Okay folks, time for another foodpost, and this time I want to run through one of those sweet treats which are synonymous with fairgrounds, piers and boardwalks. Jam doughnuts, (or jelly donuts if you’re either American or just thrifty with letters)
Some foods are just better all round when eaten super fresh when they’ve just been cooked, and are still warm. and doughnuts are at their softest and most fragrant when they’re first cooked.
This is not a remotely complicated recipe, but I think a lot of people are put off trying to make these themselves because it’s full of potentially daunting things like using live yeast, and leaving things to ‘prove’ and ‘rise’ and so on. There’s also a lot of kneading going on. But it’s really very simple.
Trust me, if I can manage to make them and not burn the house down or poison anyone, so can you. The main thing to remember is that the prep time for this one is a few hours, so I’d advise making the first stage earlyish in the morning giving you time to come back to them later and do the second half cooking them in the afternoon or evening, (you should always eat them the same day, preferably as soon as made.)
So here’s how:
You will need:
- 250g/9oz strong white flour, sifted
- 40g/1½oz caster sugar
- 1 x 7g sachet fast-action yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 free-range egg, lightly beaten
- 150ml/5fl oz milk, warmed a little to take the chill off
- 50g/1¾oz unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- 50g/1¾oz vanilla sugar or caster sugar
- 350g/12oz jam, flavour of your choice…I say ‘of your choice’ but in reality, if you’re choosing anything other than strawberry or raspberry jam, just know that I am silently judging you from afar like the degenerate you know yourself to be.
Sift your flour, getting rid of any lumps or bumps, (and try and do this from a bit of a height in order to get some air mixed up in there – only if you have a steady hand and can get most of it in the bowl of course. You don’t want your counter to end up looking like Charlie Sheen’s dressing table)
Also get your other ingredients together,:sugar (which you’re going to use some of now and some later to roll your doughnuts in) , a beaten egg, and your butter, which you want to have melted gently and left to cool a little by this point.
Dealing with the dry ingredients first: put the flour in a bowl, with most of the sugar and the yeast on ONE side, and the salt on the OTHER. (don’t put them all in the same place or the salt will kill the yeast. Kill it dead. and then the whole thing is ruined. Don’t forget, yeast is alive, even though it doesnt look like it is. Kind of like Courtney Love)
Yeast looks like this:
and your bowl should look like this:
Once thats carefully mixed, you want to take your warmed milk:
and mix into the jug the beaten egg and the melted butter, until it all becomes a golden soup of yummy gooiness:
Using your knuckles, then make a well in the centre of your dried ingredients:
You’re going to pour the golden goo in there. (although to be honest, I don’t really get why every recipie which requires wet ingredients to be added to dry ones always calls for a ‘well’, because the amount of goo invariably is far far more than the well could ever hold anyway, and will just go everywhere regardless of your best intentions or the sise of your knuckles.
My opinion, as goes for most of cooking, is to not sweat the details. Remember that cooking is more alchemy than chemistry. You never need to be exact, you’re not making a vaccine, you’re making a dessert. It’s more of an art than a science, so express your gooey chaotic nature with wild abandon.
Mix all that together roughly until it’s combined:
If it looks too wet, add a little more flour, until you finally end up with a pastry ball:
Now comes the first labour-intensive part. You are required to knead this dough for AT LEAST ten minutes. This might sound boring, but just listen to two or three of your favourite songs to time yourself, or alternately a third of any given Metallica song, either way it will give you roughly the right time, and singing along will give you something to do and help pass the time.
If you’re not sure how to knead, it’s really simple. On a floured surface, hold one end of the dough in place with the heel of your hand, and with your other hand, push it away, (stretching it out) then fold it back over and towards yourself and squish it down again.
Turn the circle of dough 1/4 and repeat.
At first, the dough will break off and fall apart, but it will become more and more elastic, like well-chewed gum, the more you do this. You’ll get to know by the ‘feel’ of it when it’s done. But if that sounds a little too Yoda for you, or if you’re a kneading virgin and need some guidelines, roughly ten mins is a good idea. You can always tell when it’s done, as it will be springy and shiny too:
Pop this ball into the bottom of a greased or oiled bowl.
Dont worry that it looks tiny and lonely and lost in there, like some quivering and defenceless dickensian orphan on the cruel streets of old London. This is the interesting bit and the magical powers of yeast. Just cover it with clingfilm/shrinkwrap:
and leave it somewhere warm for AT LEAST an hour.
