Donuts are a favorite snack for children and people of all ages. This deep-fried snack has different variants, but the primary ingredients remain the same. So, what are donuts made of?
Donuts are made of leavened dough. The main ingredients are water, eggs, milk, sugar, shortening, oil, and leavening agents like yeast or baking powder. Various fillings and toppings like custard, sugar glaze or icing, sprinkles, fruit, chocolate, maple syrup, and cream are often used for flavor.
Let’s take a closer look at the different forms of this snack and how they came to be.
- What Is Considered A Donut?
- Main Ingredients Used To Make Donuts
- Different Types Of Donuts Based On The Ingredients
- How Are Donuts Made?
What Is Considered A Donut?
When we hear the word donut, the image of a deep-fried pastry with a hole in the center comes to mind.
However, the term “donut” can broadly describe any deep-fried sweet pastry.
You may use different recipes for the dough.
Nevertheless, the basic requirement is that the dough is deep-fried, and the resulting snack has a soft, fluffy texture.
Main Ingredients Used To Make Donuts
Donuts can be yeast-based or chemical-based.
Donuts that use chemical leavening agents use flour, baking powder or baking soda, egg, milk, shortening, and flavoring agents. Those made with yeast contain flour, milk, shortening agent, sugar, salt, yeast, eggs, and flavors.
Both types of donuts need oil for frying.
Neutral-tasting oils are preferred since they will not impart a flavor to the donut during deep-frying.
Depending on the shape, donuts can be classified as ring donuts, filled donuts, and donut holes.
1. Ring Donuts
As the name suggests, ring donuts are circular donuts with a hole in the center.
These donuts are made by joining the ends of the tube-shaped dough into a ring.
Another way to make them is by preparing a ball of dough and cutting out the center with a donut cutter.
The hole in the center gives the snack its signature look.
Additionally, it helps the donut cook better. The hole allows more dough to come into contact with the oil.
Hence, it doesn’t end up with any uncooked dough.
2. Filled Donuts
Filled donuts are flattened spherical pieces of dough that are deep-fried in hot oil and dipped in a sugar glaze.
They don’t have the characteristic hole in the center as ring donuts.
These donuts are usually filled with sweet ingredients like jam, fruit, cream, or custard.
3. Donut Holes
Donut holes are another popular snack made using the missing chunk of dough in the center of a classic donut.
They’re deep-fried. Donut holes are also glazed with a sugar solution after frying them in oil.
Apart from these classic shapes, you may also come across variants like square donuts and knotted donuts.
We can also classify donuts based on the ingredients and method of preparation. Let us look at this in closer detail.
Different Types Of Donuts Based On The Ingredients
We mentioned earlier that you could use different dough recipes to make donuts.
Based on this factor, we can broadly classify donuts into two categories:
- Cake donuts, and
- Yeast donuts.
The main difference between these two types is the leavening agent that helps the donut dough rise.
The flavor and texture of the donut will depend on the type of leavening agent used.
The preparation and cooking time is also affected by the leavening agent you choose.
Yeast-based doughs take longer than cake donut dough to develop.
Meanwhile, you can quickly put together the dough for cake donuts because it doesn’t involve any proofing time.
Let’s find out more.
1. Cake Donuts
The dough used to make cake donuts is similar to the cake batter.
It uses chemical agents like baking soda or baking powder as the leavening agent.
Baking soda and baking powder help the dough rise when it’s fried.
However, the texture of the donut is usually tougher than that of yeast-based donuts.
Although the dough rises, it’s dense, and the donut is crumbly on the inside.
These donuts tend to have a crisp outer shell as well.
When we look at the flavor, cake donuts have a neutral taste because the leavening agents don’t alter the flavor of the donut.
It allows the taste of the ingredients used as filling or topping to shine through.
2. Yeast Donuts
These donuts use yeast as the leavening agent.
As the yeast develops in the dough, it produces air pockets that make the dough light and airy.
When they’re fried, the donuts become soft and fluffy, with a chewy bite.
Yeast donuts have a distinct taste. When the yeast ferments, it affects the flavor of the dough.
The donut acquires a subtle sourness similar to bread.
This flavor can seep in even if you add toppings or sauce to the donut.
Although yeast donuts have a chewy elasticity, they’re light and delicious.
How Are Donuts Made?
The donut-making process will depend on whether it’s made at home or in a commercial setting.
Nevertheless, the general sequence of steps is the same.
The main difference is that the sequence will be handled manually by household cooks, while much of it is mechanized in bakery settings.
A general overview of the process is as follows.
1. Setting Up The Ingredients
Donut dough uses both dry and wet ingredients.
Each ingredient is sourced, measured, and put aside till it’s time to bring the dough together.
The quantities will depend on the number of donuts being made.
2. Preparing The Dough
The wet ingredients and dry ingredients are mixed separately during this stage.
The wet mixture is then carefully added to the dry mixture in batches and mixed in.
Depending on the setting, it may involve manual kneading or the use of equipment like a hand mixer, stand mixer, or larger dough mixer.
3. Resting The Dough
Yeast-based doughs must rest for some time after being kneaded.
During this resting time, the yeast mixes with sugar and becomes activated.
It starts fermenting the dough. This process makes the dough rise.
As the yeast does its work, it releases air into the dough, which makes it soft.
The dough will thus increase in size and become spongy due to the formation of air pockets.
4. Preparing The Donuts For Frying
The next stage is to shape the donuts.
Large commercial facilities have pressure cutter systems that will automatically cut the dough into donuts of uniform size.
Home cooks can roll the donut dough into shape and use their fingers or a donut cutter to cut out the center.
You can also obtain similar results by using a large pastry tube to release the dough and a biscuit cutter to cut a neat hole in the center.
Filled donut recipes won’t have a hole in the center.
5. Proofing The Donuts
Yeast-based donuts need a second proofing stage. This gives the dough time to rise again.
It will usually take 1 hour at room temperature.
6. Frying The Dough
Once the oil is heated to the desired temperature (370°F to 375°F), the donut is gently dropped into the hot oil and fried.
The time taken for cooking will depend on the size of the donuts. The donuts will absorb oil while frying.
They’re ready to be removed when they acquire a golden-brown color.
7. Glazing And Filling
The donuts should be dipped in a glazing solution while they’re still warm to help the glaze stick.
Both sides of the donut are evenly coated with a delicious sugary coating.
The glaze will take nearly 20 minutes to set.
If the recipe is for filled donuts, you can wait till the donuts cool down to apply the glaze.
This is also the stage at which the filling ingredient is injected into the donut.
The donut may be filled with jam or fruit preserves, custard, cream, or frosting.
Classic Glazing And Other Donut Toppings
Traditional donuts have a thin layer of glazing on their top.
This is prepared by mixing sugar with milk and vanilla flavoring.
The glaze is usually made ahead.
The freshly-fried donuts are dipped into this glazing when they’re still warm.
This helps the donut acquire a uniform layer of glazing.
After the glazing is applied, the donuts should be allowed to rest for some time to let them set.
You can add additional ingredients like sprinkles, crushed biscuits, candied fruit, and even cooked bacon to the glaze for extra texture and flavor.
The simplest donut topping is plain sugar, which will give the donut a kick of sweetness and make it glitter.
You can also use confectioner’s sugar for a snowy effect.
Different variations of the classic sugar glazing used to decorate donuts include chocolate, cinnamon sugar, and flavored icings like strawberry, chocolate, butterscotch, jelly, and jam. The options are endless.
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When it comes to fillings, the most popular ones are custard and cream fillings.
Additionally, preserves, jams, and sweets will also work as fillings for donuts.