The delectable goodness of donuts, or doughnuts, come from the time they spend in a deep fryer, their sweet dough cooking in fat to puff up and melt in your mouth. Whether your preference is yeasted donuts of the glazed variety or dense cake-y ones, a deep fryer seems like a must for these treats.
But, you can still satisfy your homemade donut craving even if you are without a deep fryer. A large Dutch oven is perfect for frying and, if you're looking to go the healthy route even when indulging, baked donuts are the perfect option.
Dutch Oven Method
A Dutch oven is an ideal alternative to a deep fryer as it's deep enough to hold the oil and donuts as they cook. It also heats relatively evenly, keeping your donuts at just the right temperature. However, if you don't have a Dutch oven, a sturdy stovetop pan (such as a wok) that can hold several frying donuts and at least three inches of oil will do.
Fill the pan with a neutral-flavored oil, such as canola or vegetable oil, to keep the taste of your donuts pure. Lard or vegetable shortening will also reach the desired 350-degree temperature and keep your donuts tasting – well, like donuts – and preserve the delicate texture of the dough.
Use a candy thermometer or deep-fry thermometer to keep tabs on the oil's temperature. If it gets too hot – above 320 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit – your donuts may burn. If it stays too cool, you're donuts will become chewy and grease-laden.
Drop the donut batter into the hot oil and allow to fry for a few seconds. Flip the donut over to cook on the other side. Aim for about four flips in about 3 to 4 minutes.
Drain the donuts by pulling them out of the oil using a slotted or mesh spoon and let the excess oil drip into the pan for a few seconds. Then, transfer the donuts to a short pile of paper towels to absorb excess oil. Of course, fried donuts aren't the most healthy of foods – but they do make a worthwhile cheat treat.
Healthier Baked Donuts
When you want donuts but want to avoid the oil bath of frying, your oven becomes your best friend. You do need a donut pan, however. This accessory looks much like a muffin tin, but with recessed circles that are a perfect donut shape, hole and all.
Choose a cake recipe for baked donuts, as you won't get good results with a yeast donut recipe. Once the batter is mixed, fill the donut pan just enough so you have a 1/4- inch lip at the rim of each treat. Bake for about 10 minutes in a preheated 425-degree F oven.
Let the donut slide out of the pan and cool on a wire rack. Drizzle with chocolate, dust with powdered sugar or top with frosting and sprinkles.