Improv Doughnuts

Everyone loves to talk about how baking is an exact science, how it requires precision and attention to detail (I've talked about it myself on the "about our recipes" page). And while that's certainly true, unfortunately it's sometimes a little more complicated than just measuring properly and following directions. Particularly when it comes to yeasted bakes, your intuition is just as important as following the recipe.

These doughnuts could've been a disaster. I googled for a recipe, then altered it, then altered the procedure - a lot. I basically split the difference between what I used to do at work every morning making doughnuts, and what the recipe actually instructed me to do. I made these while on vacation and a friend's lake house, so I had no scale or fancy equipment besides a stand mixer. Up until they were actually being eaten, I had no idea if they'd be even remotely edible.

Thankfully, the gamble paid off in the form of some serious doughnut sorcery, which I'm happy to share with you now! Be warned, this is an overnight recipe, and it takes a fair amount of effort - but oh my days is it worth it. If light, fluffy, melt-in-the-mouth doughnut goodness is what you want, these will not let you down!


Improv Donuts

Adapted from Food Network's Recipe 

  • 1/3 cup whole milk (75 g)
  • 3/4 tsp dry active yeast
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3.5 cups all purpose flour (350 g)
  • 1/3 cup sugar (75 g)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 oz. butter, at room temp (12 Tbsp. or 1.5 sticks)
  •  veg oil (for frying)


Doughnut Glaze*

  • powdered sugar
  • milk
  • vanilla extract
  • spices

* This glaze can be altered pretty much any way you like. The milk can be substituted for any liquid - try fruit juice or puree for a tangy, fruity glaze. The vanilla extract can be substituted for any other kind - orange, lemon, almond, coconut, mint, etc. The spices are totally optional, but great if you'd like another element of flavour; some I'd recommend are vanilla bean, cinnamon, cardamom, pumpkin pie/apple pie spice (these are generally mixes of cinnamon, clove, allspice, and nutmeg, and can easily be made at home if you have the ingredients on hand). If you're feeling particularly spicy, try adding some cayenne.

  1. WARM your milk on the stove until it is just warm to the touch. Yeast dies at 140 degrees (f), so keep it well under that temperature if you want your doughnuts to live.
  2. SPRINKLE your yeast on top of the milk and whisk together to dissolve.
  3. COMBINE all ingredients except the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer. Attach the dough hook and let run on speed 1 for about two minutes.
  4. INCREASE the mixer speed to 2-3; the dough should be homogenous by now.
  5. SCRAPE down the sides of your bowl periodically, and watch the mixer. Normally with brioche, you allow these ingredients to come together into a tight ball, then add the butter, then mix until the dough returns to this elastic ball - don't do this. Watch the dough and wait until you see it pulling slightly away from the bowl; it shouldn't be soupy and loose, but it shouldn't be tight and completely pulled together either.
  6. ADD your butter, and run on speed 2 for a few minutes, scraping down the bowl to incorporate the butter as needed. Decrease the speed to speed 1, and mix for about 5 minutes to develop your gluten.
  7. INCREASE your mixer speed again, and run until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a roughly solid mass. I never got the super tight ball of dough that's technically ideal in brioche, more of a loose mass. It was not completely uniform in texture either, so don't worry if it's a bit craggy. Your gluten is developed enough when you can "pull a window," or stretch a small piece of the dough between your fingers until it's thin enough to see through. The "window" will eventually rip no matter what, but if you can get it translucent without it ripping first, you've definitely developed enough gluten (for now).
  8. PROOF your dough in an oiled bowl, covered in plastic wrap, for up to an hour. Punch down the dough and turn it in on itself, so it forms a ball. 
  9. WRAP the dough in sprayed plastic wrap, and let sit in the fridge overnight. The dough will expand a fair amount in the fridge, so wrap it in several layers of plastic, turning the dough-ball 90 degrees between each layer of plastic wrap to ensure it doesn't explode in the fridge (for reference, I used four layers total).
  10. PROOF the dough again, as instructed before. This time, let it sit for up to 2-3 hours, untilthe dough is puffy and full of air. Punch it down again, fold into a ball, and cover. Return to the fridge until the dough is cold to the touch.
  11. ROLL your dough out on an oiled surface, no more than 1/2 inch thick. Use a ring cutter (or in my case, a drinking glass) to cut circles from the dough. Use a smaller ring (or in my case, a baster with the top screwed off) to make the center holes in your dough. Save the doughnut holes for frying. Gather up your scrap dough, re-wrap, and let sit overnight (it can be rolled out and fried tomorrow).
  12. PROOF the doughnuts on an oiled sheet pan, covered in plastic, for about an hour. The time will vary depending on how warm it is - if it's cool out, you'll need the full hour. If it's super warm, they could be ready in 20 minutes. They should be puffy and filled with air (and no longer dense and cold from the fridge).
  13. HEAT your oil in a small pot, on low-med heat. When you start to hear the oil crackling, you're getting close to the right temperature - wait a few more minutes, then test.
  14. DROP a doughnut hole into the oil - if it starts bubbling instantly, but doesn't turn brown right away, your oil is the right temperature. If it doesn't bubble right away, it needs to warm more. If it browns right away, the oil needs to cool, or the doughnuts won't cook all the way through before they burn. Adjust your heat and keep testing with the doughnut holes until you've reached the right temperature.
  15. FRY the doughnuts one at a time, using a slotted spoon to baste them with the oil as they cook. Once the doughnut turns a light golden brown, flip to the other side. You might need to force the doughnut under the oil to be completely submerged - that's okay. Remove once the doughnut is evenly golden brown, and let rest on a cooling rack or a sheet tray lined with paper towels. Repeat until all your doughnuts are fried.
  16. MIX your glaze or topping. Cinnamon sugar is a classic and always delicious, but I always prefer a good vanilla glaze. For this, combine 10x (powdered) sugar with a generous splash of vanilla extract (or even better, vanilla paste) and gradually whisk in milk until you reach a honey-like consistency. As mentioned above, this glaze can be altered any way you want, just stick to the same format when mixing it up: whisk together the powdered sugar with any spices you're using, add the extract second, then mix in your liquid until the desired consistency is achieved. 
  17. DIP your doughnuts in the glaze and let rest for a minute (ideally on a cooling rack) to set. For a thicker glaze, dip a second time and let rest again (this is optional but highly recommended). Finish with any toppings or sprinkles you'd like.