inch thickness. Cut out doughnuts with a floured cutter. Use a 2 ½-inch round for filled doughnuts or a 3-inch ring shaped doughnut cutter for a classic doughnut shape. Place doughnuts well spaced apart on prepared pans. Allow to rise in warm, draft-free location for about 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
  5. Prepare deep pot or deep-fat fryer. Line a rimmed baking sheet pan with triple layer of paper towels; set aside. Heat oil to 350 to 355°F. Fry a few at a time; do not crowd. Fry until light golden brown, for about 1 minute and 30 seconds, flip over and continue frying about 1 minute and 30 seconds more and light golden brown on that side as well. Remove from oil, drain thoroughly on paper towels. Repeat with remaining doughnuts. Apply dry toppings, fill or glaze as desired. Serve immediately.
  6. Best eaten as soon as possible


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