When I was in school, the neighbourhood Monginis was the epitome of culinary heaven. All our birthday cakes came from there, ‘fun dinners’ came from there, and the only kind of donut I loved before Krispy Kreme came to India, came from Monginis too. Soft, buttery, with a flavour that only old school donuts have. Oh, and it was filled with that canned whipped cream stuff. FILLED.
Guess what I did without meaning to. Recreated that donut at home. Apparently no matter how much I say I’ve outgrown Monginis, no one really believes me. Least of all my stomach.
I left out the cream, because there have got to be some boundaries. But you guys, donuts at home, not the baked kinds, the FRIED kinds, with yeasty dough and hot oil and what not, are really easy to make! And when warm, dusted with cinnamon sugar or dunked in a sugary glaze, then washed down with piping hot coffee, they make you wonder why you haven’t been making them your whole life. Even if you didn’t like Monginis (gasp).
Most homemade donut recipes online contain eggs. And I have no issues with that, but for the fact that I don’t like eggy dough-related things very much. After more hunting, I found this recipe on Binjal’s Veg Kitchen which uses baking powder as a rising agent to make up for the fluffiness that eggs give. I also liked the precise instructions in this with-egg version on Sally’s Baking Addiction so I set about creating a mash-up of both.
I really, really liked the first version, but I knew something was wrong when my dough wasn’t ‘a little sticky’ as both recipes said it should be and the donuts were a little firmer than I would have liked, though the flavour was amazing. I couldn’t figure out why the texture was off, but decided to try it one more time, with some variations. The second time around, the donuts looked pretty much the same, but the texture was spot-on. A little more butter, a little more baking powder, a little more milk and a little less kneading. The dough was on the softer side, and so a bit fiddly to work with, but nothing catastrophic. And I was rewarded with these fluffy, soft beauties that were only made softer when soaked in glaze.
The other thing that I tried for the first time, was using the oven to help the dough rise. I realised in the monsoon, the kitchen cools down a fair bit, so dough rising doesn’t exactly go as planned. A warm oven was reassuring (as it always is), not to mention it drastically reduced rise-time, so this is the only way I’m doing this from now on!
And finally, measurements. The thing is, that unlike a cake or muffins, a wee bit extra or less flour, or a wee bit less or more butter, can make a huge difference in these donuts. I therefore used weight measures as well as cup measures for precision. You might find that a little more tweaking of the ingredients works best for you, don’t be afraid to experiment 🙂
Also, can I just say, how cute are donut holes!!!
Ok, now the fun part. While the donuts can definitely be eaten plain, there is a reason that glazed donuts are all anyone talks about. I chose not to dunk the donuts completely into the glaze, but just one half. Have it your way, it’s a glaze and can be messed with all you want. More sugar, thicker glaze, more crusty sugaryness. Less sugar, thinner glaze, less crusty sugaryness. There’s no right or wrong. Then I dusted some of the unglazed donuts with copious amounts of cinnamon sugar, because, well, cinnamon sugar.
These are NOT hard to make. Honest. They just need about 3 hours of your time (and I know that seems like the time it’s going to take you to read the recipe itself, I promise it’s just very thorough, not difficult), of which more than an hour is just rise-time, so that you can binge watch The Good Wife because you’re wondering what took you so long to get down to it.
Old school, readymade donuts, now homemade. Let’s do this!
- For the dough
- 2 cups (245 gms) all-purpose flour*
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt, if using unsalted butter
- 2 and ¼ tsp active dry yeast
- ½ cup milk plus ¼ cup more for kneading
- 3 tbsps caster sugar
- 4 tbsps (56 gms) butter
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- For the toppings
- Glaze: 4 tbsps powdered sugar + 1 tbsp milk
- Cinnamon sugar: 1 tsp cinnamon + 3 tsps powdered sugar
- Warm the milk in a small bowl. It should be just hot enough that you can dip a finger in comfortably. Stir in the yeast and 1 tbsp sugar. Cover the bowl and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes for the yeast to activate and turn the mixture bubbly and frothy. If this doesn't happen, start over with fresh yeast because it is everything in this recipe.
- In the meantime, sift the flour, baking powder and salt, if using, in a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining 2 tbsps sugar and mix well.
- Melt the butter, ensuring that it's not super duper hot. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and pour the butter in, add the vanilla, followed by the yeast mixture.
- Fold gently, till you have a shaggy, somewhat stiff dough. Now add ¼ cup milk to the dough and mix again. The dough will be very wet. Add 1 to 2 tbsps flour and use your hands to bring the dough together. You're looking for a soft, slightly sticky, but not unmanageable dough.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead for about 4 minutes till it becomes smooth and supple.
- To make the dough rising stress-free and quick, preheat the oven to 100 C, then turn it off.
- Lightly grease the mixing bowl you just used, plonk the dough back in, cover the bowl tightly with clingfilm and place in the warm oven. Let the dough rise for 30 minutes to an hour, till it's doubled in size.
- Punch down the risen dough to release any air bubbles, then turn it out onto a counter, and you'll find there's no need to flour the counter any more. The dough should be easy to lift off the surface and feel slightly buttery to the touch. Give the dough a quick knead and punch down again.
- Roll the dough out to about ½ inch thickness. A few creases in the dough are ok. Using a donut cutter if you have one, or a small bowl and a bottle cap, cut out circles and then 'donut holes' in the center of each circle. I got 14 donuts and a few extra donut holes. Bring the dough scraps together and re-roll as needed till you've cut it all out. Line the donuts and the donut holes on a silicone sheet, leaving a couple of centimetres between each.
- Preheat the oven to 100 C and turn it off again. Place the tray back in and allow the donuts to rise for another 30 minutes. They should puff up to about double their size.
- While the donuts are rising, combine the sugar and milk in a small bowl for the glaze, then the sugar and cinnamon in another. Feel free to adjust the quantities as you like.
- In a sturdy, deep-bottomed pan (I used my aluminium wok), pour in oil at least halfway up, and let it heat on high.
- Remove the puffed donuts from the oven, and pinch off a small bit off one of the donut holes. Pop it into the oil and watch when it begins to turn brown, as an indication of the oil being ready.
- Drop the donut holes all at once into the hot oil and fry on both sides till golden brown. I found it was very easy to burn these, so watch carefully. Drain and transfer to a plate lined with absorbent paper, and while they're still warm, dip in the glaze or roll in the cinnamon sugar.
- Now fry the donuts till golden-brown on both sides. The time depends on the size of your donuts, the temperature of the oil and the pan itself. It's best not to fry more than two at a time I felt, so that you can keep your eye on them. Drain and transfer again to a plate or directly to a wire wrack and while they're still warm, dip in the glaze or roll in the cinnamon sugar.
- Serve warm! These donuts taste best on day one, but by day two, the glaze has absorbed enough to make them really moist, so whatever floats your boat 🙂 Happy donuting!