Hanging on the donut (mug) tree
Everybody likes donuts and if you tell me that you don’t, you either haven’t had a good one or you’re lying. There’s so much to like in a donut, whether it be crispy-tender or chewy-soft. Growing up, I thought that all donuts were cakey (a rise attributed to baking powder or baking soda), and I often regarded Dunkin’ Donuts as the best of them all; they were my reward-treat to myself all throughout high school.
Raised doughnuts a la Krispy Kreme or Gonuts Donuts, are lighter and fluffier because of yeast. These take longer to make, but are well worth every effort. It just depends on which texture I’m in the mood for. The donuts I buy from the neighborhood panaderia (bakery) are the old-fashioned, doughy types, which is what I make today.
I must say that while I love fried food, I never expected to make donuts. I hate to fry. But I’ve been asked to formulate a “fried dough” recipe, and because the term could mean any of a thousand things, I decide to make donuts.
Frying is so boring. It leaves a stink in the house that lasts for hours, sticking to clothes and hair. Frying is also difficult to do well, I might add. Improper techniques result in the bad rap that frying has gotten: soggy, greasy food. But if frying is done properly, the food hardly absorbs the oil, resulting in well-cooked food that isn’t oily at all, with that gratifying crrrunch, to boot.
I still don’t like to fry but having a fryer makes the task more bearable: I just pop the donuts into the wire basket and submerge them into the hot oil. They cook about a minute on one side before I flip them over with tongs. Then I shake them in a cinnamon-sugar mixture before they’re set on paper towels. Here’s a secret: a pinch of nutmeg in either the donut dough or in the cinnamon-sugar mixture will make the donut flavor shine.
Donut dough should be wet to allow for more oil penetration and therefore, more crunch. On the flip side, donuts made with milk are denser, firmer, and less crisp.
Here are some of my tips for better frying, whether it be for donuts or fried chicken, or anything else you want to fry.
1. Always start with fresh oil, and fill a deep, heavy pan (or fryer) halfway with it.
2. Most books give instructions for attaching a thermometer but I’ve found that if you can keep the temp of your oil steady, the food won’t absorb so much. You can do this by…
3. …frying only a few pieces at a time and turn once for even browning.
4. Remove the food from the oil with tongs or a slotted spatula. Drain the food on paper towels or on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.
5. Let the oil heat up a bit before frying another batch.