Sunday, November 11, 2018

Vegan Doughnuts



I throw around the term 'vegan' a lot. I know I've stated before that I am not a vegan, but whenever I eat a dish that has no meat in it, it's automatically vegan because there is no dairy in them. My husband and I have been totally dairy-free for a few years now, and it's honestly gotten much easier with time. There are many products out there that make going dairy-free or vegan very easy, and you'll hardly have to sacrifice a thing! A word on donuts, though, before we begin:

The doughnut as we know it is an all-American food. We've seen doughnuts in popular culture for generations, and it's even mentioned back in old receipts books (that's old timey speak for 'recipe books'). You can cook them in a cast iron pot with boiling fat on the prairie, and what sounds more American than that? But what if I told you that this was not an indigenous treat? I'm sure you wouldn't be that surprised.

Doughnuts originate from Dutch cultures, and they were brought over to the Americas by the same people that brought us pancakes - which means, yes, "Dutch Pancake" is a tautology. You can find all sorts of nifty tidbits of info on the Dutch influences in American cooking in this lovely book, Cookies, Coleslaw and Stoops. Isn't learning great? I think so.

So the doughnut, originally Dutch, has made its way into our hearts. Gourmet doughnuts have emerged in the last few  years, and they are plastered on Instagram in droves! And why not? It's an enriched dough that's been deep-fried in fat and either rolled in sugar or slathered with glazes and toppings and stuffed with fillings that would make anybody blush! My favorite doughnuts are jelly doughnuts, especially with raspberry in them. I also love a good s'mores doughnut, glazed with chocolate and stuffed with caramel and marshmallow. (I've never actually bought one like that - I make those.) You can let your imagination go wild when you create your own doughnut! Just follow these simple instructions...

Vegan Doughnuts
yields: enough (you'll see what I mean)

  • 300 g AP flour (two cups and change)
  • 3 g yeast
  • 20 g cane sugar
  • 75 g vegan butter (you can use high-ratio vegetable shortening in a pinch)
  • 135 g warm coffee (leftover from the morning brew is just fine, warmer than body temperature but not so hot as to scald your fingers)
Combine the flour, yeast, and sugar into the bowl of  your standing mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Cut the butter into 1/2" chunks and distribute among the flour, then turn on your mixer to let the hook stir in the fat and yeast. Turn off the mixer, pour the coffee straight in, and allow everything to come together. Will this have a coffee flavor, then? Hardly - it'll be barely noticeable, but you do want the subtle complexities and gentle acids of your coffee to add depth and elevate the flavorings of the doughnut you'll add later...and the acids will cut the glutens to make sure that you won't overwork your dough and get nasty tunneling. You're looking for a very smooth dough that easily passes the window test, so let this little dough take its time and knead for about 8 minutes.

Remove the dough ball from the mixer and gently, lightly lubricate the bowl with some neutral oil. Smooth your dough into a nice round ball in your hands and roll around in the bowl of your mixer. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place to proof, or rise. They call it proofing because it 'proves' the yeast is working while it rises! This should take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. 

Meanwhile, let's talk about fat and deep-frying! You can spend your  money on a fancy deep-fat fryer that you'll only bust out every so often but will otherwise keep space on your counter and collect dust for months on end...or you can do what I do and fire up a stock pot! If I'm doing a large amount of deep-frying, say for fried chicken or croquettes, I'll use my big dutch oven. If it's just doughnuts, I'll use my 6 qt stock pot that I picked up at a thrift store, who knows when. 

You can also spend the money on nice liquid soybean or grapeseed oil, which has a high smoke point and you can get a lot of yield out of it...or you can just use creamy vegetable shortening out of the big blue drum - you know the kind. Why use this kind? I'll tell you in one word: cleanup. 

It is exponentially easier to clean up a fat that turns solid at room temperature, that you can scrape into your trash, than it is to strain and properly dispose of used liquid fat. But hey, if you want to strain your fat and bribe some guy at the local Chinese place to let you use their grease dumpster for it, be my guest. 

