I have been promising you a recipe for homemade jelly doughnuts for as many Hanukahs as this site has been in existence, which is to say 9, including the one that begins next week. This might lead you to conclude that I like neither fried food, doughnuts or even jelly, or all over the above showered in unholy amounts of powdered sugar, but this couldn’t be further from the truth, which is that I like them so much that if they want a chance to live out their short shelf-life destiny, they should stay far from my home.
These round jelly doughnuts are sometimes called sufganiyot, or at least when they hail from Israel and are consumed during Hanukah. However, in my vast — for research, guys, just for research! — jelly doughnut studies, I can tell you that there are sugared round versions of these in dozens of other wonderful places on earth. In Germany, these would be called Berliners; in Poland, pączki (I get mine at the Polish butchers on 2nd Avenue; how about you?), in Russia, ponchiki, in Ukraine, pampushky, in Italy, bombolini (swoon), in Finland, munkki (although not all of these varieties are always filled with jam) and, hey, who wants to go on a Fried Dough World Tour with me?
What almost all of them have in common is yeast dough enriched with egg and a bit of butter which gives them a stretchy, rich but not very sweet quality that I find hopelessly addictive. They fry for just a couple minutes each, and are best the first day, which means they are useless in trying to teach anyone the value of delayed dessert gratification, but means you’ll be something of a hero to anyone who has Eat Doughnuts Still Warm From The Fryer on their life list, not that we know anyone like that.
Doughnuts, previously: There are two recipes on this site to date for doughnuts, apple cider doughnuts that should come with a warning for parents of rapidly-growing-up kids — or, at least, me — that they include photos of a one month-old in argyle knee socks slumped over a can of Crisco. [I lost about an hour this week staring at that photo.] Plus, chocolate doughnut holes, which are the perfect party size and include the same curly-haired moppet, now old enough to bang on an empty Crisco can like a drum. Ah, wholesome family memories! Both are excellent recipes, but they are notably absent in my single favorite doughnut quality: yeast. Yeast doughnuts are to cake doughnuts what brown butter is to fresh, what caramel is to plain sugar, what homemade vanilla extract is to anything you can buy in a bottle. Today is the day to make that right.
Next up: NOT a dessert, promise. I know it’s been a bit of a sugar stampede here this last week or two. We’ve got baking on the brain! I also am finding it hard to focus on dinner with so many rugelach pinwheels to make. But here are a few weeknight favorites that, for us, fit the bill but also do not keep us too busy to get all of the fun baking done, too: Cold Noodles with Miso, Lime and Ginger, Twice-Baked Potatoes with Kale, Squash Toasts with Ricotta and Vinegar, Sizzling Chicken Fajitas, Sticky Sesame Chicken Wings, Broccoli, Cheddar and Wild Rice Casserole and Baked Pasta with Broccoli and Sausage
Signed Smitten Kitchen Cookbooks: I work with McNally-Jackson, an independent bookstore in Soho through which you can order a signed Smitten Kitchen Cookbook with your choice of inscription; I sign them, they mail them out. We have a hard deadline for Christmas shipping (i.e. you’d pay standard and not rushed shipping and the book will reach you by Christmas) of this coming Monday, December 15th. [Order Custom Inscribed Smitten Kitchen Cookbooks from McNally Jackson]
One year ago: My Great Linzer Torte Love
Two years ago: Cashew Butter Balls
Three years ago: Caesar Salad Deviled Eggs
Four years ago: Iced Oatmeal Cookies
Five years ago: Build Your Own Smitten Kitchen (the only gift guide I’ve ever made, now with hopefully all-fixed links) and Creamed Mushrooms on Butter-Chive Toasts
Six years ago: Zuni Cafe’s Roast Chicken and Bread Salad
Seven years ago: Chicken and Dumplings
Eight years ago: Winter Panzanella</a, Homemade Orecchiette with Tomatoes and Arugula, Chicken Skewers with Dukkah Crust and Pecan Squares
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Valerie’s French Chocolate Cake
1.5 Years Ago: Bowties with Sugar Snaps, Lemon and Ricotta
2.5 Years Ago: Broccoli Parmesan Fritters
3.5 Years Ago: Dobos Torte
Jelly Doughnuts [Sufganiyot, Berliners, Pączki, Bombolini, etc.]
Updated 12/22/14 with a slew of additional notes and tips, after someone (ahem) made these two more times in a singe weekend. I found the dough easier to work with an extra spoonful or two of flour; it called for 2 1/4 cups, now calls for 2 1/3. I now share a second method of filling the doughnuts for more perfect centers. And I’ve written in the option of either doing the first rise or the second overnight in the fridge (but not both; the dough cannot handle two days in the fridge). We had two brunch parties this weekend, and to make things easier I pre-filled the doughnuts (the peskier method, below) and proofed them the second time in the fridge overnight. All I had to do in the morning was fry them, which takes all of 10 minutes, tops. And then: warm, fresh doughnuts for all. (Hooray.)
