The recipes in this book are great. I have made one of each type of doughnut in the book and each have been different and delicious. If you are not already aware, these are the Starbucks doughnuts. Or, more specifically, the Old Fashioned doughnut in this book is the same recipe as Starbucks glazed doughnut (and the book mentions that they make doughnuts for Starbucks). But that is as far as the comparison goes because a fresh hot doughnut is ten times better and more enjoyable than something sitting behind a glass cabinet for a day. In fact, that is really what this book is all about-the difference between eating a doughnut that is fresh and hot from the oil, glaze still dripping down the sides and one that has been sitting in a case in a store for some unknown amount of time. If you have access to a doughnut shop where you can reliably get a doughnut that is fresh and warm from the fryer then you may not find homemade doughnuts worth your time. But if you have no idea what I am talking about in terms of warm doughnut and are willing to invest a little time, then homemade doughnuts are worth it.
The book emphasizes three basic kinds of doughnuts, and I have made all three: (a) cake doughnuts, (b) yeast raised doughnuts (a traditional glazed), (c) old fashioned doughnuts (the Starbucks doughnut). It then offers a bunch of variations on each theme. Cake doughnut variations include different flavorings for the doughnut itself, including chocolate, spicy, coconut, lemon, etc. plus a variety of topping suggestions. Yeast/traditional glazed include different shapes and also apple fritters. Old fashioned include different topping ideas.
Here are my thoughts after having made cake doughnuts, glazed yeast doughnuts, apple fritters, and old fashioned.
1. Overall there are a few tweaks to each recipe that are worth keeping in mind. First, the Ateco doughnut cutters sold on Amazon don't match the sizes recommended in the book. If you buy the 2.5" cutter, doughnuts are smaller than the book recommends, so the cook a little faster and make a few more than the recipe indicates. You can use biscuit cutters to make a larger size doughnut, its really not a big deal.
2. You must have a thermometer for oil temp. Different doughnuts in the book cook at different temps. A $10 thermometer is key.
3. The recipes are surprisingly easy and involve little work to make the dough. Each dough can be made in 15 minutes or so. And each dough can go in the fridge overnight, making an early morning doughnut much easier to get ready. In total, I typically spent 15 minutes making dough, then into a bowl and into the fridge. The next morning, while the oil heats (about 20-30minutes heating over medium), I roll out the dough and cut the doughnuts. Then 10-15 min to fry the whole batch, doing 2-4 doughnuts at a time. Then a couple minutes to glaze, often while the next batch is cooking. And its done.4. There are a few tips and tricks to make things a little easier that are not covered in the book.
5. The single hardest part of making doughnuts is getting the doughnuts into the oil without damaging their shape.
Cake doughnut observations:
The cake doughnut batter is the softest and stickiest in the book. It *almost* pours. This makes cutting this doughnuts and getting them into the oil really difficult. Use lots of flour on the counter, on the dough, on the cutter. Lots of flour! don't skimp or it will stick to everything. The book suggests "shaking the flour extra flour off the doughnuts before frying but that is impossible. The raw cake doughnuts can't be picked up, the doughnuts will just fall apart. Transport the doughnuts to the oil using a spatula, metal bench scraper etc.
Here is my suggestion based on my experience - cut the doughnuts then shake the cut doughnut out of the cutter right onto your spatula and then put directly into the oil rather than precutting all the doughnuts. Get a couple of spatulas and/or a helper but this way avoids having the doughnuts fall apart or get squished from too much handling.
Yeast doughnut and apple fritters.
These doughnuts rise massively on their second rise so give them tons of space on the cookie sheets. In fact, I recommend using 3 sheets or as many as will fit in your oven (the proofing box) so that you don't have crowding. They recommend cutting the doughnuts and doing a second rising on a floured cookie sheet but I found the flour did not stop the doughnuts from sticking to the cookie sheet. In the process of scraping the doughnut off the cookie sheet, it deflated like a popped balloon. Now, they doughnuts did "reinflate" in the oil but still, it was depressing to fight to get the doughnuts off the cookie sheet and watch them shrivel up and collapse.
My fix (which I later used on the apple fritters) is this:
Cut parchment paper squares, about 4x4 or 5x5 or so. When you cut each doughnut or apple fritter for its second rise, place it on its own square of parchment paper with a bit of flour underneath. Then when its time to move doughnuts from the cookie sheets into the hot oil, just slide parchment paper onto your hand and carefully invert the doughnut into the oil or onto your spatula and then into the oil. This avoids scraping doughnuts that are stuck to the cookie sheet. If it sticks to the parchment, you can peel the paper away from the inverted doughnut, which does not deflate them as badly.
This worked great.
Old fashioned. These were a lot easier to keep form after cutting. The dough is stiffer than the others but less sticky. I was able to cut and transfer doughnuts much easier than the other kinds of doughnuts.
A word on glazes and icings. The recipe is simple and literally take a minute to make. You must sift the sugar! I put a metal wire mesh strainer inside a mixing bowl and put it on the scale. Then I weigh the sugar into the strainer and then, once weighed, just sift it right into the bowl below by tapping the wire strainer agains the sides of the bowl.
Most important, the glaze is warm and goes on warm doughnuts, meaning that you can eat a warm doughnut with warm glaze just minutes after it cooks. This for me was the the whole point!
But for icings, they suggest letting the doughnuts cool and the icing stay warm. My experience was that the icing needed to cool some too. Hot icing even on a cooled doughnut just ran down the sides like a glaze. But when I let the icing cool and stiffen up a bit then it tended to sit on top and not melt down the sides. Its easy to rewarm the icing if it gets too thick. And their glaze and icing recipes make plenty for each batch. The downer is that the doughnut is cool for icing purposes and I really like them hot. But they were still worlds better than anything at the store.
My favorite was the apple fritters. Very easy to make, very easy to shape. The apples help the fritters keep their form. Taste was superb and you can eat them warm. Wow! This experience alone is worth the book.
Overall, if you are comfortable with deep frying, then homemade doughnuts are simply not that much work for a great end result.