The origin of the hole may forever remain a mystery, but doughnuts, or donuts, if you prefer, clearly belong in the spotlight of American food culture. Since Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam (present-day Manhattan) first started dropping rings of dough into bubbling oil, New World fans lined up to buy the sweet treat.
Modern doughnut shops expanded the trend, turning out fried dough in a profusion of shapes and sizes, all in the name of the doughnut. You can find them puffed, stuffed, and trimmed with everything from your favorite breakfast cereal to pulled pork and potato salad.
The vintage cake doughnut harkens back to the days of simple pleasures, and you can easily recreate this classic at home. But if you prefer the more modern -- ahem, excessive -- approach, feel free to embellish as you wish.
Before you begin the recipe, prepare a spot with either newspapers or a brown paper bag covered with several layers of paper towels to drain the cooked doughnuts. Dust a clean kitchen counter or bread board lightly with flour for kneading the dough. Place about an inch of flour in a shallow bowl or on a plate for flouring your fingers and biscuit cutters.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting)
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar*
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons butter (melted and cooled)
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 large egg (beaten)
- 1 quart canola oil (or safflower or another neutral oil for frying)
- Optional: cinnamon sugar (or powdered sugar or glaze)
Gather the ingredients.
Heat oil in deep fryer or tall stock pot to 360 F.
Sift flour into a large bowl. Resift flour with sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg to combine.
Crumble butter into flour mixture with your fingers, then stir in milk and egg.
With floured hands, lightly work dough just to moisten. Turn onto area prepared with flour and knead two or three times so the dough comes together. Pat dough with your fingertips into 1/4-inch thickness.
Dip either a doughnut cutter or two biscuit cutters (one 1-inch and one 3- or 4-inch) in flour. Cut doughnuts, gathering dough scraps to rework.
Use a slotted spoon to lower doughnuts into hot oil, cooking them 2 to 3 at a time and allowing the oil to return to temperature between batches.
Fry on the first side for 2 minutes, flip, and fry the remaining side an additional 1 to 2 minutes or until evenly browned. Then remove with a slotted spoon.
Drain on prepared paper towels or a baking rack.
Sprinkle warm doughnuts with powdered sugar or a cinnamon-sugar mixture or drizzle with a prepared glaze.
You can substitute 2 1/4 cups of cake flour, which produces a lighter, more tender doughnut.
*Adjust the sugar amount according to your personal taste preference.
The doughnuts need space to float in the hot oil, so don't add more than your fryer or pan can handle at once. They should not be touching as they cook.
If you don't have a doughnut ring or biscuit cutters, you can make doughnut "holes" instead. Scoop a heaping tablespoon of dough and gently roll it into a ball. Fry the holes 5 to 6 at a time, for 2 to 3 minutes or until evenly browned. You can also turn the scraps of dough into holes or fry the cutout pieces. Just be sure to handle the dough gently and sparingly to keep the doughnuts tender.