I think this recipe will be a fitting post after long break from posting anything here. February was a really full month, and I found myself working on lots of projects and finding little time to write about them. Currently were are working on moving around all our furniture which takes a while for us, because we usually need to live in a space for a while to really get a feel for if something is working or not. It gets annoying, but it means we deep clean fairly frequently, so that's not all bad.
I wanted to share my recipe for sourdough doughnuts as part of my "Meals From the Pantry" series. If you've been following along you'll know that the main idea of these recipes is to use what you have on hand. This one is a little bit different, because I know not everyone has a sourdough starter, but it's something that takes common ingredients, very little work, and adds a whole lot of depth to your baking options. Mine lies dormant in my fridge for a month at a time, sometimes, and it's still kicking. A while back I reviewed the book Sourdough: Slow Bread for Busy People, and I really recommend it as a great resource for demystifying the process of baking this way. I'm not getting any benefit from saying that - this is just a book that I've found helpful and wanted to let you know about. Anyone can do this - if I can fit it into my unpredictable schedule you can for sure!
The other reason I like this recipe and feel it fits the topic, is that it helps me use up my jam. I have made a lot of jam over the past few years, and we haven't eaten through it at the rate I've made it. I had some peach ginger jam I made an embarrassing amount of years ago which was still completely safe to eat, but a bit past its prime in terms of peak flavour. Combined with the tang of the sourdough, and the sweet-bitter flavour of the caramel sauce they were glazed with it still worked perfectly. I also feel that I need to give a bit of a disclaimer, that I am not an expert at doing this, but I am sharing my method which is sometimes a bit less technical than most bakers, but part of the beauty of sourdough baking is that it can be forgiving that way. It can also be a bit random, and everyone's starters are different, so sometimes it takes practice to really understand what you are working with.
So the basic process to go from sourdough starter to doughnuts, is that you take a bit of your starter, mix it with some more flour, sugar, and water, and allow that to ferment for about four hours. Below you can see it just mixed, and after the full fermentation where it is all relaxed and bubbly.
After that, you mix that with some milk until there are no lumps remaining. Add eggs, more sugar and flour, salt, and butter. You can also optionally flavour your dough with lemon zest, or other things like that. I tried it once this way, but I prefer the dough more plain so you don't have to contend with the lemon when you are planning your filling and glaze. As much as we treat lemon and vanilla as basic flavours, they don't actually always go with everything.
This rests on your counter for several hours. You can choose to put it in the fridge at this point if you need to take a break or you know your timing will be awkward leading up to when you will be able to fry them. For me this slowed the process down way too much for my timeline, and changed the quality of the dough when I finally had to finish them. You want this dough to be completely risen so that the finished dough balls are light and fluffy and float in the oil. If they are underdone they will sink and/or not cook completely all the way through. When this happened to me I started flattening them out really thin before I put them in the oil, but this did change the texture quite a bit. Still pretty tasty, but the fluffier version was my favourite.
When the dough is risen, completely fluffy and when you poke it it feels soft and airy, you'll want to form it into round dough balls. These should be about 70 grams each, but the size is really up to you. Leave these to rise for another four hours until they are very soft. When placed in the oil they should float because they are so filled with air.
After you feel they are ready, heat up your oil - I used a 50/50 mix of coconut oil and home rendered lard because it was what I had enough of, and I really liked how it turned out. You want at least two inches between the floating doughnut and the bottom of the pan. Unfortunately I don't have a thermometer, so I put a little piece of dough in when I thought it was hot enough and watched to see if it got all crazy bubbly (which I took to mean it was ready - I know, very unscientific, but it worked). It's a good idea to consider your first doughnut as a sacrifice to checking the oil temperature and making sure you've got your cooking times right. A few minutes on each side is all it should take. Remember that the dough will continue cooking for a little bit even after you take them out due to the residual heat, and that the structure seems to firm up a bit as it cools, so wait a little while before you cut into it to check if it cooked all the way through. If you are happy with it, start cooking the rest. Keep in mind that you might need to adjust your oil temperature part of the way through since the oil will get hotter as you fry with it.
