Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My First Daring Bakers Challenge

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

I had to laugh when I first read the challenge.  You see, around five years ago I attempted to make my own doughnuts and failed miserably.  They were awful, soggy, greasy, doughy, bland, you name it, they were bad.  I ended up throwing the whole mess away and decided I'd never again try to make them at home.  It was too much of a hassle and was not worth the effort.  So then it would figure that my Daring Bakers debut would be the one thing I never wanted to make again.  What better challenge then my biggest flop?

We had the option of making either a yeast doughnut or a cake doughnut, and I actually chose to do both.  I thought that way I would get a very clear idea of which type, if either, were worth ever making again.  I am glad I gave doughnuts another try because these were awesome!  It started off a little shaky but in the end I am glad I persevered.

I started with the recipe for Alton Brown's yeast doughnuts.  Figuring that Hey, Babe and I didn't need 20 something doughnuts and munchkins all for ourselves (twice that amount if I tried two kinds) I cut the recipe in half.  It wasn't until I had finished combining everything that I realized I went terribly wrong in my math somewhere.  Instead of the pourable soft sticky dough that I was expecting, I had a hard, dry lump.  This was not an auspicious beginning for my second-chance doughnut making.

Rather than attempt to fix the dough, or proceed with an incorrect dough and therefore bias my results, I set it aside and started again.  (I ended up letting that dough rise overnight and baking it the next morning to see what would happen.  It tasted like a crumbly sweetbread and was delicious with some homemade apple butter).  This time I wasn't going to bother halving the recipe, instead I just called to see if any of my family was interested in coming over for dessert.  I was sure that some of them would be more than happy to come and help.  I was right.

After that everything proceeded without a hitch.  They finished cooking and were melt in your mouth good, after dipping them in a chocolate icing they were better than any doughnut I've ever bought.  I dipped most of  them in the chocolate icing, but I did save a few to shake in a bag with powdered sugar.  They were both incredible, but the ones with chocolate glaze seemed to be everyone's favorite.  Thanks Lori, for ruining me for life.  I don't think I'll ever be able to buy a doughnut again.

For that first attempt, I didn't really make any modifications to the given recipe.  I left out the spice called for because I knew I was going to dip it in a chocolate icing, and I increased the sugar a bit as someone in the threads discussing the recipe had recommended, but for the most part I stuck to the recipe.  For my second attempt I was going to do some major tweaking.  I waited until game night with my brothers had come up, so that I wouldn't shot myself in the foot again with faulty math.  Then I pulled out my mixing bowls and got my little sous chef on his stool and started making my version of Chocolate Cake Doughnuts using Nancy Silverton's Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Cake Doughnuts as my base.  

I am for real in trouble now, because these were hands down the absolute best chocolate munchkins I've ever had.  Better than the best bought munchkins I've ever tasted and without the slight chemical aftertaste that you sometimes end up with.  Please pardon the not so appealing photographs, they are quite deceptive.  I am okay with the trade off between their incredible taste and their un-photogenic nature (and yes, it is the munchkins' fault, never the photographers ;-).  On top of the incredible flavor, they were so easy to make (that's why I'm in trouble, these are all too easy to make more of).  I opted not to attempt rolling out the very sticky batter I mixed up and instead took a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop and used it to plop them right into the hot oil.  Next time I'll use a 1 tablespoon scoop because they puffed up quite large and a few of them weren't quite cooked through in the center.  I almost regret waiting until we had people to help polish them off to make them because they were good.  

Thank you Lori for this awesome challenge, both recipes I tried were keepers and I will definitely have to make doughnuts again.  So much for swearing off them, I guess this teaches me to try something more than once before I back away from it forever.  I can't wait to find out what next months challenge is!  

Here are the recipes with my modifications:

Alton Brown's Yeast Doughnuts
For Doughnuts:
1 1/2 cup Milk (360 ml)
1/3 cup Butter (80 ml / 70 gm / 2.5 oz)
4 1/2 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast (2 pkgs / 22.5 ml / 14 gm / 1/2 oz)
1/3 cup Warm Water (80 ml (95°F to 105°F / 35°C to 41°C))
2 Large Eggs beaten
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar (120 ml / 110 gm / 4 oz)
1 1/2 teaspoon Table Salt (7.5 ml / 9 gm / 1/3 oz)
1 tsp Nutmeg grated (optional, I left this out)
4 2/3 cup All Purpose Flour (1,120 ml / 650 gm / 23 oz) + extra for dusting surface
Canola Oil- DEPENDS on size of vessel you are frying in – you need around 3 inches of oil

For Chocolate Glaze:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup Milk
1 Tablespoon Corn Syrup
2 teaspoon Vanilla
4 oz Bittersweet Chocolate chopped
2 cup powdered sugar

For the Doughnuts:
1. Place the milk in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat just until warm enough to melt the shortening. (Make sure the shortening is melted so that it incorporates well into the batter.)

2. Place the shortening in a bowl and pour warmed milk over. Set aside.

3. In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let dissolve for 5 minutes. It should get foamy. After 5 minutes, pour the yeast mixture into the large bowl of a stand mixer and add the milk and shortening mixture, first making sure the milk and shortening mixture has cooled to lukewarm.