Yield: 16 2-inch doughnuts
Prep time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 7-gram or 1/4-ounce packet) active dry yeast
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (180 ml) lukewarm (not hot) milk
2 large egg yolks
Few gratings of orange or lemon zest, 1 teaspoon vanilla or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons (1 ounce or 30 grams) butter softened
2 1/3 cups (290 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt
1 egg white, whisked until frothy (for peskier filling method)
Vegetable oil for deep-frying, and coating bowl
1/2 to 2/3 cup jam or preserves of your choice
Make the dough: In the bottom of a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and milk. Let stand for 5 minutes; it should become a little foamy. Whisk in yolks, any zest or extracts you’d like to use, then butter. Don’t worry if the butter doesn’t fully combine.
— By hand: Add half of flour and stir with a spoon until combined. Add second half of flour and salt and stir as best as you can with a spoon, then use your hands to knead the dough until it forms a smooth, elastic round, about 5 minutes. Try, if you can, to resist adding extra flour, even if it’s sticky. Extra flour always makes for tougher/dryer doughnuts and breads. Sticky hands and counters are always washable!
— With a stand mixer: Add half the flour and let the dough hook mix it in slowly, on a low speed. Add second half of flour and salt and let the dough hook bring it together into a rough dough. Run machine for 3 to 4 minutes, letting it knead the dough into a smooth, cohesive mass.
Both methods: If the dough is already in the bowl, remove it just long enough to lightly oil the bowl. Return dough to bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour, or in the fridge overnight.
There are two ways to fill doughnuts: In the easiest method, you fill them after they’re cooked with a piping bag. The filling is usually a little imperfect, off-center or slightly messy, but it takes the least effort by far. With the peskier method, you pre-fill the doughnuts, sealing the edges; the centers will be picture-perfect and neat, but it does take longer to assemble. Both will make you a hero to anyone you make these for, promise.
— Easiest method: On a lightly floured counter, roll dough to a 1/2-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch rounds; no need to re-roll scraps unless you wish; I like to keep the odd shapes for getting the hang of frying before cooking the final doughnuts. Or, if you’re vehemently against scraps and re-rolling, you can make small square doughnuts, which are surprisingly cute. Let cut dough rise for another 30 minutes at room temperature, loosely covered with a towel at room temperature, or in the fridge overnight, on an oiled tray, covered loosely with oiled plastic wrap (use this longer rise only if did the 1-hour rise the first time; two overnights is too much for this dough).
— Peskier method: On a lightly floured counter, roll dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch rounds; no need to re-roll scraps unless you wish; I like to keep the odd shapes for getting the hang of frying before cooking the final doughnuts. Or, if you’re vehemently against scraps and re-rolling, you can make small square doughnuts, which are surprisingly cute. Brush the edges of half the cut-outs with egg white, and in the center of each, add a tiny dollop (much less than you think you’ll need) of jam. Use the remaining cut-outs to form lids. Pinch every speck of the edges together tightly, almost as if you were making ravioli; you’ll want to seal these spectacularly well. Let filled doughnuts rise for another 30 minutes at room temperature, loosely covered with a towel at room temperature, or in the fridge overnight, on an oiled tray, covered loosely with oiled plastic wrap (use this longer rise only if did the 1-hour rise the first time; two overnights is too much for this dough).
Both methods, fry the doughnuts: Heat 2 inches of oil to 350°F (175°C) in a cast-iron frying pan (I like using one because it so delightfully re-seasons them) or heavy pot. Use your dough scraps to practice and get an idea of how quickly the doughnuts will cook. Then add about 4 doughnuts at a time to the oil, cooking on the first side until golden brown underneath, about 1 to 2 minutes, but often less so keep a close eye on them. Flip doughnuts and cook on the other side, until it, too, is golden brown underneath, about another minute. Drain doughnuts, then spread them on a paper towel-lined plate to absorb extra oil. Repeat with remaining doughnuts.
– If you haven’t filled your doughnuts yet, i.e. you’re using the easier method: When doughnuts are cool enough to handle, place jelly or jam in a piping bag with a round tip with a 1/4- to 1/2-inch opening. You can fill doughnuts from the tops or sides; I did half with each. Press the tip of the jam bag halfway into the doughnut, and squeeze in the jam until it dollops out a little from the hole. Repeat with remaining doughnuts.
Finish doughnuts: Either generously shower doughnuts with powdered sugar on either side, shaken from a fine-mesh strainer, or roll the doughnuts gently in a bowl of powdered sugar.
Eat at once. Don’t forget to share. If eating these on the first day, leave any remaining doughnuts uncovered on a plate. These are best on the first day, but my son did not (shockingly) say no to one that had been in an airtight container at room temperature overnight for breakfast this morning, so I guess they’re not inedible on the second day. They will need to be re-powdered, however, as it absorbs into the doughnuts when they’re in a covered container.
To make these dairy-free: You can use warm water, soy, almond or coconut milk instead of the dairy milk, and coconut oil, shortening or margarine for the butter. I made a version with both coconut milk and coconut oil, orange zest and a bit of almond extract that were a big hit.