They say that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in something. I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent baking over the last four years, but I can tell you that it’s a lot. I’m definitely not an expert yet, but at this point, I can look at cookie dough or cake batter and know if it’s going to bake properly or not. If I am out of an ingredient, I can almost always make substitutions with stuff I have on hand and get a good result. I’m not trying to brag–I’m just saying that experience has taught me a few things.
Want to know one field in which I am decidedly not an expert? Doughnut-making. Oh my goodness. Last year, I posted some Glazed Cream Cheese Cake Doughnuts. They were my first foray into fried dough (except for a time in college where I tried to make doughnuts from prepackaged red velvet cake mix–don’t do that). It took me two batches to get them right. I thought I had this doughnut business nailed.
Oh, how wrong I was.
While my oven was down a couple of weeks ago, I started thinking of recipes I could make without it. My stove still worked, so doughnuts seemed like a good option. I looked at my previous doughnuts, researched chocolate cake doughnuts on the internet, wrote a recipe, and got to work.
The first batch, made with Dutch process cocoa powder, had a good chocolate flavor, but was very dry. For the second batch, I replaced some of the flour with cornstarch and added nutmeg for that “doughnut shop” flavor. Also, I had run out of Dutch process cocoa, so used natural unsweetened. The batch was less dry, but tasted mostly like nutmeg and not at all like chocolate. I knew I had to use Dutch process cocoa in all future attempts, but couldn’t figure out why it was all so dry, so I hung up my frying spider for a few days.
Wednesday afternoon, it hit me: I had been using butter as the fat in my doughnuts. Butter is 84% fat and 15% water. Water evaporates. Cocoa powder dries things out by nature. If I wanted an edible doughnut, I’d have to use oil in the dough, just like I use oil in my chocolate cake recipe. I came home from work, put together a soft dough with oil and buttermilk and refrigerated it overnight. Thursday morning, I rolled and cut the dough into doughnuts, heated some shortening (it leaves less of an aftertaste than canola oil), and got to frying. I finished them off with a dip in a coffee glaze.
I may not ever become an expert at making doughnuts, but with this recipe in my back pocket I’m okay with that. The doughnuts themselves have a moderate chocolate flavor that might not be anything special with a plain glaze, but paired with this coffee glaze, they’re really delicious. Chocolate and coffee are a dream team, bringing out the best in each other. Plus, nothing goes with a doughnut quite like coffee.
Making homemade doughnuts may seem like a daunting task (and to some degree, it is), but they’re a fun treat to make every once in a while. It’s like having a breakfast time party trick. Sure, you could make French toast or pancakes or scones this weekend, but maybe you should change it up and make Coffee Glazed Chocolate Cake Doughnuts instead. And then invite me over. I’ll bring the coffee.
Coffee Glazed Chocolate Cake Doughnuts
Glaze adapted from Handle the Heat
makes about 2 dozen small doughnuts and doughnut holes
Chocolate Cake Doughnuts:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder (not natural unsweetened)
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1/3 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 quart (4 cups) vegetable shortening (or neutral-flavored oil), for frying
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons light corn syrup (or brown rice syrup)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 fl oz strong hot coffee (I used decaf)
Whisk together flour, cornstarch, nutmeg, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together oil and sugar until sandy. Add eggs and egg yolk one by one, whisking after each addition. Stir in vanilla and buttermilk. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in the dry ingredients until a sticky dough forms. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill at least an hour (or overnight).
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set two cooling racks over wax paper.
On a heavily floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Use a doughnut cutter or graduated cookie cutters to cut doughnuts. Re-roll as necessary. Lay cut doughnuts and doughnut holes on prepared baking sheet.
Place vegetable shortening in a large heavy pot. Heat shortening until it reaches 350F. Add cut doughnuts in batches of three or four. Let fry about 1.5-2 minutes per side. Remove cooked doughnuts to prepared racks. Continue frying until all doughnuts and doughnut holes have been cooked.
Make the glaze. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together confectioner’s sugar and salt. Add corn syrup, vanilla, and coffee, and continue whisking until smooth. Dip doughnuts and doughnut holes one at a time before placing back on the cooling racks. Let glaze set for twenty minutes before enjoying. Doughnuts are best eaten the day they are made.