I used to be so on top of the Daring Bakers challenges, so I am a little disappointed with myself for waiting until the 31st of the month to make, let alone post, my challenge results. It was only with mild excitement that I greeted the announcement that doughnuts were the monthly assignment. I had made them once before and found that between the rising and the frying, it could be a laborious effort. It also pretty much guarantees a huge mess in the kitchen.
I started with a grand plan of making pumpkin doughnuts with a variety of different glazes. As the month quickly passed, I downgraded my plans to plain yeasted doughnuts with maple glaze or a dusting of sugar. On the last day of the month, I decided to settle for cake doughnuts in powdered sugar and very low levels of enthusiasm. The Daring Bakers were kind enough to present 4 different recipes for us to choose from. I settled on the "Old Fashioned Buttermilk Doughnuts", or cake doughnuts by Nancy Silverton.
I had only been exposed to Silverton's bread recipes, and was quite shocked to see that she dabbled in doughnuts as well. Her bread recipes are very fussy, to say the least. I am sure if followed properly, they yield some of the most delicious bread you can bake, but who has time or patience to monitor changes of 1 to 2 degrees in temperature in your dough... or to precisely adjust the rising time to the temperature in your kitchen? A friend gifted me a copy of her La Brea bread book which looked like an exercise in masochism for the home baker. I am just not convinced that I would really be able to detect the differences between a loaf I baked with my own short cuts and a loaf I baked with her perfect execution. Go ahead, call me a fraud.
Based on my knowledge of her through that book, doughnuts just seemed a little sloppy for her; the recipe looked too simple and friendly. It also yielded some of the softest, fluffiest, most flavorful doughnuts I have ever tasted. The secret ingredients seem to be a bit of yeast, which produces more rise than baking powder and baking soda alone, as well as fresh nutmeg which adds some depth to the flavor.
I waited until after I had made the dough and cut it into rings before I began to heat the oil. I just didn't believe that I would be able to finish mixing the batter and shaping the doughnuts before the oil reached the proper temperature. This was a big mistake! Apparently it can take almost half an hour for oil to become hot enough for deep frying while it only takes about 15 minutes to prepare the dough. So my doughnuts sat on the counter, rising slowly, while Aaron complained impatiently about how they were rapidly becoming more of a lunch than breakfast.
Once in the oil, it took no time for them to cook. The soft dough froze in shape the instant I dropped it into the pot, turning to a golden brown within about 30 to 40 seconds. I allowed them to cool for a few minutes on a baking rack covered in paper towels and then dredged them in a mixture of powdered sugar and cinnamon, moving quickly to ensure they were still warm when served.
All in all, the recipe was pretty simple and I think I will be making these again! If I had realized just how simple and flavorful they would be, my attitude towards this challenge probably would have been quite different. Next time I am hoping that with a little planning I might have time to try some different flavors and glazes to spice things up... if I ever get around to it.
Recipe after the jump!