I've actually made doughnuts several times before, from various recipes, and they were...OK. The dough tasted good, and they were all nice and crispy, and you could tell I'd made an effort and all, but they lacked the lightness of a good doughnut. The girls turned up their noses at them because they "weren't like Krispy Kreme." Of course, my plan was to be better than Krispy Kreme. And now I am! Even Claire's friend Abby, who has probably eaten quite a few doughnuts in her day, told me so.
When I was making the dough I had a good feeling about it. I remember thinking the same about the dough for the Cream Cheese Coffee Cake a couple of months ago. It has just the right consistency--just firm enough to work with, very smooth, very elastic, very alive. I believe the secret ingredient is the potato and the potato cooking water. It must be perfect yeast food!
Let me just point out how fool-proof this recipe must be, because I fooled with it quite a bit. First of all, not having read the recipe carefully (surprise!), I microwaved the potato. Oh, I thought I was so smart. But then I wasn't, because I realized that the potato water was crucial. So I broke the potatoes into pieces and poured boiling water over them. The potato had kind of dried out in the microwave, so it bore the indignity well. When that had cooled, I had my potato water. Genius. Well, not really. I also changed the order of mixing around to accomodate for a big old Kitchenaid mixer and instant yeast. And I took the possibly fatal step of using some white wheat flour. Finally, I fear the transfat, so I fried these in a combination of peanut and canola oil. And still these doughnuts were fabulous. So I'm sure when Alicia makes them according to all the rules, they'll be twice as good. But she probably doesn't like doughnuts anymore (hey, remember riding our bikes to Winchell's after swim team? That was when we could really put away the doughnuts...sigh).
Here they are, in all their greasy glory. Somehow we neglected to get a shot of a glazed one.
After I'd eaten one and started on the donut holes, I realized we were in danger, so I sent Claire and her friend off to give the rest to the neighbors. I'm not sure how many actually made it there...
Here's the recipe. Make it sometime soon.
(makes about 11)
6 oz. potatoes (I used Yukon Gold, but it probably doesn't matter much which kind)
1 cup water
About 3-1/4 c. (about 16 oz.) unsifted flour (I used about 5 oz. white whole wheat and the rest bread flour.)
6 T. (2.6 oz.) sugar
heaping 1 t. bread machine yeast
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 t vanilla
2 oz. (1/2 stick) butter, in small pieces at room temperature
A lot of cooking oil--I probably used at least a quart
Start making this the night before you want them, and be ready to get up about 2 hours before you want to eat them. You'll need a small saucepan, a heavy-duty mixer with a bread hook, and a food processor or stick blender. Get your butter out of the fridge, if you haven't already. Peel the potato, cut it into quarters, and cover it with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender. Let the potato cool in the water. When it is lukewarm, puree the potato with the water with the stick blender or in a food processor. Now, in your mixing bowl measure 3 cups of flour (15 oz) and add the sugar, salt, yeast, and nutmeg. Whisk that together and make a well in the center. To that add the potato mixture, the egg, and the vanilla. Put in the bread hook and turn the machine on. When the mixture is holding together nicely, start adding the butter, a few pieces at a time. If the mixture seems too soft at any time, add a bit of flour, but be careful to keep it a soft dough. I made the mistake of adding too much flour, but the dough forgave me after I added a bit more lukewarm water. When the butter is all added in, keep kneading for a few minutes on medium speed until it's nice and smooth. Maida says you should knead until "the dough is smooth, rubbery, and feels alive." I liked that so much that I kneaded by hand for a while until I felt the dough was perfect. Put that back in the mixing bowl and let it rise until double, about an hour or so. I put mine on the dishwasher while it was running, and it seemed to like that.
Now punch down the dough, cover it with plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge overnight.
When you awaken, get the dough out of the fridge. It should have risen considerably. You'll also want a pastry cloth or board, a rolling pin, and a doughnut cutter--I used a large (about 2.5 inch) and a small (about 1/2 inch) round cutter. Roll out the dough on the floured pastry board and cut out the doughnuts. When you gather the dough between cutting, you may need to let it rest a bit before you roll it out. Put them on greased aluminum foil to rise, and cover them with a tea towel. Maybe you want to go on a nice hourlong walk while you wait. Or you could drink tea and while your time away on Facebook. Whatever. Anyway, after about an hour, get out a big pot and fill it about 2-3 inches up with oil. (Here once again I'm parting company with Maida. She wants you to do it in less oil in a skillet. I feel much safer with a deep pot. I'm just saying.) Put your thermometer(s) in and wait (a LONG time--about 30 minutes) for the oil to heat up to 365.
While the oil is heating, you should make the glaze:
1-1/2 cup (8 oz.) powdered sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1/8 t. almond extract
4-6 T. milk
Put the powdered sugar, vanilla, and almond extract in a bowl. Add about 4 T. milk first and beat with an electric mixer. I found that 4 T milk was enough to make a "thick but pourable" glaze, but add more if you need it. Let that sit.
Get out a couple of forks, or a spider, to turn and remove your doughnuts. You will also want a metal spatula. Also get out some brown paper bags and a rack, and make room on your countertops. It also helps to have a trusty assistant for glazing (and tasting) purposes.
OK, when the fat is FINALLY hot enough, proceed. Maida recommends starting with just two doughnuts, so that's what I did. And I followed her (messy) procedure: Put the spatula in the fat for a minute. Then put the spatula under a doughnut and transfer it into the fat, waiting for the doughnut to float off. Repeat. Let the doughnuts cook for 2 minutes on one side, then turn them over with your forks (try not to poke them, though) and give them another 2 minutes. Fish them out and let them drain on the brown paper bags. Continue with all the doughnuts (I did 3 at a time from then on), and then do the doughnut holes (I did them in two batches, probably 1 minute per side. Sometimes they flip over on their own).
You need a trusty assistant because the doughnuts need to be glazed while they're hot--Maida says no more than 1 minute after they leave the fat. So have your trusty assistant put the doughnuts (careful! They're hot!) on the rack and use a pastry brush to brush both sides liberally with glaze. The assistant should also run through the house yelling, "Hot now!" and then ask for samples.
Enjoy these hot and try to control yourself.