Happy happy Chanukah! I hope you’re all eating so many latkes. And doughnuts. I’ve already had 4, and it’s mostly thanks to these! I never want to lay eyes on another doughnut but I think it’s worth it. Only time will tell.
What makes these doughnuts so special? A lot of things actually. First: they’re doughnuts! And they’re homemade! So that automatically means warm, fluffy goodness. But these doughnuts take it a step further. Made with water instead of milk, a full stick of butter, and flavored with warm orange zest, nutmeg and vanilla bean, these doughnuts develop serious flavor. They’re left to proof overnight, which gives them an unbelievably soft texture and full, yeasty flavor and they expand tremendously in the fryer, since the water evaporates on contact with the hot oil and puffs them up.
The results are spectacular. They’re so light you could eat ten and still feel up for a game of dreidel, and their warm, puffy interiors are the perfect hosts to sweet strawberry jam. Rolled in vanilla sugar (or dusted with a sprinkling of snowy confectioner’s), they’re my ideal: rounded, deeply golden, and straining with jelly against their pale white waistbands. Whether you’re a fan of jelly doughnuts or not, once you bite into these cloud-like sufganiyot and experience their buttery sweetness for yourself, you’ll swoon.
And then you’ll have one doughnut too many. And you might develop a stomach ache and have to take a dreidel rain check because, okay, ten doughnuts is a lot. But it’s Chanukah! You’ve found the last doughnut recipe you’ll ever need! Have one! Have four! Save some room for latkes! Or don’t. It’s your call.
(I say go for the doughnuts. Always go for the doughnuts.)
PS: more doughnut/Chanukah goodness! Salted Caramel Doughnuts, Maple Glazed Apple Fritters, Classic Latkes with Dilled Sour Cream, Lox and Chives
Yields: 15-20 doughnuts, depending on size
Slightly adapted from St. John’s Bakery
Why I love this recipe: using water in the dough, which turns to steam in the hot oil, makes these the lightest and puffiest doughnuts ever. A stick of butter and 4 eggs makes these just rich enough, and orange zest, nutmeg and vanilla bean seeds lend warm, lightly spiced flavor to the doughnuts. An overnight rise really deepens the yeasty flavor and ensures that these expand wonderfully when fried, which gives you plenty of room to fill them up with your favorite jam.
Notes: a tip for when frying: use a very good deep fry thermometer! It can mean the difference between a doughnut that’s blackened on the outside and raw on the inside, or one that’s perfectly balanced. Another tip? Place a piece of carrot in the oil while frying your doughnuts. The carrot absorbs impurities and clarifies the oil, so it has less of a chance of burning. When letting your doughnuts rise after you’ve shaped them, make sure they’ve got a light dusting of flour on their tops and bottoms, so any parchment paper or plastic wrap won’t stick to them. Lastly, if you’re rolling them in sugar, make sure you do it as soon as they come out of the fryer, or the sugar won’t stick.
For the doughnut dough:
- 1/3 cup sugar + 1 tablespoon
- 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 3/4 cups warm water (around 115°F)
- 4 eggs
- zest from 1/2 a medium orange
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds removed and pod reserved
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 4 cups bread flour
- 1 stick butter, softened and cubed
- 6 cups vegetable oil, for frying
To top and fill the doughnuts:
- 1 jar good raspberry or strawberry jam (I used Bonne Maman)
- 3 cups sugar, mixed and tossed with the reserved vanilla bean pod or 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
- Start with the doughnut dough. Put the yeast, tablespoon of sugar and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and combine. Let it proof until bubbly, ten minutes.
- Add all the other ingredients, apart from the butter, into the bowl of the mixer and mix on a medium speed, with the beater attachment, for 8 minutes or until the dough starts coming away from the sides and forms a ball. Turn off the mixer and let the dough rest for a minute.
- Start the mixer up again on a medium speed and slowly add the butter to the dough, about 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Once it’s all incorporated, mix on high speed for 5 minutes until the dough is glossy, smooth and elastic when pulled.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise for one hour.
- Briefly, not too harshly, punch the dough down to get the extra air out, then re-cover the bowl and put into the fridge to proof overnight.
- The next day, take the dough out of the fridge and on a lightly floured surface, gently press it into a large rectangle about 1-inch thick.
- Using a bread knife or pizza wheel, cut the dough into around twenty 2 – 3 -inch squares.
- Roll the squares into smooth, taut, tight buns and place them on a floured baking tray, leaving a few inches between them, so they’ll have space to prove and expand.
- Cover lightly with cling film and leave for about 2-3 hours, or until doubled in size. Meanwhile, prepare the rest of your ingredients: fill a piping bag or syringe with jam, prepare your sugar in a bowl and if you’re using confectioner’s sugar, which needs to be sprinkled over the top, get out your sugar shaker.
- When the doughnuts have proved, fill a large, heavy bottomed and tall sided pot with the oil leaving a few inches of space from the top.
- Heat the oil to 360°F. This will take 10-15 minutes. Use a clip on thermometer to monitor the temperature.
- When ready, carefully place a few doughnuts in the oil. Watch your oil temperature so that it remains right around 360°F.
- Don’t overcrowd the pan- 3 to 4 doughnuts is max per batch. Fry about 2 minutes per side, until deep golden brown.
- Quickly remove the warm doughnuts to a bowl with the sugar and shake until covered. If using confectioner’s sugar, use the shaker to dispense a thick, even dusting of sugar over the top of the doughnuts.
- Fill the doughnuts by making a small hole in the their sides with a knife. Wiggle a finger in- gently- to widen the hole and then, using a piping bag or syringe, fill the doughnuts to the brim with jelly.
- Repeat until all the doughnuts have been fried and filled. Enjoy!