Making Donuts with Your Family

by Culinary Spelunker / Dec 26, 2016 /
Culinary Spelunker's picture

Golden crisp on the outside with a chewy texture inside, just-fried donuts bear little resemblance to the bland varieties you’re likely to find at the grocers: Simply put, the homemade version is better.
 
Much better.
 
Donuts seem to have an unwarranted mystique of being difficult to make at home – perhaps because the dough can be a bit finicky. Or it may be because the final step involves a lengthy dip in a vat of bubbling oil.

Making Donuts with Your Family
 
Yet making donuts with your family isn’t as tough as it may first appear, even for novice bakers, and the results are worth the effort. Promise.
 
As you’re making donuts with your kids, you might share with them a little history lesson about how they became an American comfort food.
 
The exact origins of donuts are unclear. Certainly the idea of frying dough in oil goes back centuries – and is woven into the cuisines of cultures throughout the world. But the Dutch tend to get the credit for inventing the version we have today in the U.S.
 
In the 19th century Dutch immigrants who settled in New York brought with them a tradition of making olykoeks, or “oil cakes.” These cake balls tended to fry well on the outside, leaving the inside doughy necessitating the use of a filling, like a nut for even cooking. Voilà … the doughnut.

Making Donuts with Your Family
 
The story doesn’t end there. A colorful New England sea captain by the name of Hanson Gregory, of Rockport, Maine, claimed to have come up with the idea of the donut hole sometime in 1847. There are several versions of the tale. The Smithsonian sums it up well:
 
“Some cynical doughnut historians maintain that Captain Gregory did it to stint on ingredients, others that he thought the hole might make the whole easier to digest. Still others say that he gave the doughnut its shape when, needing to keep both hands on the wheel in a storm, he skewered one of his mom's doughnuts on a spoke of his ship's wheel. In an interview with the Boston Post at the turn of the century, Captain Gregory tried to quell such rumors with his recollection of the moment 50 years before: using the top of a round tin pepper box, he said, he cut into the middle of a doughnut ‘the first doughnut hole ever seen by mortal eyes.’”

Making Donuts with Your Family
 
The fried, holed donut caught on – eventually becoming fully entrenched not just in American cuisine – but American culture, too. (Clark Gable famously showed his high-brow onscreen love interest in It Happened One Night how to dunk her donut over breakfast. The 1934 classic went on to win 5 Academy Awards.)

Making Donuts with Your Family

 

Pumpkin Pie Donuts with a Maple Glaze Recipe

Tweaked from Serious Eats
 
Ingredients
Yield: 24-30 2” donuts (these are slightly smaller than regular-sized donuts)
 
Donuts
5 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ tsps. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. cloves (opt.)
¼ tsp. cardamom (opt.)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup buttermilk
2 tbsp. melted butter
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
 
Glaze
¼ cup milk
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
¼ tsp. maple extract
Alternatively, you can coat the donuts in cinnamon and sugar
 
Directions
1. In one bowl, combine dry ingredients including flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.

2. In another bowl, use a hand mixer to beat together eggs and sugars. Next, add in buttermilk, melted butter, vanilla, and pumpkin.

3. Add in the dry ingredients a little at a time and mix until smooth.

4. Divide the dough in half, form into a flat disk, and pat with flour (add as little extra flour as possible; the dough will be sticky). Coat 2 large pieces of plastic wrap with baking spray and then place the dough disks onto the plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

5. Use flour to make it easier to roll out dough to ½” thick, working with one disc at a time. Use a donut-shaped cutter to create the shape. Or, a biscuit cutter and then create the hole with whatever you happen to have on hand – I used my small, plastic lemon juicer.

6. Place the donuts onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate until you’re ready to fry.

7. Certainly you can use a fryer, but I fried my donuts in a wok and they cooked up perfectly. Bring the oil to a medium-high heat before sliding the donuts into it.

8. Fry in batches for 2-3 minutes on each side.

9. Coat the donuts with the glaze while still warm.

10. Eat immediately or within a day or two. These donuts freeze well.

 
Making Donuts with Your Family

 

 

Kristen J. Gough is the Global Cuisines & Kids Editor for Wandering Educators. She shares her family's adventurous food experiences--and recipes--at MyKidsEatSquid.com.

All photos courtesy and copyright MyKidsEatSquid