Wednesday, March 16, 2011


On a whim last week, in the belated honor of Fat Thursday, I made paczki: Polish pastries like sufganiyot, or, if you will, jelly doughnuts. Paczki is pronounced "pohnch-key," and the recipe I used is available here.  My younger brother lives in Poland, and he informed me that the doughnuts I'd made and photographed looked exactly like the ones available in the local bakeries.  Unfortunately, I didn't document the experience at the time.  So in the interest of educating this blog's three or four readers, I made more doughnuts.  This wasn't for my benefit.  It's all for you.  I mean, I don't even like doughnuts.  Uh-huh.  Well, um.  Let's get started.

Mise en place
Recipe: The Dough
22-23 oz. AP Flour: $1.74
12-13 oz. Warm Milk: $1.30
4 1/12 tsp. Rapid Rise Yeast: $0.96
3 3/4 oz. White Granulated Sugar: $0.24
4 oz. Room Temperature Butter: $2.08
1 Egg and 3 Egg Yolks: $0.55
1 tbsp. Brandy or Rum (Optional)
1 tsp. Salt: $0.01
Dough Ingredients Total: $6.88

Whisk the yeast into the warm milk and let it bubble up while you cream the sugar and butter together.  Then add the alcohol (I used coconut rum), salt and the eggs, one at a time, until well mixed.  It will look something like this:

Butter, sugar, eggs, rum, and salt
After that, add in the yeast mixture and the flour in increments until it becomes more of a dough than a batter.  You'll probably have to adjust the flour or liquid to get it to that stage.  I use a stand mixer, so once 3/4 of the flour or so was mixed in, I switched to the dough hook for the remainder of the mixing and kneading.  Once it's a dough, let the mixer go on slow-medium for about five minutes.  the dough will be very soft and a bit sticky:

Slack, soft dough

Put it into a greased container, cover it, and let it rise until doubled.  Then take it out, do three folds to press out the gas, and return it to the covered container for another doubling rise.  Depending on the warmth of your kitchen, these two rises may take as long as three hours.  After that, put it onto your lightly floured work surface and roll it out until it's between 1/4" and 1/2" thick.

All rolled out

Now it's time to start cutting out the doughnut shapes.  I purchased a three dollar doughnut cutter for the doughnuts with holes.  For the filled doughnuts, I took a can of tuna, emptied the tuna out (onto some green salads for extra protein), removed the label, washed it thoroughly, put a small pair of slits in the top so that the air could escape, and voila: a jelly doughnut cutter.  Put the shaped doughnuts onto a cookie sheet, cover them with plastic wrap, and let them proof for a half hour or so while you heat the oil to 350 degrees.  You will have scraps.  Just ball up the remaining dough and let it rest for ten minutes before re-rolling it out and cutting more doughnuts.  Yes, you can make doughnut holes as well: for them, take half-dollar sized balls of dough, flatten them out very thin, and let them proof for around 30 minutes.

Doughnuts, pre-proof
I used vegetable oil for frying, and when I was done making the doughnuts and strained the used oil back into the container, I found that I'd used about 14 oz. of a 64 oz. container of oil.  That comes to approximately $2.25.  Depending on the size of the pot you're frying the doughnuts in, you may need more oil so that the doughnuts will flip without difficulty.  For my purposes, 64 oz (half a gallon) was enough.  The real challenge is heating the oil to a proper temperature and keeping it there.  A thermometer is absolutely necessary for this.  Err on the low side when starting to heat the oil rather than going at full blast, as oil cools very slowly.  It's not as if you can hurry the cooling process along by putting an ice cube in it, unless you want to start a grease fire.  Once you've got it to 350 degrees, give or take, mark down where the position of the stove dial is if you plan to make more doughnuts at a later date.   The alternative is using a Fry Baby or similar purpose-designed oil-heating apparatus.  If you've got one: great!  And try not to eat too many fried foods.

Once the oil's ready and the doughnuts have swelled up a bit, set up a station for the jelly doughnuts: a plate with paper towels on it to drain the freshly fried doughnuts, a dish of some sort with two cups of sugar ($0.96) to roll the drained but still hot doughnuts in, and a cookie sheet for the sugared doughnuts.  For the doughnuts you don't plan to roll in sugar, set up some racks for them to cool.

When frying, put in four or five doughnuts at a time, bottom side up (so you'll be putting the flat side face up).  You may notice that your fingers have left indentations in the dough, which is fine: they'll expand out very shortly during the cooking process.  Don't crowd the pan, because you'll make it more difficult to flip them over (ease is a necessity when dealing with hot oil), and you'll also drop the temperature of the oil significantly.  It should take about two minutes per side to cook them, and they'll swell a great deal as they fry.  Don't be tied to a particular time, though: focus on color.  You want a golden brown: check every once in a while by partially flipping one over.