When the doughnuts are completely cool cut a small slit in the sides. Prepare a piping bag with a metal tip by filling it with whatever jam (or other filling you like - I used rose hip curd blended into whipped cream once and that was fantastic) you will be using. Insert the tip into the slit, and gently squeeze. You should be able to feel the doughnut getting full so you know when to stop. This might take a bit of practice. Glaze the doughnuts with whatever you like, but for the jam I was using I chose to make a runny caramel sauce.
Caramel from scratch is simple, and made with really basic ingredients, but you need to pay close attention to what you are doing. The point between sugar being perfect, and sugar being burnt is very fine, so this is not the time to multitask! Watch that sugar like a hawk. Pour it over the doughnuts when it is still hot. I imagine a caramel glaze would be delicious with just about any flavour of jam.
Sourdough Doughnuts with Jam Filling and Caramel Glaze
Makes between 12 - 20 doughnuts
For the Starter
- 25 g sourdough starter
- 90 g flour
- 30 g sugar
- 90 g warm water
- Mix all the ingredients together and let sit in a covered bowl (cling wrap, beeswax cloth, or a damp tea towel are useful here) to ferment for four hours in a warm place.
For the Doughnuts
- All the pre-made starter
- 150 g milk
- 3 eggs
- 100 g sugar
- 6 g salt
- 500 g flour
- 120 g butter
- Blend the starter in the milk until there are no lumps remaining. If you are in a hurry, warm the bowl and the milk gently (but not to scalding) so that the fermentation becomes more active sooner.
- Add the sugar, and eggs, and then mix in the flour. Knead until the dough is smooth, and elastic. This should be about 5 minutes. The dough will be really stiff at this point, so I recommend a mixer with a dough hook if you have one.
- Cube the butter, and knead it into the dough at this point until you can't see any more lumps.
- At this point take a look at the dough. It should be a fairly tacky dough, but if it is still too wet to work with, you can add a little more flour at this point. Go lightly, though because adding too much will really take away from your finished product. The wetter it can be while still being workable the better.
- Place this dough in a covered bowl and allow to ferment for 6 - 8 hours (at this point if you need a break - for even up to a day or two - you can put the dough in the fridge to slow down fermentation until you have time to work on them again), or until you can see that the dough has doubled in size, and when you touch it it feels airy and springy.
- Divide the dough and shape into balls that weigh around 70 grams each. This will give you smallish doughnuts and bring you close to the 20 amount stated in the yield at the beginning of the recipe. I found that smaller was better as sourdough is a more filling bread than one leavened with commercial yeast. Since we are also filling these and glazing them they are pretty rich so this is the size I liked. Feel free to change it up if you want fewer, larger doughnuts.
- Place the dough balls on a lightly flowered surface and cover with plastic, or a (warm) wet tea towel and allow to ferment in a warm place for another four hours, or until the doughnuts have again doubled and feel very light and airy when touched.
- Heat enough oil in a fryer, or heavy pot to allow two inches of oil between the doughnuts and the bottom of the pot. If it sizzles and bubbles when you put a small piece of dough in it is probably ready.
- Fry one doughnut for 3 - 4 minutes on one side, and 2 minutes on the second side until evenly browned. Leave it on the counter for a minute or two, and then cut to test if your time is correct. You could probably also use a cake tester or something similar, but I wanted to see what the structure of the crumb looked like inside. It should be light and pillowy.
- Fry the rest of your doughnuts!
For the Filling
- 1 pint sized (500 ml) of Jam
- When the doughnuts are completely cool cut a small slit in the side of each one.
- Prepare a piping bag and metal tip with your jam, and fill all the doughnuts.
For the Caramel Glaze
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup salted butter
- 1/2 cup heavy/whipping cream
- Mix the sugar and water in a saucepan to start dissolving and place on medium high heat. Don't stir it again, but if you need to you can gently swirl to help the sugar dissolve evenly. Watch it very closely. It will take a while to change colour, but once it starts it happens fast.
- When the sugar has reached a deep amber colour, add the butter. It will bubble up a lot. Just keep stirring until it is melted in.
- Slowly drizzle the cream in a this point. It will bubble up like crazy again. Keep whisking until you have a smooth sauce.
- Drizzle or brush the sauce on the doughnuts while it is still hot and very liquid.