Yeasted Doughnuts

Doughnuts have been on my list of baking goals for quite a long time, but for some reason I was a little intimidated by them.  I’m not sure why – it’s basically just a fried brioche dough.  I think more than anything I was overwhelmed and that with so many recipes to choose from, I would choose the wrong one and sink a bunch of time into a failure.  Finally I decided to just buckle down and do it after several requests from friends and readers for a doughnut recipe.  I didn’t even bother trying to compare the bajillion recipes I had saved, I just went with my always-reliable source, Baking Illustrated.

It probably goes without saying, but homemade doughnuts are awesome.  I knew in advance that they would be hard to resist so I contacted several friends before I even made them, to be sure they didn’t stick around our house for too long.  I actually think the doughnut holes are even more dangerous because you can just keep popping them into your mouth – irresistible, I tell you!  I couldn’t decide which topping option sounded best, so I decided to make all three included in the book.  I made a half batch of each of the toppings, so if you want to make a full batch of only one flavor, double the quantities indicated below.  Even after tasting them all, I’m not sure I can choose a favorite – it’s probably a tie between the cinnamon sugar and chocolate glazed versions.  The vanilla glaze was much thicker than what I prefer, so after dipping one doughnut I decided to thin it out more to my liking.  Now that I’ve tried them once, I am looking forward to playing around with more flavors and variations.  Though it certainly won’t be something I make often, it’s nice to be able to add it to my repertoire.

Yeasted Doughnuts
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Yield: about 15-16 doughnuts, plus doughnut holes

For the dough:
3-3¼ cups all-purpose flour (15-16¼ oz.)
2¼ tsp. instant yeast
6 tbsp. sugar (2½ oz.)
½ tsp. salt
2/3 cup whole milk, at room temperature
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, at room temperature

For frying:
6 cups vegetable shortening

For the cinnamon-sugar coating:
½ cup sugar
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon

For the vanilla glaze:
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup half-and-half, plus more as needed
1/8 tsp. vanilla extract

For the chocolate glaze:
2 oz. finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
¼ cup half-and-half
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

To make the dough, in a medium bowl combine 3 cups of the flour, the yeast, sugar and salt .  Stir together with a fork and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the milk and eggs.  Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed for 3-4 minutes or until a ball of dough forms.  With the mixer on low speed, add the softened butter a piece at a time, mixing for about 15 seconds between each addition.  Continue mixing for about 3 minutes longer, adding the remaining flour 1 tablespoon at a time if necessary, until the dough forms a ball.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 2-2½ hours.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and roll it to a thickness of ½ inch.  Cut the dough into rounds using a 2½-3 inch biscuit or cookie cutter.  Use a smaller circle cutter to cut the hole out of the middle of each, creating the doughnut shape.  Reroll and cut the dough scraps as necessary to make use of all the dough.

Place the shaped doughnuts and doughnut holes onto a lightly floured baking sheet.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until slightly puffy, 30-45 minutes.

(I really hate shortening, so I was nearly gagging at this point.  Just power through.)

Meanwhile, fit a candy thermometer to the side of a large Dutch oven.  Add the shortening to the pot and gradually heat it over medium-high heat until it reaches a temperature of 375˚ F.  Place the rings and holes carefully into the hot fat 4 or 5 at a time.

Fry until golden brown, about 30-45 seconds per side (less for doughnut holes).  Remove from the hot oil with a skimmer and transfer to a paper towel-lined cooling rack.

(Keep a close eye on how brown they are getting.  I thought the frying time indicated in the original recipe was a bit too long, so I shortened it for subsequent batches.  They were more golden, and more what I was hoping for.)

Repeat with the remaining doughnuts, returning the temperature to 375˚ F between batches.  Cool the doughnuts for about 10 minutes before topping or glazing.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  (Note: I found the doughnuts to be a little dense at room temperature, but a very quick 10-second zap in the microwave made them light and fluffy again.)

To make the cinnamon-sugar doughnuts, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl or plate.  Roll the warm doughnuts in the mixture to coat, then return to the wire cooling rack.

To make the vanilla glaze, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, half-and-half, and vanilla extract.  Add more half-and-half 1 teaspoon at a time as needed to achieve your desired consistency.  Dip both sides of each doughnut in the glaze, gently shaking off any excess.  Return to the wire cooling rack with a baking sheet set underneath to catch drips.

To make the chocolate glaze, place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl.  Heat the half-and-half until simmering, then pour over the chocolate.  Whisk together until the chocolate is melted.  Whisk in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth.  Dip one side of each doughnut in the glaze, shaking off the excess.  Return to the wire cooling rack and top with sprinkles if desired.  Let the glaze set before serving.


Source: adapted from Baking Illustrated

64 Responses

  1. They look truly delicious.

  2. I love yeasted doughnuts, much more than the cake ones. These look perfect! I’ve been wanting to try making homemade doughnuts after my sister raved how great they were. Thanks for the recipe!