4. Add the eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and half of the flour. Using the paddle attachment of your mixer (if you have one), combine the ingredients on low speed until flour is incorporated and then turn the speed up to medium and beat until well combined.

5. Add the remaining flour, combining on low speed at first, and then increase the speed to medium and beat well.

6. Change to the dough hook attachment of the mixer and beat on medium speed until the dough pulls away from the bowl and becomes smooth, approximately 3 to 4 minutes (for me this only took about two minutes). If you do not have a dough hook/stand mixer – knead until the dough is smooth and not sticky.

7. Transfer to a well-oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

8. On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to 3/8-inch (9 mm)thick. (Make sure the surface really is well-floured otherwise your doughnuts will stick to the counter).

9. Cut out dough using a 2 1/2-inch (65 mm) doughnut cutter or pastry ring or drinking glass and using a 7/8-inch (22 mm) ring for the center whole. Set on floured baking sheet, cover lightly with a tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.

10. Preheat the oil in a deep fryer or Dutch oven to 365 °F/185°C.

11. Gently place the doughnuts into the oil, 3 to 4 at a time. Cook for 1 minute per side or until golden brown (my doughnuts only took about 30 seconds on each side at this temperature).

12. Transfer to a cooling rack placed in baking pan. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes prior to glazing, if desired.

For Chocolate Glaze:
In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, milk, corn syrup and vanilla over medium heat until the butter is melted. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate, whisking until melted and combined. Carefully stir in the powdered sugar and then whisk until there are no lumps. Keep glaze warm over a bowl of boiled water or on your lowest setting on the burner. Stir occasionally to prevent it from setting up as you are using it.

Yield: 20 to 25 doughnuts & 20 to 25 doughnut holes, depending on size

Old Fashioned Chocolate Buttermilk Cake Doughnuts
For Doughnuts:
1/4 cup Sour Cream (60 ml / 60 gm / 2 oz)
2 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour + extra for dusting surface
3/4 cup Cocoa Powder
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar (180 ml / 170 gm / 6 oz)
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda (2.5 ml / 3 gm / .1 oz)
1 teaspoon Baking Powder (5 ml / 6 gm / .2 oz)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 1/8 teaspoon Active Dry Yeast (5.6 ml / 3.5 gm / .125 oz)
3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoon Buttermilk (210 ml / 225 gm / 7 3/4 oz)
1 Egg, Large
2 Egg Yolk Large
1 Tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract (15 ml)

For Vanilla Glaze:
3 cups Powdered Sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup Milk

1. In a small stainless-steel bowl set over a pot of gently simmering water, heat the sour cream until just warm.

2. Heat the oil to 375°F/190°C.

3. Over a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg; make a large well in the center. Place the yeast in the well; pour the sour cream over it. Allow it to soften (if using packed fresh yeast), about 1 minute.

4. Pour the buttermilk, whole egg, egg yolks, and vanilla extract into the well. Using one hand, gradually draw in the dry ingredients. The mixture should be fairly smooth before you draw in more flour. Mix until it is completely incorporated. The dough will be very sticky. Wash and dry your hands and dust them with flour.

5. Sift an even layer of flour onto a work surface. Don’t be afraid to use a lot of flour. You don’t want the doughnuts sticking to your counter. Scrape dough out of bowl onto the surface; sift another layer of flour over dough. Working quickly, pat dough into an even 1/2-inch (12.5 mm) thickness. Dip cutter in flour and, cutting as closely together as possible, cut out the doughnuts and holes. Place holes and doughnuts on a floured surface. Working quickly, gather scraps of dough together, pat into 1/2-inch (12.5 mm) thickness, and cut out remaining doughnuts and holes.
(alternatively, do as I did and use a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop to drop dough carefully into preheated oil, this dough is sticky and I don't know how well it rolls out after being converted into this chocolate version.)

6. Drop three to four doughnuts at a time into the hot oil. Once they turn golden brown, turn them and cook the other side. Cooking times may vary, but with my oil at 375 °F/190°C, I found they only took about 20 to 30 seconds per side.

7. Once cooked, place on a baking sheet covered with paper towels to drain.

For Glaze:
While munchkins are cooling, mix together all the glaze ingredients very well until completely smooth. When munchkins have cooled, dip each one completely into the glaze and allow to cool on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. I found that my glaze was a tad bit runny so I dipped some of them twice. Next time I will reduce the milk to make a slightly thicker glaze. Or, skip the glaze and just lightly dust the munckins with powdered sugar.

Yield: About 15 doughnuts & 15 doughnut holes, depending on size

Doughnut Recipe adapted from Nancy Silverton

By the way, this is what the mathematically challenged recipe turned out: 

Not quite the fluffy doughnut I was going for.


  1. Way to go. You look like you nailed this challenge. I would be all over those doughnuts.

  2. Those frying donuts are making me crave and it's 130 in the morning here!! Love them all, especially the chocolate glazed ones, good job!

  3. WOW, you definitely gave this first challenge a great go! I didn't try the cake doughnuts but after reading your post I MUST make them :-) Congrats and greetings from Madrid!

  4. Both your original and chocolate doughnuts look great. I would love to try some of the chocolate flavoured ones.

  5. Those chocolate doughnuts look sooo good! Congratualtions on your first challenge!


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