How to Make Yeast Doughnuts: generations of bliss

I was 19 years old when my grandma gave me a scratched-up yellow tin box filled with recipe cards in various levels of messy disarray. The box had belonged to her grandmother (my great-great-grandma). Nestled among recipes for casseroles and holiday cookies was a recipe for yeast doughnuts.

It was my first foray into the world of doughnuts, and they quickly became one of my favorite things to make. They have the feel of a big baking project (thanks to the yeast), but they’re so, so simple. Plus, they’re incredibly satisfying — I still insist there’s nothing in this world better than a warm yeast doughnut, fresh from the fryer, dripping with glaze.

Yeast doughnuts via @kingarthurflour

I fell for yeast doughnuts all over again when I was called to style the doughnut story in the Spring 2016 issue of King Arthur Flour’s Sift magazine. The story contains plenty of doughnuts, but even next to chocolate cake and maple pecan, I realized I’m still a total sucker for yeast-raised (it’s in my blood!). The recipe is simple, and yields incredibly soft dough that makes a perfectly tender doughnut.

The best part about yeast doughnuts is they’re infinitely adaptable. Need a simple finish? Toss them in confectioners’ sugar or cinnamon sugar. Looking to dress them up? Try a glaze – thin glaze for an all-over coating, or a thicker glaze for that perfect doughnut-shop look (and if you’re asking me, I’ll remind you to not forget the sprinkles).

Here’s how you get from point A (no doughnuts) to point B (eating warm doughnuts) as quickly as possible —

In a large bowl, whisk together 3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons instant yeast or active dry yeast, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together 1 large egg, 1 cup milk, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl all at once and mix on low speed until the dough just begins to come together. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

Yeast Doughnuts via @kingarthurflour

After its rest, mix the dough on low speed for 6 to 8 minutes (you can do this by hand, too, if you prefer). The finished dough will be very smooth, but a bit sticky — you can lightly grease your hands in oil to make handling it easier at this stage.

Yeast Doughnuts via @kingarthurflour

Transfer the dough to a greased bowl and cover. Let it rise until it doubles in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Yeast Doughnuts via @kingarthurflour

When the dough has fully risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll it out about 1/4″ thick. The dough is very soft, and I find it can actually help to manipulate it a bit with your hands — gently stretching it or moving it to help keep it somewhat rectangular in shape.

Yeast Doughnuts via @kingarthurflour

Cut out doughnuts in your preferred size and shape – you can use a doughnut cutter, or two circle cutters (the larger one should be 2 1/2″ to 3″ wide). Sometimes, I’ll just use a bench knife or pastry wheel to cut them into squares so I don’t have to deal with scraps!

Cover the doughnuts with greased plastic wrap and let them rise for 30 minutes while you heat 6 cups of frying oil (peanut oil is my top choice) in a deep, heavy kettle.

Yeast Doughnuts via @kingarthurflour

Get the oil hot – around 350°F. A thermometer is great, but I usually use a doughnut hole to test the oil. If it begins to bubble and rise to the surface, it’s ready to go!

Have ready a draining station — a cooling rack set atop a baking sheet lined with a few layers of absorbent paper towels.

Fry the doughnuts, working in batches if you need to, until they’re golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove the doughnuts from the oil and drain for a few minutes before proceeding. Don’t forget to fry the doughnut holes too, if only as a snack for yourself while you finish!

Yeast Doughnuts via @kingarthurflour

There’re so many ways to finish doughnuts, but I have a forever love affair with glaze (couldn’t you tell from my soliloquy before?). Your doughnuts should be warm, but not piping hot when you glaze them.

Yeast Doughnuts via @kingarthurflour

Remember, if you go for a thinner glaze, it will coat the whole doughnut, sliding down the sides a bit before it sets semi-translucent. If you opt for a thicker glaze, it will cover the surface of the doughnut, and be more opaque. Both are equally delicious, so it’s just a matter of preference. I like to make an array of glazes so I’ve got that whole pretty variety thing going on.

Vanilla glaze: Mix 1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, 6 tablespoons heavy cream, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract until smooth. Add more cream as needed to adjust the consistency to your preference.

Orange glaze: Mix 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons orange zest, and 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice until smooth. Use milk or heavy cream to adjust the consistency to your preference.

Strawberry glaze: In a food processor, process 2 cups confectioners’ sugar and 1 cup freeze-dried strawberries. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add 1 cup heavy cream and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, mixing until smooth.

Dunk doughnuts face down in the glaze, then turn over and let rest, glaze side up, on the cooling rack. If you want to use sprinkles, toasted coconut, chocolate chips, nuts, or any other garnish, sprinkle it on before the glaze sets fully so that it sticks.

You actually don’t have to let the glaze set fully at all — I’m all about diving in while it’s all still a warm, sticky mess. But if you want them to hold up a little better, let the doughnuts cool and the glaze set so it’s no longer sticky to the touch.

But whatever you do, eat these doughnuts the same day they’re made. Because fresh doughnuts are everything. My great-great-grandma taught me that!

See Erin’s Yeast Raised Doughnuts recipe on our website.