  3. I’ve always been intimidated of doughnuts too! But these look too good to pass up!

  4. Oh my goodness, these look to die for! I was just researching doughnut recipes yesterday in preparation for next Saturday’s brunch. Since yours turned out fabulous, I am going to pick this recipe! I hope I can hold out until Saturday to make them. 🙂

  5. Those look yummy! Holy cow though….shortening? You are brave. 🙂

  6. What happens to the dough if you use oil instead of shortening. I’ve always wondered.

    • Gwenevere,
      You can use regular oil, they just won’t taste the same. Being that this recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen, they of course tested all different types of oil for frying and shortening was the clear winner. They said it actually produced the least greasy doughnuts and gave them the best texture. Hope that helps.

  7. Doughnuts are my absolute favorite food. However, I have never made yeasted doughnuts because I have been intimidated by them as well. Yours look so good, I really need to give them a try!! I love all of the Cooks Illustrated/Baking Illustrated books, they are so thorough!!

  8. Annie, this is so weird because I swear, just the other day I was thinking about homemade doughnuts and I was like, wow I don’t think Annie ever posted about doughnuts before (since you are my number one, go to recipe source!). Its just funny that today I wake up to check out your daily recipe and its a doughnut recipe! These look absolutely fantastic, I think I’m going to have to dry them this weekend!

  9. Amazing!!! So pretty and so cool. Who doesn’t love a good doughnut!

  10. The pictures alone are drool worthy!!

  11. Whoa! These look amazing! I can’t wait to try them out. My 2 year old asks for doughnuts all the time. I do have a few questions though. Can you prepare the doughnuts the day before and then fry them up the next morning? I also have a Presto fryer with vegetable oil that I use for all my frying; do you think I could use that instead of the shortening or would they taste weird?

    • Hi Lacey,
      The Test Kitchen tested all kinds of oils for frying but said shortening was the clear winner. As for making the dough the day before and frying them later, I’m not sure how that would work. I imagine the dough would continue to rise a bit even if refrigerated, so it probably wouldn’t work very well.

  12. The photography in this post is simply awesome.
    Donuts look pretty good too.

  13. looks amazing!! i have been scared to try and tackle doughnuts. this is super inspiring.

  14. They are BEAUTIFUL!!!

  15. Wow, Annie! Your photos are always great, but the few of the donuts with the pink sprinkles are incredible. Nice work 🙂 I’ve been getting braver with yeast lately, and donuts seem to be getting more and more trendy these days (at least in my area, there are artisan donut shops popping up like cupcakes a few yrs ago). So I think it’s about time I give donuts a shot soon. Thanks for sharing!

  16. haha, I have the same reaction to shortening. What do you do w/it after you’ve fried with it? Can you save it for frying next time?

    Which model frying/candy thermometer do you have? I know that CI likes one from Taylor, but the Amazon reviews appear mixed.


    • Christina,
      I just threw the shortening away after it solidified again. I *think* it can be reused for frying later, but since I almost never fry foods, I wouldn’t bother. I have the Taylor candy thermometer. Personally, I would trust CI’s review over what you see on Amazon. There are always some negative reviewers, but CI is pretty unbiased and very extensive in their testing.

  17. Wow, these look so incredible Annie! I just saved the recipe and will definitely be making these at some point. And powering through using all that shortening as well 🙂

    Also, if you’re ever in Boston, I just found out that Cook’s Illustrated does do tours (I had to call to find this out, it’s not on their website), which I know you would love!

  18. Oh wow! Your doughnuts are beautiful!
    Doughnuts have been on my list of things to bake for quite some time, but my parents say that they are too messy to make because of the frying. I’m still determined to make them some time soon though!

    Also, your step by step pictures are really helpful!

  19. Amazing! You have perfect timing! Hubby and I were just talking about trying our (my) hand at homemade donuts! These look terrific!

  20. These are absolutely perfect in every way! I love your site!!!!!

  21. Would this dough be okay to bake instead of frying?

    • Theresa,
      You can bake the dough, yes, but then it probably won’t taste very much like a doughnut since most doughnuts are fried. There are lots of recipes out there for “baked doughnuts”, so those might be more of what you are wanting.

  22. My other comment must have been lost…

    I think these look fabulous, but I was wondering if there is any reason you can’t cook them in oil instead of that shortning stuff?


    • Kate,
      Your comment was not lost, I just wanted to research before responding and I’ve been at work all day. I responded to another reader with the same question and you can see the answer in the comments above.

  23. That “just power through” comment about the shortening made me laugh out LOUD!

  24. all i can say is wow! reading thru the process is a bit frightening, but the outcome seems to make it worth it!

  25. WOW you make them look easy! I am dying to try, especially the beignet variety…went to brunch yesterday at a place where I’ve had them before and was so upset they didn’t have them! Going to have to try myself now I guess 🙂 xxSAS

  26. These look AWESOME! I can’t wait to try them. Donuts seem to be the next big thing to make at home. Your’s are perfect!

  27. I hope this isn’t a stupid question! But… how do you dispose of the used shortening? Is there any way to keep it for future use? That seems like a lot of shortening to buy/throw away for just one batch of doughnuts… Thanks!

