I was sure that I’d blinked and a whole month had passed since we last spoke, but apparently I dropped in on Friday to discuss peas. It was my birthday and I was double-fisting tissues and hoping the DayQuil would kick in soon. Fortunately, it got better from there, with my awesome husband stealthily making plans to send the baby to his grandparents while he plotted what has to have been the most fun party since our wedding. There’s been a new dress, a new camera, new measuring cups and a new tooth, countless formats of cheese, innumerable sinks of dishes and full nights of sleep, plural. Is it any wonder that I hardly remember five days ago?
There were also some cherries. I had great plans for them, the possibilities for kitchen craftiness seemed endless. But then, I ate them all. Look at them. Can you blame me? Sometimes it’s just wrong to meddle with something that arrives needing no intervention.
Due to the aforementioned tissues and DayQuil (a condition that magically evaporated over vodka; I think the Russians would be proud), I couldn’t summon the energy to make a birthday cake this year, which was a shame as in years past it has been a fun excuse to try something wild for me, and me alone. (Okay, fine. I share, but only because Alex peer pressures me.) I was pretty okay with this until I read an email that arrived last week in which someone (hi, Carolyn!) asked me if I’d ever made a chocolate cake doughnut. The prospect of chocolate doughnuts seeped into my brain and I’m pretty sure I spent the next four days thinking about nothing else.
By Monday, I’d had enough taunting and got to work. I scoured my books and searched the internet for leads and was surprised to find very few. Don’t other people enjoy a little crackly translucent glaze on a cocoa-laden cake? Did nobody else reach first for the chocolate cake doughnuts when someone brought Dunkin’ Donuts in to the office? Apparently, there are very few of us out there but one key one, the awesome Jenny from Use Real Butter. I took her lead and made doughnut holes instead of full doughnuts because really, what more do you need? They’re easier to make, absolutely adorable and so tiny, surely if you throw back some salad first, they make a healthy dinner. Don’t argue with me or I’ll pull the birthday card!
One last thing: The last time I made doughnuts on this site — apple cider doughnuts — I’d fried them in Crisco after reading that many doughnut makers prefer using solid fats, as that which is solid at room temperature feels less greasy as the doughnut cools (and concluded that I agreed). Really, it gave me an excuse to buy a giant tub of Crisco and pose our poor, unsuspecting 1-month old with it for our delight. It was almost as big as him. I know some parents take photos of their babies with a large stuffed animal each month of their first year of life, to show how they’ve grown, but I thought it would be more fun if we revisited the same shot, 8 months later. Last time, the little lump of baby was so sleepy, he rested his cheek on it and looked like he was about to take a nap. This time he grabbed it with both hands and played it like a bongo drum.
The most important thing to know about this recipe is that like most cake doughnuts, it makes a very sticky, soft dough. This one was so sticky I actually added a couple extra tablespoons of flour, and still felt panicky as it wanted to stick to the counter. Don’t do that, panic, I mean. Flour your counter very well. Plop the dough down on top. Flour it well and gently pat-pat-pat the dough until it is flat. The less you disturb it and the more generously you flour your counter, hand and cutter, the less sticking you’ll have. If it gets disturbingly soft, put the shapes (and/or dough) on a parchment or waxed-lined sheet and pop them in the freezer for a few minutes until they’re easy to pick up again.
My changes were to adjust the flour a bit, tweak a couple ingredients, add additional instructions, weights and I used a different glaze.
Yield: 4 dozen 1.5-inch holes. I halved the recipe and used a 1.25-inch cutter so I had a little over 2 dozen.
2 3/4 cups (12 3/8 ounces or 352 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (3 ounces or 90 grams) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
2 teaspoons (about 3/8 ounce or 10 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (about 1/8 ounces or 4 grams) salt
4 large eggs
1 1/2 (10 5/8 ounces or 300 grams) cups sugar
1/3 cup (2 7/8 ounce or 84 grams) sour cream (what I used) or buttermilk or you can make your own
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces or 42 grams) butter, melted and cooled a bit
Your fat of choice for frying (solid vegetable shortening or canola, peanut or vegetable oil are popular choices)
Whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. In a medium one, whisk eggs, sugar, sour cream or buttermilk and butter. Stir wet ingredients into dry until well blended. Chill batter until cold, at least 1 hour and up to 3.
Flour your counter generously (see Note up top) and scrape dough onto it. Flour dough. Flour your hands. Gently pat dough out until it is 1/2-inch thick. Dip a 1 1/4 to 1 1/2-inch round cutter into a dish of flour and cut rounds from dough. Pat scraps of dough together and cut them again. If your dough or doughnut holes have gotten too soft to easily pick up, put them on a floured or parchment or waxed paper-lined tray and put them in the freezer for a few minutes, until they’re firm enough to gently handle again.
Prepare your fryer or fill a 5 to 6-quart with 4 inches of oil. Heat to 375°F (190°C). You can fry 6 to 12 doughnut holes at a time, about one full minute on each side. The trickiest parts will be visualizing when the doughnuts are done — since they’re chocolate, the color change will be subtle; I suggest practicing with scraps of extra dough first — and keeping your oil at an even temperature, if you’re not using a deep-fryer. Make sure you bring the oil back to 375°F after each batch.
Drain doughnut holes on a stack of paper towels. Once cool, roll in glaze (below) and let drain and dry on cooling racks.
I understand that these should keep for a day or two. We’ll probably never find out.
Full-Sized Chocolate Doughnuts: You can use this same dough to make 3-inch round doughnuts (with a 1-inch hole removed from the center). Because the dough is fragile, I definitely recommend popping the shapes in the freezer to firm up a little before you drop them in the fryer. You will want to fry them for 2 minutes on each side. It should yield about 16 3-inch doughnuts.
Chocolate-Stuffed Doughnut Holes: Why didn’t I think of this before? I bet awesome things would happen if you pressed a tiny piece of chocolate into the center of your unfried doughnut hole. Let us know if you try it in the comments.
8 ounces powdered sugar
3 tablespoons water, milk or buttermilk (what I used, highly recommended)
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whisk together until smooth. If you need it thinner, add more water, milk or buttermilk, a few drops at a time.