Most everybody loves fresh, warm doughnuts. But most everybody doesn't love the hassle of making those fresh, warm doughnuts. It's a messy process that involves making a dough that can be temperamental. Who has time for that on Valentine's Day?
So we've created a method of making doughnuts that takes the temperamental out of the equation. You start with a dough — we'll get to your choices in a moment — that you buy at the grocery store. Next, cut it and fry it. It's way easier than it sounds, especially since you aren't fussing with making the dough. Now just top the doughnuts with something fun. You can even make it a project you do with your partner. Or it can be a fun activity to do with kids (the toppings, not the frying).
To start, you'll need to select your ingredients. You'll need dough, oil and toppings. Let's start with the dough. Pick any of the following — tubes of flaky biscuits, homestyle biscuits or cinnamon buns. All of these can be found in the refrigerated section of the grocer, usually near the dairy. If you'd like to make raised doughnuts, you can find loaves of raw white bread dough in the freezer case. Just thaw the dough overnight in the refrigerator, then let warm to room temperature before using.
If you go for a biscuit or bun dough, simply unroll and separate them. For bread dough, roll it out to 1/2 inch thick, then use 3-inch cookie or biscuit cutters to cut rounds or rings from it.
For the frying, you'll need about 4 cups of oil. Peanut oil or grapeseed oil are great choices, but canola will work, too. It's also handy to have an instant or candy thermometer. This makes it much easier to monitor the temperature of the oil.
The toppings are where the real fun happens. We've listed some fun topping combinations below, including some glazes (which glue the toppings to the doughnuts), but feel free to have fun with different combinations. Spread out a topping bar of different glazes and toppings, then let people design their own doughnuts. If you want to keep it simple, you could just fill a large bowl with cinnamon-sugar, then toss the warm doughnuts in that until coated.
To fry, fill a large, deep pot with 1 to 1 1/2 inches of oil. Heat over medium-high until the oil reaches 350 F to 375 F. Adjust the heat to maintain this temperature. Place a cooling rack over a rimmed baking sheet and set near the pot of oil. When everything is ready, fry your doughnuts in batches of 3 to 4, being careful to not overcrowd your pan. The doughnuts will take about 3 minutes per side. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to carefully turn each doughnut over, cooking until deep golden brown. Transfer the finished doughnuts to the prepared rack to drain. Repeat until you've used all your dough, allowing the oil to return to the proper temperature between batches.
Once the doughnuts are fried, it's time to glaze them.
— Simple vanilla glaze: Whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
— Chocolate glaze: Heat 1/2 cup heavy cream in a small bowl in the microwave until simmering. Add 3/4 cup chocolate chips and stir until completely melted.
— Caramel glaze: Heat 1/4 cup heavy cream in a small saucepan with 1 cup caramel candies over medium-low heat, stirring until smooth and melted.
— Peanut butter glaze: Heat 1/2 cup heavy cream in a small bowl in the microwave until simmering. Add 1 cup peanut butter chips and stir until completely melted.
While the glazes are still wet, sprinkle any of the following (or whatever inspires you) over them:
— Cap'n Crunch cereal
— Cocoa Pebbles cereal
— Froot Loops cereal
— Crumbled cooked bacon
— Chopped dried banana chips
— Toasted coconut flakes
— Chopped, toasted nuts
— Shaved chocolate
— Slivered crystallized (candied) ginger
— Chopped dried fruit
— Candy sprinkles
— The Elvis: peanut butter glaze, crumbled bacon, banana chips
— The Chocolate Bomb: chocolate glaze, Cocoa Pebbles, shaved chocolate
— The Turtle: caramel glaze, toasted pecans, shaved chocolate
— The Tropical: vanilla glaze, chopped dried pineapple, crystallized ginger, toasted coconut
— The Black Forest: chocolate glaze, dried cherries, drizzle with vanilla glaze
Alison Ladman, AP
Alison Ladman is a chef, food writer and recipe developer for The Associated Press. She also owns The Crust and Crumb Baking Company in Concord, New Hampshire.