Did you know that the food holiday is not just a marketing gimmick?
Cartoonist Matt Groening has been quoted as saying, “Donuts. Is there anything they can’t do?” (Which is probably why Homer, one of the main characters on his signature show “The Simpsons,” is a legendary donut lover.)
We think most people would agree the round pastries that usually have a hole in the middle are delicious, regardless of whether what they’re called is spelled “donuts” or “doughnuts.”
And although the treats may not be the most nutritional food option, they are still celebrated with a National Doughnut Day on the first Friday in June. This year, that day falls on June 1.
Unlike many so-called food holidays that are just the invention of a marketing group, this one has a fact-based origin. In 1938, it was established by the Salvation Army to honor the female volunteers — called “Dough Lassies” — who baked the pastries for soldiers serving overseas during World War I.
Some say those ladies fried the dough in soldier helmets. If they could cook up yummy pastries under those conditions, surely you can make homemade versions.
If you are intimidated by the thought of working with a yeast dough and/or frying the doughnuts, there is an easier and healthier alternative.
“Baked donuts are as simple as mixing up a cookie batter,” writes pastry chef George Geary in “150 Best Donut Recipes.”
He also suggests “rather than buying a specialty donut cutter that has the center hole fixed inside the outer ring,” use two round cutters, one smaller than the other for the middle. That way, you can use them for other baking purposes.
Who knew doughnuts could be so practical? Maybe Groening was onto something after all.
Fresh Vanilla Bean Donuts
“Fresh vanilla beans create little dark specks in the dough. They are a burst of flavor.” Makes about 12 donuts.
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or paste
1 package (1/4 ounce) instant yeast
1 large egg
2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for frying
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1. In small saucepan, combine milk and vanilla bean. Heat over medium heat to 110 degrees. With fingers, press seeds out of pod into milk, stir to distribute. Strain through fine-mesh sieve into mixer bowl. Discard vanilla pod or reserve for another use. Sprinkle yeast over milk mixture and stir with fork. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
2. Attach bowl to mixer fitted with paddle attachment and add egg, oil, 1 cup of flour, sugar and salt to yeast mixture. Let stand in bowl for 10 minutes. On low speed, mix just until blended, then gradually add just enough of remaining flour until dough starts to pull away from sides of bowl. Increase speed to medium and beat for 1 minute.
3. Transfer dough to large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.
4. On floured work surface, roll out dough to slightly thicker than 1/4 inch. If dough is tacky, dust with additional flour. Cut dough with cutter into 12 donuts, re-rolling scraps as necessary. Place at least 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheet. Cover with clean kitchen towel and let rise for 20 minutes.
5. In large, deep pot or deep fryer, heat about 4 inches oil over medium heat until temperature is at 360 degrees. Deep-fry 4 donuts at a time in hot oil, turning once with wooden chopsticks, until golden brown, about 15 seconds per side. Using slotted spatula, transfer to paper towels to absorb excess oil. Fry remaining donuts, adjusting heat between batches to maintain oil temperature.
6. Let donuts cool completely prior to icing, if desired.
— All recipes from “150 Best Donut Recipes: Fried or Baked,” by George Geary (Robert Rose, 224 pp., 2012)
Makes about 12 donuts.
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Coat two 6-well donut pans with nonstick spray. Set aside. In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
2. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, butter and vanilla and almond extracts. Add to flour mixture and mix with rubber spatula just until incorporated. Fold in blueberries.
3. Spoon batter into resealable freezer bag or pastry bag and fill each prepared well two-thirds full.
4. Bake until donut springs back when lightly touched, 10 to 14 minutes.
5. Let donuts cool in pans on rack for 5 minutes. Turn out of pans onto rack and let cool completely prior to icing, if desired.
Chocolate Cake Donuts
“When heating the oil for deep-frying, keep a close eye on it to be sure it doesn’t overheat, and never leave the room while the oil is on the heat. Reduce the heat or carefully remove the pot from the burner when the oil reaches the desired temperature. Always keep a metal lid that tightly fits the pot handy to quickly place on the pot should the oil start to smoke or burn.” Makes about 18 donuts.
3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
3 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. In bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups of flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
2. In mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment, combine brown sugar, eggs, butter, milk and vanilla. On low speed, mix until well combined. Add dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Gradually mix in more of remaining flour, as necessary, until dough starts to come together and is the consistency of biscuit dough. Cover and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in large, deep pot or deep fryer, heat about 4 inches oil over medium heat until temperature registers 360 degrees.
4. On floured work surface, roll out dough to slightly thicker than 1/4 inch. If dough is tacky, dust with additional flour. Cut dough with cutter into 18 donuts, re-rolling scraps as necessary. Place at least 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheet.
5. Deep-fry 4 donuts at a time in hot oil, turning once with wooden chopsticks, until puffy and firm, about 25 seconds per side. Using slotted spatula, transfer to paper towels to absorb excess oil. Fry remaining donuts, adjusting heat as necessary between batches to maintain oil temperature.
6. Let donuts cool completely before icing, if desired.
Belgian Chocolate Ganache Glaze
Makes about 2 cups.
8 ounces semisweet Belgian chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
1. In large heatproof bowl, combine chocolate, butter and vanilla. Set aside.
2. In saucepan over medium heat, bring cream to full rolling boil, without stirring. Once it starts to climb up sides of pan, remove from heat and pour over chocolate mixture. Let stand for 2 minutes, undisturbed. Whisk until chocolate has fully melted and ganache is smooth. (If chocolate does not melt after adding hot cream, place bowl over saucepan of hot, not boiling, water and heat, stirring, until melted.)
3. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 7 days.