Oh, and let's remember: safety first. Always wear a full apron when dealing with fat, and keep a thermometer handy to make sure that it doesn't go over 400 degrees. You're going to want to be at about 350 degrees F for your doughnuts. And never, ever EVER throw water on a greasefire! Just turn off the heat, cover it, and walk away. Don't touch it, don't try to move it. Turn off the heat, cover it, and walk away. If you throw water on boiling fat, it will explode everywhere and you will get hurt. To prevent fat boil-over, never fill your vessel more than halfway up with fat. I think for my little pot, that's about three cups of shortening, heated. Please be safe!

So once your dough is proved, let's get cutting. 



Lightly flour your cold marble surface and choose your cutters. I took these two rounds from my cutter set. I floured them, my hands, and my rolling pin before very gently rolling out my dough into a 1/2" thick slab.You can do many different kinds of shapes, if you like. You can even do hearts or stars! I do like the traditional rings and I, of course, save the middles for doughnut holes. But what's to be done with the excess? 



I like to take my excess and roll out into a square, then cut in strips. These create a very charming, rustic long john! You can fill these, of course, or you can just leave them as is. You can also cut crossways as well as long ways to create square doughnut holes. Heck, cut square doughnuts! You can do whatever you want - you're the one that's eating them, after all.



Lightly flour again and place on a baking sheet lined with either parchment paper or a silpat mat to keep from sticking. Leave in a warm place to let them have a second rise while your fat is coming up to temperature. Remember, you're looking for 350 degrees F for optimal doughnut frying! While it's coming up, start thinking about your toppings. 


I had this caramel dark chocolate ganache left over from my wedding, so I melted some of it down to a liquid state for glazing. (For my basic ganache recipe, find it here!) I also took some granulated cane sugar with some cinnamon, cardamom, sumac, and a tiny hint of cayenne to create a sugar doughnut. You can also chop up things like candy bars, graham crackers, mini marshmallows, baked meringue cookies, heath pieces, sprinkles, your favorite cereal, and freeze-dried fruit to use as toppings! 

If you're just a fan of the classic glazed, do this:

Basic Sugar Glaze
  • 2 Tbsp vegan butter substitute, melted
  • 1 1/2 c powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp almond milk/coconut milk/hemp milk
Mix until smooth and flavor as you like! Correct the consistency as you need to - it should be a little gloopy and not too runny. I really like using vanilla paste for this particular glaze, but you can do any flavor you like and color appropriately. If you find yourself a pistachio flavoring, for example, don't be afraid to color it a festive green color! And a cherry flavor? Why, pink, of course, must be the answer. Pop it in a piping bag and set aside.

Now that your toppings are all in place, make sure that you have a way to get your doughnuts and doughnut holes out of that hot fat. I like chopsticks for big rings, and a pasta spoon to fish out the holes and long johns. And please make sure that you're nice and organized before you begin - because once you start frying, you're not going to be able to stop.



I always fry my doughnut holes first, dropping them gently from a few inches above the surface of the hot oil, stirring them around, and letting them cook to GBD (golden-brown delicious) before fishing them out. Shake them a little before you drop these ones in your spiced sugar mixture, and then toss them about with a restrained vigor. Evacuate and set on a plate!


You can also shave chocolate atop to give yourself a little texture!

I'd fry the larger doughnuts one at a time, if I were you, especially if you're a beginner. Use the chopsticks to gently turn them over and then fish them out through the hole. Either dump them straight in the sugar mixture or use a paper towel to dab them gently before letting them fall face-first into your ganache. If you glaze them, simply run your glaze around the doughnut in a ring so the glaze falls off and cascades down. If you'd like a more opaque effect of frosting, let the doughnuts cool a little before you glaze them and add sprinkles. 

Keep going until all of your doughnuts are finished! These will keep under plastic wrap for at least a couple of days, but I promise you that they won't last that long. 




So there you have it! Easy vegan doughnuts that will impress and let loose your creativity. I hope you enjoy the recipe, and try it for yourself. Happy cooking and happy eating!

No comments:

Post a Comment