Basic Yeast-Raised Doughnuts
These doughnuts are yeast raised, spongy, and light, yet with a bit of substance to their texture. The flavor is fairly neutral, which allows them to match well with custards, jelly, and all sorts of fillings and glazes. These are best enjoyed as soon as possible.
Yield: about twenty-eight 2 1/2-inch round doughnuts or about twenty-four 3-inch ring-shaped doughnuts
2⁄3 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
Two 0.25-ounce packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
2⁄3 cup whole milk
2⁄3 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 to 5 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Flavorless vegetable oil for deep-frying, such as canola
1. Place the warm water in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir to combine and let sit for 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, melt the butter with the milk in a microwave or in a saucepan on the stovetop, then cool to lukewarm (110 to 115 degrees). Add the milk mixture, sugar, eggs, salt, nutmeg, vanilla, and 2 1/2 cups of the flour to the yeast and stir with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula until combined and smooth. The mixture will have some body but will still be very wet and loose. Add another 2 1/2 cups of the flour and stir until the mixture becomes a very slightly sticky, elastic dough, adding more of the remaining 1/4 cup flour only if necessary. Knead well by beating vigorously with the spoon or spatula, or use the flat paddle or dough hook of a stand mixer. The mixture should be elastic, yet slightly sticky and not dry.
3. Scrape the dough into a buttered bowl, making sure there is plenty of headroom. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free location to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
4. Generously flour two rimmed baking sheet pans. Gently punch down the dough and divide it in half. Roll out one piece of dough on a lightly floured work surface to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut out doughnuts with a lightly floured cutter. Use a 2 1/2-inch round cutter for filled doughnuts or a 3-inch ring-shaped doughnut cutter for a classic doughnut shape. Repeat with the remaining dough. Gently gather the scraps, press them together, roll out the dough, and cut out as many additional doughnuts as possible. Place the doughnuts, well spaced, on the prepared pans. Let rise in a warm, draft-free location until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
5. Line two rimmed baking sheet pans with a triple layer of paper towels. Heat 3 inches of oil in a deep pot or deep-fat fryer to 350 to 355 degrees. When the oil is hot enough, fry a few doughnuts at a time; do not crowd. Fry until light golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes, flip them over, and fry for about 1 1/2 minutes more, until light golden brown on the other side as well. Using a slotted spoon, remove each doughnut from the oil and drain thoroughly on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining doughnuts.
6. Apply dry toppings, fill, or glaze as desired.