Mimi's Homemade yeast Doughnuts
A friendly disclaimer: These are family recipes, not tested in professional kitchens. Use the "Feedback" or "Comment" sections at the end of this page to report mistakes or send suggestions, if you wish.
First, you need a bach of Mother and Dad's Saturday Night rolls - and you need them made at least eight hours before you begin The Doughnut Process. And you need a couple of hours, or a bit more, for the process itself. (It's all fun home chemistry, but is not what you can have for breakfast if you want to eat in the next hour.)
Special equipment: You need a doughnut cutter to make these wonderful confections. From the top, an old-fashioned doughnut cutter looks like a light aluminum cookie cutter, about 2 3/4" in diameter, with a wooden knob in the middle. Turn it upside down and you will see a smaller circle set inside a larger one. This smaller circle typically comes out with a twist, so the cutter can either make simple circles, or can cut two circles at a time, as is needed for doughnuts. (You take the center circle of dough out, those become the 'holes.')
Doughnut cutters were staples in the kitchens in beautiful Wayne County (Kentucky) when I grew up, and all my wonderful cooking aunts had them. But now they are harder to find. Still, I just checked the internet, and new models are still out there, and still less than $5.00. So if you haven't been handed an heirloom or located one at a country antique store, get online and order one. (I am not providing a link because sources change frequently. Type "doughnut cutter" into your search engine and you will see quite a few options.) The shipping costs will probably exceed the item cost by about 200 percent, but the whole thing will be cheap considering it's the only tool that can do what you need it to do, cut out circular doughnuts with a hole in the middle.
These doughnuts will spoil you. They are hazardous to the bottom line of the doughnut chains, and I promise not to use the word 'bottom' again in a doughnut recipe. These are a lot less difficult than you might think, especially with the temperature controlled fryers stuck back in the lonely corners of many kitchens.
About half a recipe of roll dough should make enough doughnuts to feed 8, even including a couple of 14-year old boys.
Mimi's (and Gramps's) Homemade Doughnuts
Take the dough from the refrigerator, and use a sharp knife to cut about half the dough out of the bowl. Put the dough on a floured cloth, board, or waxed paper. Cover the remaining dough and return it to the refrigerator.
You will need two or three baking sheets for the doughnuts as they rise. Lightly flour them.
Flour your hands and press the extra air out of the wedge of dough as you bring it into a round ball shape. Use a heavy rolling pin, and roll the round ball of dough out to a circle about 15 - 18 inches in diameter. The dough should be ½ inch thick.
Using your doughnut cutter with the center circle in place, cut out as many doughnuts as you can. Remove each center circle of dough - the "hole" - and put the doughnuts on a floured baking sheet. You can either squeeze the holes back together and re-roll them, finally ending with a few scraps that you can let rise and fry, or you can pinch the holes together in groups of three like a cloverleaf, and set them to rise with the other doughnuts. The cloverleaf holes are easy to manage in the frying; individual holes are not.
Let the doughnuts rise until doubled, 90-120 minutes.
While they rise, in a large bowl make a simple glaze of 1 cup sifted confectioner's sugar, 1 Tablespoon milk, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, and a tiny sprinkle of salt. The large bowl will make sense when you are dropping hot doughnuts into it! When the doughnuts are nearly ready to fry, start heating oil. I use iron skillets. Dedicated frying appliances like the Fry Daddy will work perfectly, of course. Grapeseed and rice bran oils are high end options. Lard is the old-fashioned alternative. Canola or safflower are good types for this purpose. Stay away from solid shortenings. They work, but they aren't good for you. Heat 3 - 4 inches of oil in a deep skillet or frying appliance. Heat to 360 degrees, or to the point when a dot of dough, dropped into the oil, causes lots of tiny boiling bubbles all around itself.
Fry the doughnuts a few at a time, without crowding. They usually turn medium golden brown on the first side within two minutes. Turn them with long tongs. The second side will take about a minute.
Remove them to a folded paper bag for a moment, to catch a bit of the extra oil, and then drop them into the large bowl of glaze, turn them quickly, and then set them on edge on a plate to drip a bit. You can prop them against each other, teepee fashion. They are better if you can avoid laying them flat, or pressing them against their brothers and sisters too closely. And they are best if eaten as soon as the glaze has had a moment to dry, making eating easier. They should still be piping hot inside. This means the frying, draining, glazing, and propping have to be done quickly. It's good to share the work of the final steps if anyone else is handy. Let someone else do the glazing and propping as you manage the frying and removing from the oil.
Yes, you can do many other things to these doughnuts, including rolling them in chocolate or colored jimmies, sprinkling them with sifted powdered sugar, drizzling them with a chocolate or caramel glaze, or topping them with jams or jellies. But you may find, as we have, that you don't want any of those frills. The basic item satisfies that small doughnut-sized hole deep in the heart of most of us Americans. You'll see.
Stats: From one full recipe of Mother and Dad's Saturday Night Rolls, the doughnut yield on March 20, 2010 was 87 traditional circular doughnuts, 39 "triplets" made from three "holes" each, and 5 "huddles" made from scraps.