This time may vary. It could take more than this to rise. it depends how warm the space is where you leave it. If you’re oven has a ‘warming’ setting, (mine does) pop it in there. but NO higher, or it will cook, which is not what you’re after. you just want somewhere warm where yeast sorcery can occur.
Anywhere warm will do, if it’s a hot day outside, best place for it is actually on the seat of your car. It will go in looking like this:
and after an hour, should have doubled in size to look like this:
Check to see if it’s ready, by the extremely scientific and precise method of ‘giving-it-a-bit-of-a-poke’. A gentle fingertip jab should leave a dint that rises back up and dissapears after a few seconds. If this doesnt happen, give it another half an hour of restful warm thoughts.
Now, heartbreakingly, you’re going to take this fluffy swollen lump of super-soft loveliness, and give it another knead, only for one or two mins, to knock most of the air out of it. You should find that it’s incredibly twisty and pliable:
Divide this new ball into 12 mini-balls of roughly (art-not-science-remember) equal size, and drop them evenly spaced into a baking tray. Again, they will look tiny and lonely. Worry not. You’re going to cover these dickensian waifs and strays again and pop them back in the warm place once more. Only for about half an hour this time around:
Once this time is up, they should again have swollen up into fluffy, if alarmingly pallid balls of light and airy goodness:
And thats all the prep done! woot!
The actual cooking part is incredibly fast, and I suggest setting up kind of a conveyor belt system so you have your doughballs, your pan to cook, a bowl of sugar and a final bowl to collect the doughnuts in., all in a satisfying line on your counter.
You can make these in a deep-fat-fryer, but not many people have those anymore, largely because they are deathtraps and usually posessed by demonic forces which mean to inflict calamity on you at any cost and every oppurtunity.
I use a wok instead. Woks are generally benevolent by nature, unless provoked, and hardly ever try to kill you.
Heat up some vegetable oil in one. There should be enough oil so that when you drop your doughnuts in, they DONT touch the bottom (that way lies burned doughnuts and lifelong shame and ostracism)
As i’m sure you’re all aware, cooking oil is dangerous, so at no point leave this unattended. The important thing to remember for this to work is that you DON’T want the oil too hot:
If your oil is too hot, the doughnuts will cook on the outside too quickly, and burn, but still be raw dough inside. This will be a DISASTER
Freinds and family may never speak with you again. You may indeed by shunned by all of polite society and end up living a sorry and solitary life on the fringes of civilisation, berift of companionship and subsisting on grubs and bugs found under logs.
So, no pressure.
Your oil is the right heat when a cube of bread turns brown after one minute of being dropped in.
Cook your doughnuts about three at a time, so they dont roll together and stick:
Another good indication that your oil is the right heat is that there should be a QUIET hiss when you drop them in, and SMALL bubbles forming around the edges of the little floating dough-islands. (No hiss and no bubbles = too cold. loud hiss and big bubbles = too hot.)
Always use a goldilocks sacrificial test doughnut to make sure you’re working at the right temperature.
Flip them over after about 1 1/2 minutes, and check that they are golden brown:
Then cook the other side for a further 1 1/2 minutes.
As soon as they’re done, lift them out and drop them right into the sugar bowl, giving them a good roll around in there.
They should come out of the sugar looking, feeling and (most importantly) smelling like the doughnuts we all know and love:
Drop them in the big bowl, and repeat the process untl they’re all done, and you have a happy heap of goodies.
I could lie at this point and tell you all about the home-made jam I made from foraging in local hedgerows, but to be perfectly honest, I didnt bother this year, as we had such a vile wet and cold summer, berry pickings were not worth the effort, so I just used store bought jam to fill.
Make an incision into the doughnut with a blunt butter-knife, wiggle it around to create a cavity, and spoon jam inside, closing up with a squeeze of your fingers afterwards. (some people pipe the jam in using an icing bag, but I can’t be bothered. It’s easy enough to do with a spoon)
and there you have it. Twelve perfect, gorgeous smelling light and fluffy and still warm doughnuts. all of which BY LAW have to be consumed immediately by yourself, freinds and family, even if you all get full and start to feel a bit sick.
Hope you found the recipie simple and easy to follow, and as always, please do let me know how it turns out if you try it yourself 🙂