Frying doughnuts: side one

Side two: note that they're a little darker than they need to be

Once they're done, scoop them out of the oil with a spider or, if you don't have one, a slotted spoon, and put them on the paper towel-covered plate to dry for a bit.  Re-check the temperature of the oil to see if you need to make any adjustments, and put in the next batch.  While the new batch cooks, either roll them in sugar and put them on the cookie sheet or place them on the rack to cool.  Repeat as necessary until you get to the doughnut holes.

Jelly doughnuts frying

Note how much bigger the cooked doughnut is

When frying doughnut holes, there's a certain strategy required.  The first time I tried to do it, one side expanded a great deal, making them impossible to flip.  It's like trying to keep twelve Weebles down all at the same time.  In hot oil.  The trick is to fry them in small batches of 6 or 7, cook them for a few seconds on one side, and then roll them over.  This allows them to swell more or less equally so that one side isn't heavier than the other.  From there, cook until done, rolling them over one more time.  The doughnut holes got rolled in the same sugar as the jelly doughnuts.

I filled the jelly doughnuts with a seedless strawberry jam by putting the jam into a plastic bag fitted with a metal tip, piercing the side of the doughnut with the tip, and squeezing some jam inside.  Don't use a jam that has any solid fruit bits in it, or they'll get stuck inside the tip and clog up the poor man's pastry bag.  Don't worry about taking off too much sugar when filling them: if you rolled them in sugar while hot, plenty of sugar will have adhered to the surface.  I used about 3/4 of a 10 oz. jar to fill nine doughnuts, so that came out to $2.51

The doughnuts with holes got the glazed treatment, and I used Alton Brown's glaze recipe for that, which should run you approximately $2.00 for the confectioner's sugar, milk, and vanilla.  The trick is to keep the glaze warm in the pot so that it doesn't harden on you as you're dipping the doughnuts.  By the time you get to the end, you will probably be swabbing the last doughnut around the edge of the pan for the remainder, but at least none of it will go to waste.  Put the freshly glazed doughnuts onto a rack placed on a cookie sheet to dry.  And...that's that!  You've got doughnuts.  For a few of them, I put some shredded coconut on the glaze before it dried.  The great thing about this recipe is that you can do almost any sort of yeast doughnut you want with it: chocolate frosted, chopped peanuts, powdered jelly, bacon: whatever strikes your fancy.

Freshly glazed doughnuts

Doughnut holes

Doughnut cross-section

All of these doughnuts were made from one batch

The doughnuts themselves are very light and fluffy on the inside.  They tear when you bite into them instead of breaking the way cake doughnuts will.  Making them is a bit of a production, I'll admit: from the rising to the cutting to the frying and filling, it's a process that takes three to four hours.  But if you like doughnuts as an occasional treat and want to know what a real doughnut tastes like, you owe it to yourself to try making them at least once.

Total Cost: $14.60
Cost Per Serving (1 Doughnut/Serving): $0.66

Closest Packaged Analog: Entenmann's Donuts - Softee Assorted With Frosted
Cost: $6.39
Cost Per Serving: $0.94
Ingredients: Ingredients Common to All Donuts: Plain: Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Folic Acid], Water Palm Oil, Sugar, Soybean and/or Canola Oil, Nonfat Milk, Egg Yolk Powder, Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate), Soy Flour, Glycerin, Corn Syrup Solids, Pregelatinized Wheat Starch, Salt, Dextrose, Soy Lecithin, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Diglycerides, Guar Gum, Cellulose Gum, Wheat Germ, Beta Carotene (Color), Nutmeg Oil. if Topped, Also Includes: Powdered Sugar: Modified Cornstarch, Artificial Color, Calcium Propionate (Preservative). Frosted: Palm Kernel Oil, Coca (Processed with Alkali), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color.

While the doughnuts you make at home may be high in fat and sugar, they will probably be lacking things like Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate and Calcium Propionate.  They will also be less expensive.  And taste better.

(This post has been submitted to Yeastspotting.)


  1. Hello Dave,

    There is nothing like homemade doughnuts and these look incredibly good! Years ago you used to be able to get real old fashion doughnuts but not today. The problem with homemade doughnuts is that you get a lot and because they are so good you keep eating them!

    I like your homemade doughnut cutters. I've used the rims of glasses to cut out dough but a tuna tin is so much better. I'll have to remember that.

  2. Hi, Oriana:

    Yes, the doughnut surplus is problematic; however, my wife has taken several along with her to share with her colleagues, which helps. I still kind of want to go, "Mine, mine!" for all the work that got put into them.

    Don't forget to make the hole in the bottom of the tuna can to let the air out! I cut out about half the doughnuts before figuring out that trick.