How to Be Your Own Hero and Make Homemade Doughnuts

Updated 11/18/19

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When it comes to doughnuts (or donuts, both spellings are correct, so pick your poison), there are typically two camps: yeast and cake. Yeast doughnuts are your classic, fluffy, golden brown, raised and glazed doughnuts with a soft chew and plenty of height. They are the doughnuts frosted pink and topped with rainbow sprinkles or jam-filled and dusted in sugar. Cake doughnuts are, at their best, moist, crumbly doughnuts that are a bit denser and typically smaller than their yeasted counterparts. They are perhaps best known in their mini cinnamon sugar-covered form served up at state and county fairs all over the country.

While some people are firmly planted in one of these two camps, I like to straddle the line, so I’ll walk you through a recipe for both fried yeast doughnuts and baked cake doughnuts, plus a “shortcut” recipe that’s nice to have in your back pocket, should the occasion for a quick, "no special equipment needed" doughnut arise.

How to Make Yeast Doughnuts

Step 1: Gather and weigh your ingredients and utensils.

To make about 20 large doughnuts and 20 doughnut holes, you’ll need:

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • Vegetable oil (for greasing and frying)
  • Stand mixer with dough hooks (or large bowl electric mixer with dough hooks)
  • Large bowl
  • Rubber spatula
  • Rolling pin (or a bottle of wine wrapped in plastic wrap because not everyone has a rolling pin, let’s be honest)
  • Special doughnut cutter (or use 2 round cookie cutters or glasses—one larger for the doughnut itself and one smaller for the hole in the middle)
  • Large pot
  • Slotted spoon
  • Cooling rack
  • Baking sheet
  • Paper towels

Step 2: Make the dough.

To make your yeast dough, first add the flour, salt, and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment and mix to combine. Once well mixed, add the yeast. Add the milk, water, and butter to a small saucepan and heat up over medium heat just until the butter is melted and the mixture is warmed through. Add the eggs to the flour mixture, then the warm milk mixture. Beat the dough together for about 4 minutes, or until it starts to pull away from the edges of the bowl and form a smooth mass.

Step 3: Let the dough proof.

Once the dough is smooth, it will be fairly sticky, so use a rubber spatula to transfer it to a large, clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel or piece of plastic wrap, and let it proof in a warm place until doubled in size, about one hour.

Step 4: Cut out the doughnuts.

Punch down your proofed dough and transfer to a lightly-floured work surface. Dust the top lightly with flour, then use your hands to pat and shape it into a rough rectangle. Use a rolling pin to roll it to about 1-inch thick all around. Lift it up gently and rotate it to make sure it’s evenly rolled. Dip your doughnut cutter into some flour, then use it to punch out a doughnut. Repeat. Pull out all your doughnuts and doughnut holes, then gently knead any leftover dough together, re-roll, re-punch, and repeat until you have about 20 doughnuts.

The number of doughnuts will vary based on the size of your cutter.

Step 5: Fry the doughnuts.

Bring about 3-inches oil to approximately 325–350°F in a large, deep-sided pot over medium-high heat. If you have a thermometer, you can use that to test the heat of the oil, otherwise, use a doughnut hole to test the temperature—it should float immediately and take about 1 minute to become golden brown.

You can also use the handle of a wooden spoon or chopstick to test the temperature—when submerged in the oil, small bubbles should steadily form around the chopstick or handle of the spoon when the oil is ready for frying.

Once the oil is up to temperature, gently add a few doughnuts. Do not crowd the pot, there should be enough space to flip the doughnuts comfortably with a slotted spoon. Once golden brown on the bottom, gently flip. Once golden brown all around, remove the doughnuts to a paper towel-lined baking sheet topped with a cooling rack. Repeat for all doughnuts and doughnut holes, adjusting the heat as needed.

Step 6: The finishing touches.

The limit when it comes to finishing off a batch of doughnuts is just about endless. A quick toss in some cinnamon-spiked sugar or a simple dip in a runny vanilla glaze might be just what the doctor ordered (recipes below), but a more complex frosting and sprinkle combination is more eye-catching. There are tons of options out there, so find a recipe for your favorite, finish up the doughnuts, and enjoy—hopefully, the same day you fry, but if not, they will keep for up to one day covered and kept at room temperature.

Cinnamon sugar: Mix 1 cup sugar and 2 tbsp cinnamon together until well combined. Taste and adjust with more cinnamon or more sugar as desired. Coat the doughnuts directly after frying for the best result.

Vanilla glaze: Whisk 3/4 cups powdered sugar, 3 tbsp whole milk, and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract to create a runny glaze.

If the glaze is too thick, thin out with another tablespoon of milk. If it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar until you reach the desired consistency.

Let the doughnuts cool a bit before dunking or drizzling with the glaze.

How to Make Baked Cake Doughnuts

Step 1: Gather and weigh out your ingredients and utensils.

To make about two dozen doughnuts, you’ll need:

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • Baking spray
  • Stand mixer with paddle (or large bowl and electric mixer with dough hooks)
  • Doughnut pan
  • Cooling rack

Step 2: Preheat the oven to 425°F and make the batter.

To make your cake doughnut batter, add the butter, vegetable oil, sugar, and brown sugar to to the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mix until light and fluffy, about 5 min. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Add vanilla extract and mix. Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a separate bowl. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the dough and mix to combine. Add 1/3 of the milk to the dough and mix to combine. Repeat 2 more times until the flour mixture and milk are gone.

Step 3: Bake the doughnuts.

Use a spoon to drop spoonfuls of batter into a greased doughnut pan and smooth the tops, leaving about 1/4-inch at the top of each well. Bake for about 10 min., then let cool for at least 5 min. before inverting the pan and gently tapping out the doughnuts onto a cooling rack.

Step 4: The finishing touches.

See Step 6 from How to Make Yeast Doughnuts.

How to Make “Shortcut” Doughnuts

Step 1: Gather your ingredients and utensils.

To make eight doughnuts and eight doughnut holes, you’ll need:

  • 1 tube biscuit dough
  • Vegetable oil (for frying)
  • Small, round cookie cutter (or shot glass)
  • Large pot
  • Slotted spoon
  • Cooling rack
  • Baking sheet
  • Paper towels

Step 2: Prepare the dough.

Pop the tubs of biscuit dough and separate the biscuits. Use a small, round cookie cutter to cut out a hole from the center of each biscuit.

Step 3: Fry the doughnuts.

Bring about 3-inches oil to approx. 325–350°F in a large, deep-sided pot over medium-high heat. If you have a thermometer, you can use that to test the heat of the oil, otherwise, use a doughnut hole to test the temperature—it should float immediately and take about 1 minute to become golden brown. You can use the same wooden spoon or chopstick test as in the yeast doughnuts instructions to check the temperature. When small bubbles form around the chopstick or handle of the spoon, the oil is ready for frying. Once the oil is up to temperature, gently add a few doughnuts. Do not crowd the pot; there should be enough space to flip the doughnuts comfortably with a slotted spoon. Once golden brown on the bottom, gently flip. Once golden brown all around, remove the doughnuts to a paper towel-lined baking sheet topped with a cooling rack. Repeat for all doughnuts, adjusting the heat as needed.

Step 4: The finishing touches.

See Step 6 from How to Make Yeast Doughnuts.

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