    • Cynthia, I don’t really know. I think there may be a way to save it and reuse it, but I almost never fry foods, and as I mentioned in the post shortening disgusts me so the idea of saving it for later just grosses me out. I’m probably not the right person to ask.

  28. Okay, so how can I do this without having a fancy stand mixer with a dough hook?!?

    • Masey, most of the time you can do by hand what would be done by a stand mixer. However, the authors of the cookbook state that hand mixing doesn’t work well for this dough because it melts the butter that is supposed to be incorporated. They also said the food processor didn’t do a good job – so, I don’t know what to tell you!

  29. These look absolutely amazing! I can’t wait to try them out!

  30. Oh man Oh man, the picture of that chocolate doughnut makes me want to reach through the computer and grab it! I’m sort of drooling now…thanks…

  31. These are one of the prettiest doughnuts I’ve ever seen on the blogosphere!! Wow. Beautiful.

  32. These look amazing. I’m drooling. I’m even forgetting about the vat of shortening they require. These are going on my “must make” list. Thanks for sharing!

  33. These look amazing! Great job

  34. Usually, the idea of making doughnuts scares me, but you took out the intimidation factor.

  35. so with your comment about kneading by hand melting the butter, i assume that a bread machine on dough cycle would be even worse since its kinda heated? think i should still try? 😉

    • Jasmine,
      I don’t know anything about bread machines or how they function but if they are warmed then it sounds like a bad idea because the butter would melt causing a greasy mess and a dense dough.

  36. Could I make the dough the night before and have it rise overnight and then finish the rest in the morning to have fresh donuts?

    So after coating the dough with the oil and covering it with plastic wrap will it do the dough harm to rise for more than 2 1/2 hours? Thanks! =)

    • Emily,
      You really shouldn’t let dough rise longer than indicated. It does make a difference, and I’ve had some disastrous results in the past because of it. Most of ATK’s recipes will indicate in the instructions if there are places that you can refrigerate the dough and continue at a later step, but this one doesn’t have any of those pauses so I’m thinking it won’t work well.

  37. These look delicious!! I am for sure going to make them! I dont have a dutch oven, so will any large pot be ok?

  38. These are gorgeous and I do oh so love donuts. Love the photos as well as the instructions. I am definitely going to give this a shot.

  39. I’ve been able to resist making doughnuts for awhile now, but dang those look good! AHHH! Must resist!!!

  40. I fully agree: homemade doughnuts are dangerous territory—to the waistline, that is. Good job on yours. They look tasty, especially with all the trimmings. I make doughnuts only about once a year so as not to overindulge, but when that day rolls around, Husband and I don’t hold back. Yum!

  41. These are perfetc. I made donuts before but they didnt turn out looking this good. I am going to try and see if i can make them again with your recipe. Like you, it seemed quite a daunting task, but from what i can see it is do-able….

    Will let you know how thry turn out. I cant wait!

  42. Excuse my previous spelling errors…. I was getting a little too excited about the donuts 🙂

  43. Wow, do these look good!

    Are these the same doughnuts they sell at cider mills (in plain or cinnamon) or are those cake doughnuts? I LOVE those and I really need to learn how to recreate them.

    • Zeze,
      I don’t know, I’ve never had a doughnut at a cider mill. I have some recipes for apple cider doughnuts saved though, and I plan to try them next.

  44. Annie – What brand of Dutch oven did you use to boil the shortening? I never know if the coating on different kinds of cookware makes a difference.

    • Carrie,
      The brand of Dutch oven really doesn’t matter. In fact, you don’t really even have to use a Dutch oven, I’m sure a large stockpot would be fine too. Mine is Le Creuset, but that’s just what I have.

  45. my grandma always used to make yeast donuts when she would come to visit, that and carmel popcorn. she used lard for frying, although it is hard to find good lard anymore that is not hydrogenated or makes everything taste like bacon. It brings back good memories about my grandma though!

  46. im sorry im at work and i didnt have time to read through all the comments…but why dont you like shortening? where i live i am able to buy all veg shortening that has ZERO trans fat. im just curious if you know something i dont!!! thanks!

    • Kristine, just because it is disgusting. I mean, it’s a tub of solidified fat. It totally grosses me out, ew. Also, in things like cookies, etc. butter provides a far better flavor so I pretty much always substitute it. But you can be sure that if I’m making something like homemade doughnuts, I certainly am not worrying about trans fat.

  47. yeah i never use shortening IN food either…just for frying. i suppose i would have to agree on it being gross. but i do feel a little bit better buying vegetable shortening. no way in hell would i ever use lard or regular shortening! ick. speaking of not using shortening in food…do you have a good pie crust recipe that doesnt use shortening? i have not been able to find one that holds up! thanks for the reply and a GIANT thanks for your awesome site 😉

  48. Hi Annie

    I just have a really quick question for you. Do you mind telling me where you got your biscuit cutter from that you used to cut out the doughnut shapes? It looks like a really great model, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for a good one! Thanks, I appreciate it!

  49. Do you think its possible to make a whiskey doughnut? That would be fun!

    • Darcy,
      Sure! You would still want to use the same base recipe and then probably brush with a whiskey simple syrup and top with a whiskey glaze.

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