I've feared doughnuts my whole life, both as a food that will, without question, kill me and as a food I could never imagine tackling in my own kitchen. That's not to say that I haven't tried my share, because, believe you me, I have. Well, I have officially conquered both fears and present these homemade lovelies as proof of my progress. I don't like to brag, oh who am I kidding?— these are the best cake doughnuts I've had in my entire life: Moist, flavorful, fresh, lightly sweet, and perfectly cake doughnut-y (Amy, I think of you when I say that word, but I'm not sure why; hmmm . . .)
These come from my recent acquisition and new slice of heaven, The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco. This book is brimming with cookies, breads, cakes, brownies, ice cream, candies, tarts, and pies that are individually delicious and collectively spectacular. She even provides instruction on stocking an intelligent pantry and using basic recipes as a springboard for your own spectacular creations.
My inital fears about doughnuts largely involved the combination of yeast and hot oil. These, however, are cake doughnuts and not on yeast, but baking soda and powder for leavening. DeMasco, of course, illuminates this important difference the book so that now I'm not only a spectacular baker (what did I say about braggin'?), but one that is empowered by knowledge. Have similar fears about doughnuts? Start with the cakey variety, which I recommend anyway, because, let's face it, cake doughnuts are hearty, flavorful and don't squish into sugary pancakes when you accidentally smash them with your hand. The hot oil? It's still hot oil, but I did get to use peanut oil for the first time, and it really does heat beautifully. The only drawback to the process was constantly adjusting the temperature and moving the pan because my *$#@ ceramic cooktop stove wouldn't maintain a steady temperature. It's getting replaced in June, no question about it.
Chocolate Cake Doughnuts with Chocolate Crackle Glaze
adapted from The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp buttermilk or 1/2 cup plus 1 tsp milk+2 tsp cider vinegar (what I did)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt
Melt the chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Turn off heat, but leave the bowl over the water to stay warm. Sift together1 cup of flour, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a second bowl prepare your wet ingredients: If you're souring your own milk, combine vinegar and milk and let it sit for 3 minutes, stir, then whisk with egg and egg yolk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the milk mixture, the use a rubber spatula told two or three times. Add the chocolate mixture and fold together until smooth and shiny (they looked like a thick brownie batter to me.)
Transfer the dough to a 12 x 14 sheet of waxed paper and top with another sheet of waxed paper. Using a rolling pin, and with a gentle hand, roll out dough to about 10 x 12 and 3/4-inch thick. I rerolled mine a couple times because I made them too thin. I think I could have left mine thicker and been happy. Take that disc of dough and put it in the freezer for 1/2 hour to firm up. Don't skip this step because you won't be able to cut them if you do.
When dough is firm, remove from freezer and remove top sheet of paper. Sprinkle lightly with flour and replace the waxed paper. Invert and pull off the bottom sheet; the dough will now move freely for cutting. Use a 3-inch circle or drinking glass (I used the children's cups from IKEA) to cut circles and a 1-inch cutter for the holes. Transfer cut doughnuts to a lightly sprayed cookie sheet, and re-roll the dough (I did it between paper each time) until you have 10 doughnuts and 10 doughnut hole. You may get more or fewer depending on your cutter and dough thickness.
If you'd like to save these for later (because they're best eaten fresh) then cover them with plastic wrap and stick them in the fridge until you're ready, up to 1 day. If you're ready to fry, then continue.
Heat 2 inches of peanut oil in a heavy, high-sided pan. I used my cast iron chicken fryer and it was excellent. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature and heat to 350˚. While the oil is heating, prepare your glaze by whisking together confectioner's sugar and cocoa. Add vanilla and 2 Tbsp water and whisk to smooth. It will be thick, but will soften upon contact with the warm doughnuts. Layer paper towels for draining and pull out a cooling rack for, well, cooling.
When all is prepared, fry the doughnuts, three at a time in hot oil, carefully turning them with a slotted spoon or wire skimmer halfway through, about 45 seconds on each side. I found the time to be exactly as the recipe specified.
Drain on paper towels. As soon as the batch is warm enough to handle, dip one side of each doughnut in the glaze and transfer to a rack to cool and harden. If the glaze is too thick to coat properly, whisk in a few drops of water to thin it out. I sprinkled a few of the doughnut holes with coarse kosher salt because, well, I adore salty sweets. The salt was undetectable, but the enhanced chocolate goodness when compared the original was quite noticeable; I recommend the salt. If you don't use to much glaze, like I did on a few, the glaze will contour to the doughnuts surface and crackle upon cooling. I recommend milk.