Today is my husband’s birthday, and to celebrate, I started his day with a mega breakfast: coffee, fresh mango-carrot-orange juice, bacon, Gruyere-chive baked eggs, and . . . Thomas Keller’s cinnamon-sugar doughnuts.
This recipe is from Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook. At his acclaimed restaurant in Napa Valley, Chef Keller serves these doughnuts for dessert with cappuccino semifreddo (“Coffee and Doughnuts”). However, not (yet) owning this “gourmet guidebook,” I first saw this doughnut recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Not So Humble Pie, and I have been waiting for a special occasion to use it. Since Brandon is a bit of a doughnut fanatic (who isn’t?), I thought that his turning a year older deserved a bowl full of doughnuts.
I started the dough for the doughnuts last evening. They do need a full night to proof, but for the most part, the recipe was surprisingly easy. After making the dough in my stand mixer*, I put the covered mixing bowl in the refrigerator and woke up an hour before I wanted to serve the doughnuts to roll out the dough and allow them to rise.
I realize that this recipe may seem a bit intimidating. It requires using yeast and deep-frying: two “scary” tasks. However, I am always a little nervous when making yeast dough, and—full disclosure—I’ve never deep-fried anything before. In the end, I don’t know what I was worried about. I followed the recipe to “a tee,” and the doughnuts turned out perfectly airy and light. Brandon was a very happy birthday boy—that is, until he had to go to work.
*If you don’t own a stand mixer with a dough hook, Ms. Humble, of the blog Not So Humble Pie, includes step-by-step instructions on how to properly prepare this dough without a mixer.
Check out this post and other sweet treats on SWEET AS SUGAR COOKIES!
Thomas Keller’s Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnuts
From The French Laundry Cookbook
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water, at room temperature
1/4 ounce compressed fresh yeast (little blocks of this yeast can usually be found in your grocer’s cooler case)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 ounce compressed fresh yeast
2 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, or more as needed
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup egg yolks (about 3 large yolks)
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Canola oil for deep-frying
1/2 cup sugar mixed with 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
In the bowl of your mixer, add the water and crumbled yeast. With a spoon, mix and mush the yeast into the water to dissolve. Add the flour to the bowl and using the dough hook, mix slowly until the sponge is thoroughly blended.
Transfer the sponge to a bowl and cover. Allow to proof at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours. Once it has doubled you can begin the dough.
To make the dough, add the crumbled yeast and milk to a small bowl, stirring to dissolve. Add 3/4 cup of the flour, the sugar, and salt to the bowl of your mixer. With the dough hook, mix on low speed, adding the milk and yeast mixture, followed by the egg yolks and butter. Mix for a minute to combine.
Add the proofed sponge and the remaining 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour. Continue to beat at low speed until combined. Turn up the speed slightly and knead the dough for 4 to 5 minutes, or until it has formed a ball and cleans the sides of the bowl. If the dough seems wet, it may be necessary to add 1 to 2 more tablespoons flour. Cover the bowl and let the dough proof overnight in the refrigerator.
To shape the overnight-rested dough: Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it out 1/2″ thick. Cut out the doughnuts using a 2-inch doughnut cutter (you may also use biscuit cutters, using a smaller cutter to remove the hole). Place the doughnuts and holes onto a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper and lightly dusted with flour. Drape the doughnuts with a sheet of plastic wrap that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.
At this point, the doughnuts can be frozen for several days, refrigerated, or allowed to rise at room temperature. If they’re frozen, defrost them and then allow them to rise at room temperature for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. They can be refrigerated for several hours or overnight, to rise slowly. When you remove them from the refrigerator, uncover them and let them finish proofing in a warm place for 20 to 30 minutes. If they have not been refrigerated or frozen, they should rise at room temperature in about 15 minutes. Once proofed, they will have risen to approximately 3/4 inch.
To cook the doughnuts: In a deep heavy saucepan heat the canola oil (about two inches) for deep-frying to 325°F. Use a frying thermometer to check the temperature and be sure to bring the oil back to 325°F after frying each batch. Add the doughnuts and holes to the oil and cook for approximately 30 seconds on the first side. Flip the doughnuts and fry for 1 minute on the second side, then turn back to the first side to cook for an additional 30 seconds, or until a deep golden brown. Remove the doughnuts, drain them briefly on paper towels, and toss them in a bowl with the cinnamon sugar.
Repeat with the remaining doughnuts.