Making doughnuts at home is not only cheaper than buying them from the store or a doughnut shop, but you can also customize them to your tastes. With the right equipment, you can mix, shape and fry doughnuts in your home kitchen.
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You can purchase all kinds of different tools to make doughnuts, such as a dough mixer and a dough scraper, but only a few of these are essential. You need a rolling pin to flatten the dough and a doughnut cutter to cut out the doughnut shape. Alternatively, use a wide-mouth jar lid to cut the outer shape of the doughnut and either a shot glass or a plastic soda lid to cut the hole out of it. To fry the doughnuts, you need a large, 5-quart saucepan or Dutch oven and a cooking thermometer to measure the temperature of the oil. Tongs are handy for fishing the fried doughnut out of the hot oil. Finally, you need a cooling rack for the doughnuts after they're fried to allow the doughnuts to cool properly.
Kneading by Hand
Hand kneading is the most basic way to knead dough to develop the gluten structure correctly and trap the gas bubbles produced by the yeast. Begin by lightly dusting a clean countertop or table with flour. Turn out the dough and push down on it with the heels of your hands. Fold it over and push it down again; repeat this process for roughly 10 minutes. When the dough is ready to roll and shape, it will feel smooth to the touch and elastic.
Shaping the Dough
After you knead the dough, allow it to rest for 5 minutes to relax the gluten and make the dough easier to shape. Check your work surface; add more flour if necessary. Use the rolling pin to roll out the dough, starting in the middle and working out toward the edges. Take your time and make sure that the dough is rolled out evenly to about a 3/4-inch thickness. Allow the dough to rest again for another 5 minutes and then begin cutting out the doughnut shapes.
Before you begin frying the doughnuts, line the area around your burner with aluminum foil. This makes cleaning up afterwards easy, and it gives you a place to set the oily tongs while you are frying the doughnuts. Prepare the cooling rack by setting paper towels underneath it to absorb the oils dripping off the doughnuts.
The best oils for frying doughnuts are canola, safflower and sunflower, all oils that remain stable at the high temperatures necessary for frying and that don't impart undesirable flavors. Fill the saucepan or Dutch oven with 3 to 4 inches of oil, and heat the oil at a high temperature until it reaches 350 to 365 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush off any excess flour on the doughnuts and carefully place the doughnuts into the hot oil. Fry the doughnuts on one side for a minute or until they're golden brown; turn them over and fry the other sides for another minute. Remove the finished doughnuts with the tongs or a slotted spoon and set them on the baking rack until cool and ready for the topping of choice.