Mention the concept of a baked doughnut to any self-professed doughnut connoisseur, chances are you'll take some heat. The idea that a baked doughnut can match up to its deep-fried brethren is laughable in some circles. I'll concede they aren't the same, but baked doughnuts can be just as delicious - delicious yet different. They get bonus points for being healthier and for not making the house smell like a greasy fry station.
I spent the better part of Sunday trying to get the dough for these yeasted baked doughnuts right. Broadly speaking, if you can make pizza dough, you can make these. The process is very similar. I looked at a broad cross-section of recipes as inspiration and tried to settle on a ratio of sugar to egg to flour to yeast and salt that would yield a tender, slightly sweet, delicious, pillowy doughnut when baked.
Many recipes call for water as the base liquid, I opted for milk. I like the softness of the milk-based rolls I've made in the past - and you can feel free to experiment with alternative milks. I baked batches at 375F, 400F, and 425F. On the higher end of the spectrum the bottoms browned too fast. I settled on 375F and a slightly longer time in the oven.
You can glaze these the way you would any other doughnut, but because I knew these were going to be at their pinnacle of taste minutes after coming out of the oven, I opted for a simple, classic, sugar dusting.
Don't over bake these, if anything, under bake them a bit - they will continue baking outside the oven for a few minutes. You want an interior that is moist and tender - not dry. Also, be sure to cut big enough holes in the center of your doughnuts - too small and they will bake entirely shut. Remember they rise, and they rise even more when they are baking. These really need to be made-to-order, but you can make and shape the dough the night before if you want to serve them for brunch. Instructions: after shaping, place doughnuts on baking sheet, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight. Pull them out an hour before baking, and let rise in a warm place before baking.
- 1 1/3 cups warm milk, 95 to 105 degrees (divided)
- 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 5 cups all-purpose flour (alternately, white whole wheat might work - haven't tried it yet)
- A pinch or two of nutmeg, freshly grated
- 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
Place 1/3 cup of the warm milk in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir in the yeast and set aside for five minutes or so. Be sure your milk isn't too hot or it will kill the yeast. Stir the butter and sugar into the remaining cup of warm milk and add it to the yeast mixture. With a fork, stir in the eggs, flour, nutmeg, and salt - just until the flour is incorporated. With the dough hook attachment of your mixer beat the dough for a few minutes at medium speed. This is where you are going to need to make adjustments - if your dough is overly sticky, add flour a few tablespoons at a time. Too dry? Add more milk a bit at a time. You want the dough to pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl and eventually become supple and smooth. Turn it out onto a floured counter-top, knead a few times (the dough should be barely sticky), and shape into a ball.
Transfer the dough to a buttered (or oiled) bowl, cover, put in a warm place (I turn on the oven at this point and set the bowl on top), and let rise for an hour or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.
Punch down the dough and roll it out 1/2-inch thick on your floured countertop. Most people (like myself) don't have a doughnut cutter, instead I use a 2-3 inch cookie cutter to stamp out circles. Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet and stamp out the smaller inner circles using a smaller cutter. If you cut the inner holes out any earlier, they become distorted when you attempt to move them. Cover with a clean cloth and let rise for another 45 minutes.
Bake in a 375F degree oven until the bottoms are just golden, 8 to 10 minutes - start checking around 8. While the doughnuts are baking, place the butter in a medium bowl. Place the sugar and cinnamon in a separate bowl.
Remove the doughnuts from the oven and let cool for just a minute or two. Dip each one in the melted butter and a quick toss in the sugar bowl. Eat immediately if not sooner.
Makes 1 1/2 - 2 dozen medium doughnuts.