It's my little sister's birthday today! Actually I lie. She's turning 17, so she's not really little anymore I guess. She's currently working with Habitat for Humanity somewhere in Tennessee, taking a well-deserved break from midterm exams, SAT prep classes, ACT prep classes, potential college list-making, etc...I definitely DON'T miss that part of my junior year of high school! For her birthday this year, she requested nothing more than a batch of yeast doughnuts covered in chocolate glaze and rainbow sprinkles...I obviously had to oblige, because after all, let's just be honest with ourselves. Chocolate glazed-doughnuts with rainbow sprinkles are just a tad irresistible.
I always like to make something special for my sister's birthday. It usually ends up being a cake; last year, I made her this really adorable 3-layer yellow cake with chocolate buttercream, and I decorated the top with three chocolate butterflies. So cute! This year, she went with a more non-traditional approach. I was honestly kind of bummed out about it initially, because I had been hoping/wishing/praying/crossing my fingers and toes that she would somehow magically say she wanted an ombre cake, only because I've been dying to make one for the longest time now, but alas, she did not (HINT HINT for next year...). But then I got over it and myself, and I realized that doughnuts could just as easily be a really lovely birthday treat.
The doughnuts really aren't that hard to make; they just require a bit of extra planning and thought, since they need time to rise...no big deal though. I used that extra time I had on my hands to do a bit of exercise, so that I wouldn't feel too terrible about later sinking my teeth into a lovely, fluffy, glazed doughnut. Like I said before, I initially had some reservations about making these doughnuts, because the fact that they are fried in oil was definitely one of the things crossing my mind. I have been doing a really good job of keeping up with my exercise routine these past couple of months, and I knew that I just wouldn't be able to resist a chocolate glazed-doughnut...but then I said to myself, whatever. Every now and then, having a delicious fried snack covered in chocolate is necessary, because after all, how often do I actually eat doughnuts? Hardly ever. Small indulgences like this help me stay sane.
Well now that I've finished sharing with you all the rationalizing that was going on in my head immediately prior to making the doughnuts, while I was making them, and right before I was about to eat one, let's talk about the doughnuts themselves. They're super simple. Almost too simple...this makes them kind of dangerous. It's really nothing more than throwing a couple ingredients into a mixer and then letting the dough rise for a little while, aka, you can get out of the kitchen and do whatever you want. Those kinds of recipes are always nice; it's one of the great things about working with yeast! Don't be intimidated about working with yeast if you haven't done so before. As long as your yeast hasn't expired and your water isn't tooooo warm, there's really no reason why you can't bake up deliciously fluffy things. Like doughnuts! Except that these are fried. Not baked. Whatevz.
The doughnut recipe below makes a lot of doughnuts. So many, that I chose to only make half the recipe, which worked out perfectly. I got about 10 doughnuts and 18 little doughnut holes after gathering up all the scrap dough and re-rolling and cutting it. That's plenty of doughnuts to have in my kitchen, if you ask me. As far as the chocolate glaze goes, I made half, and it was just enough to glaze all the doughnuts and doughnut holes that I made. I love it when things work out like that! The only comment I need to make about the glaze is that when I made half, I found that I needed to add an extra splash of milk. After I added the powdered sugar, what I ended up getting was most definitely not a smooth glaze, but it was nothing that a splash of milk couldn't fix. Also, it's really important to make sure your oil is heated to the proper temperature! I'm not much of a deep-frying kinda gal, so I accidentally let my oil get a little too hot at times, which resulted in a couple of what we'll say are just "extra-golden brown" doughnuts...I burned nothing! In the end, I'm super happy I made these doughnuts, and my sister was too.
Isn't this little doughnut hole the cutest thing EVER??? I'm obsessed!
Birthday Chocolate Glazed-Doughnuts
doughnut and chocolate glaze recipes from Alton Brown
For the Doughnuts
1 1/2 cups milk
2 1/2 ounces vegetable shortening
2 packages instant yeast
1/3 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F)
2 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
23 ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting work surface
vegetable oil, for frying
For the Chocolate Glaze
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
Start off with the doughnuts! Begin by warming the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat just until it is warm enough to melt the shortening. Add the shortening to a bowl, and pour the warm milk over it. Set aside.
In the bowl of a standard electric mixer, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water, and let stand for five minutes so it gets foamy. After five minuts, pour the milk and shortening mixture into the bowl with the yeast, making sure the mixture has cooled slightly. Add the eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and half the flour. Using the paddle attachment, combine the ingredients on low speed to incorporate the flour, and then increase the speed and beat until well combined. Add the remaining flour, incorporating it first with the mixer running on low speed, then increasing the speed to medium and beating well. Change the paddle attachment to the dough hook, and beat the dough until it begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl and becomes smooth, about 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and allow the dough to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about one hour (my kitchen was a little cold the day I made these, so I let the dough rise a little bit longer).
On a well-floured surface, roll the dough out to about 1/2 inch thick. Using a doughnut-cutter or two circle cutters, cut out the doughnuts, reserving the center holes. Re-roll the scraps, and cut out more doughnuts, until all the dough has been used. Set the cut out doughnuts and doughnut holes on a well floured baking sheet, cover with a tea towel, and let rise for about 45 minutes.
Add about 2 1/2 inches of vegetable oil to a heavy bottomed-pot or Dutch oven, and preheat to 350 degrees F. Gently fry the doughnuts and doughnut holes in the oil, about 3 at a time, cooking them for about a minute per side. Transfer the doughnuts from the oil to a baking sheet lined with paper towels, to let the doughnuts drain. Allow the doughnuts to cool for about 20 minutes before glazing.
While the doughnuts are cooling, prepare the chocolate glaze. Combine the butter, milk, corn syrup, and vanilla extract in a medium saucepan and set over medium heat, just until the butter has melted. Lower the heat, and add the chocolate, whisking until it has melted. Turn off the heat, and add the sifted powdered sugar, again whisking until smooth. Place the mixture over a bowl of warm water to keep the glaze smooth and liquid, and begin to dip the doughnuts into the glaze, adding sprinkles if desired. Allow the glaze to set for about 20 minutes before eating. Enjoy!