Erin McDowell
About

Erin Jeanne McDowell grew up in Kansas amidst a food obsessed family. She landed her first (after-school) job in a bakery, and was hooked! After pastry school in New York’s Hudson Valley, she combined her love of baking with her desire to share ideas, recipes, ...

comments

  1. Jack Lindahl

    Could I use this same recipe to make filled donuts? Instead of cutting a hole in the middle, could I cut the rounds and let them rise into puffy balls?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That should work, Jack, but it may take a few tries to get the temperature right so that the innards of the doughnut are cooked through before the outside gets too well done. Let us know how it goes if you give it a shot. Mollie@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Pam,
      Most yeast-raised doughnuts are fried, not baked, but we do have great news. We have a whole host of baked doughnut recipes to choose from on our website. Take your pick and see if that satisfies your doughnut cravings. If you’re still looking for something more yeasty, you’re welcome to try baking this recipe but you may want to heavily brush them with butter first so that they brown nicely. Good luck! Kye@KAF

  2. Phyllis

    Approximately how many doughnuts does this recipe make? Since I like to use them the same day and it’s just my husband and myself now, I try to plan my baking for grandkids visits.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Phyllis, this recipe makes about 16 regular-sized doughnuts. Feel free to halve the recipe if you wish… but we recommend making the whole batch and surprising friends and neighbors with a treat if you have any extras! Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  3. Beate Gravel

    I was looking for a glazed doughnut recipe that is a clear glaze.
    I think its honey glazed, but not sure do you have a recipe for that

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Beate, you can make a clear glaze by melting 2 tablespoons of butter and blending in 3 tablespoons of honey; feel free to add some grated lemon, lime, or orange zest if you like. You can also add 1/8 teaspoon of the flavor extract of your choice. This will make enough glaze for about 6-8 doughnuts, depending on how thick you’d like to cover them so double the recipe if you wish! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Pam,
      If you’d like to make gluten-free doughnuts, we recommend using a recipe that is designed to be gluten-free rather than trying to adjust this recipe. The good news? The gluten-free options are just as tasty as this recipe shown here. There are lots to choose from, just take your pick. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Pat, frying in shortening is a baking tradition that’s been passed down from older generations. Some people prefer using this method for the flavor and texture it creates. However, unless you’re planning to fry in the oil multiple times, shortening provides no real benefit. It’s also a lot more pricey to fill your fryer with shortening, so we tend to use peanut or canola oil. To prevent a greasy texture, make sure your oil has reached 350°F and drain well on paper towels to wick away any excess oil. Rotating them halfway through cooling can help too. Good luck! Kye@KAF

  4. Chuck Heger

    You mentioned in the recipe about “Fill with pastry cream….”. I looked at the cream recipe but found no reference as to how is this done. Can you provide some guidance? I plan on surprising my wife with these wonderful doughnuts. Guys always need all the points they can get!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      What a lucky wife! If this is your first time making doughnuts, we might recommend starting with a more simple glazed version, as the Boston Cream version has a little more room for error. We don’t have a recipe written out for the full Boston Cream process, but this is typically done by cutting rounds (no holes in the center) and frying as normal, though you may find that you need to adjust the temperature of the oil a bit to get a doughnut that is cooked all the way through before the outer edges darken too much. Then you’ll poke a hole into the side of your doughnut with a pastry bag and pipe the pre-made (and pre-cooled) pastry cream inside, top with chocolate glaze, and enjoy. Hope this helps! Mollie@KAF

  5. Tomi

    Silly question but I’ve always wondered how others dispose of 6 cups of used frying oil afterward. Thanks – and these look delish! 😉

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Not a silly question, Tomi – we’d bet other people wonder about this too! Commercial operations may reuse their oil once or twice before tossing it. When you’re ready to get rid of it, you’ll want to treat it like you do bacon grease, and pour it into a disposable, heat resistant container. Once it has solidifed, you can go ahead and throw it away. Hope this helps! Mollie@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We wouldn’t recommend leaving it out, Ruth, but if you’re looking to bake dairy-free, then try subbing in rice, soy or a nut milk in the same amount. Should work just fine. Hope this helps! Mollie@KAF

  6. carol

    My Gram made Doughnuts like these she called “Spudnuts”. I think they were made with mashed potato or potato flour. Any suggestions on how to adjust this recipe for those? They were just so good!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Carol, we do have a Mashed Potato Doughnuts recipe that sounds similar to your Gram’s recipe. It doesn’t contain yeast like this recipe, but it might still work to conjure up the memories of your Gram’s doughnuts. Barb@KAF

  7. Kathryn

    Would these donuts be adaptable to cut, cover with plastic wrap, keep in fridge overnight, proof and fry the next morning?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, Kathryn you can use an overnight rise with this recipe if you like. You might have the best success letting the dough rise overnight when it’s still in one large ball (step 2) and then cutting and shaping the doughnuts the next morning. Either way you choose to do this, be sure the dough is wrapped in plastic while it rests in the fridge so it doesn’t dry out. The next morning, you can let the dough rest at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes before proceeding with the recipe as written. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  8. Shirley

    Everything is good and after cutting the dough into shapes they rise beautifully. Oil is perfect temp. I pick the doughnuts up to put in the oil and they go flat. Is there a special way to pick them up.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      Shirley, try letting the doughnuts rise a bit less; it sounds to me like they’re so puffy and fragile by the time you pick them up, they just deflate. Let them rise about 3/4 of the way to what you’d consider fully risen on a floured surface, and use a flat spatula to gently transfer them to the hot oil. Good luk — PJH

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