Start to Finish: 1 hour
Servings: 4
Difficulty Level: Intermediate

You do not need a deep-fat fryer to fry sweet and crunchy doughnut holes. A heavy-bottomed pan that is at least 2 1/2 inches deep is suitable. A cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven works especially well, because cast iron retains heat consistently for prolonged periods of time. Use a deep-fry or candy thermometer that clips onto the pan. A thermometer will help you regulate the temperature of the frying oil so that the doughnut holes cook through evenly.


Ingredients

Doughnuts

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
  • 5 cups canola oil, peanut oil or vegetable shortening
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Cinnamon Sugar

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Prepare the Doughnut Batter

Mix flour, baking powder, granulated sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Add ground cinnamon if you want the doughnut hole to be cinnamon-flavored in addition to being coated in cinnamon sugar.

Whisk the milk, melted butter and egg together in a second bowl, adding vanilla extract for flavor, if desired.

Incorporate the dry and wet ingredients until the batter is completely saturated. The consistency of the mixture should be similar to that of very thick pancake batter.

Fry the Doughnut Holes

Clip a deep-fat or candy thermometer onto the side of a heavy-bottomed skillet or pot that is at least 2.5 inches deep.

Pour 5 cups of canola oil or peanut oil into the pan. Use 5 cups of vegetable shortening instead of oil, if desired. Heat the skillet on medium-high to high heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mist a small ice cream scoop or a spoon with a light coat of nonstick cooking spray, to help batter slide off the metal.

Scoop about 1 tablespoon of doughnut batter with the small scoop or spoon. Drop the contents gently into the oil, using a second spoon to help move the dollop of batter off the metal, if needed. Repeat the process to fry 4 to 5 doughnut holes at a time.

Fry the first batch of doughnut holes until the undersides are golden brown, approximately 2 to 4 minutes. Turn the doughnut holes over in the oil with a slotted spoon or bamboo skimmer. Flip them gently to avoid splashing hot oil.

Fry the doughnut holes until they are equally golden on both sides. Remove them from the oil, placing them on a wire cooling rack. Keep paper towels under the rack to collect dripping oil.

Allow the frying oil to return to 350 F before cooking the next batch of doughnut holes.

Prepare and Apply Cinnamon Sugar

Mix granulated sugar and ground cinnamon together in a small bowl.

Roll the doughnut holes in the cinnamon sugar as soon as the doughnut holes are cool enough to handle with your hands. They should still be slightly warm and have a subtle sheen from the cooking oil, which will help the cinnamon sugar adhere to the doughnut holes.

Tips and Serving Suggestions

Substitute apple cider for half the milk, if desired.

You can use canned biscuit dough instead of homemade dough. Cut 1- to 1 1/2-inch circles out of the biscuit dough with a small biscuit cutter.

Canola oil has a neutral flavor that is mostly unnoticeable in the finished doughnut holes. Vegetable shortening yields the crispiest surface texture. Peanut oil generates the darkest golden coloring.

Place the wire cooling rack on a baking sheet, and keep the rack of fried doughnut holes in a 150 F oven — before or after you coat them with cinnamon sugar — if you want to keep them warm while the other doughnut holes fry.

Serve doughnut holes on a dessert plate, in a small paper bag or in a paper cone like the cones used to serve french fries.

Include sugar glaze, maple syrup, jam or honey on the side as a dipping sauce, if desired. Prepare a simple glaze by mixing powdered sugar with water or milk.

Safety and Quality Warnings

Do not use water to put out a grease fire; smother a grease fire with a fire extinguisher or metal lid.
Do not place doughnut holes directly on paper towels. Paper towels trap dissipating heat, which steams doughnut holes and softens their crunchy surfaces.