I would never turn down a doughnut. But I never sought one out either—until I moved to North Carolina.
There, doughnuts are as beloved as pimento cheese or biscuits or pimento cheese on biscuits. It’s easy to understand why. Krispy Kreme opened in Winston-Salem in 1937. A couple years later, Britt’s Donut Shop opened along the boardwalk, which is why locals head to the beach as much for the ocean as they do for a dozen glazed.
Seventy-something years later, Hole opened in Asheville. That was my ah-ha moment.
In 2016, Bon Appétit named the Hole doughnut the best dessert of 2016, calling it “the greatest doughnut you’ve ever eaten”—and, for me, it was. Hole’s doughnuts are crispy-edged, chewy-centered, sourdough-tangy, and misshapen.
Not in a bad way. Most doughnut shops would consider them unfit to sell but at Hole, it’s all part of the plan. Instead of cutting out one circle and then cutting out another to create an O, the bakers use their fingers to poke through the center, then stretch and spin, stretch and spin, yielding a hole that’s wider—like, way wider—than usual.
Once fried, each doughnut ends up with its own personality and irregular shape that I can’t help but love. That’s what I was chasing after with this recipe: a simple but deliberate, classic but standout yeast-raised doughnut that you don’t have to drive to North Carolina to get. Here’s how I did it.
I became an instant—AKA rapid rise—yeast convert thanks to Alexandra Stafford and her Genius No-Knead Peasant Bread. As Stafford writes in her book Bread, Toast, Crumbs, unlike active dry yeast, “It’s easy to use because it doesn’t have to be hydrated or ‘bloomed’ with water first, which means it can be whisked directly in with the dry ingredients.” Just like baking powder or baking soda. Easy peasy.
I wanted these doughnuts to have a sourdough-esque flavor, but I didn’t want to put in the work or time, say by adding a sourdough starter or preferment, or doing a slow, overnight rise in the fridge. (In other words, I wanted to have my doughnuts and eat them, too.) Enter: buttermilk. Using this as the liquid instead of water accomplishes a few things: It adds tangy notes to counter the sugar crust’s sweetness and enriches the dough with some much-needed fat, so the doughnuts will be tender and buttery.
A given in most doughnut recipes, yeast-raised or otherwise. But I still wasn’t convinced that I needed them. Ovenly’s Secretly Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies drop the eggs without blinking an eye. So I skipped ’em, and you know what? Nothing bad happened. In fact, eliminating the eggs seemed to contribute to doughnuts’ chewy, almost bread-like texture, which my taste testers and I totally loved.
COCONUT OIL—TWO WAYS
Butter is another usual suspect in doughnut doughs, but not this one. I knew that I wanted some sort of fat in the dough—it is a doughnut, after all—but why add two ingredients to the recipe list when you could add one? In BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts, Stella Parks convinced me that refined coconut oil was the way to go: “It’s naturally solid at room temperature, odorless, flavorless, and stables at temperatures up to 450° F.” What’s more, Park writes, “Coconut oil guarantees doughnuts that fry up light and crisp and are tasty even on the second day.”
Many argue that a doughnut is nothing without adornment. You could roll it around in powdered sugar or dip it in a fresh fruit glaze. But I like to keep it simple with two ingredients that are already in the dough: sugar and a tiny pinch of salt. Dump on a plate, dredge the doughnuts, and that’s it. I love the way the granules cling to the crust, underscoring its crunch.
Like most doughnuts, these are best day-of, hopefully still warm from the fryer, and served with very, very strong coffee.
• 1 cup (245 grams) well-shaken buttermilk
• 2 tablespoons refined coconut oil
• 2 cups (256 grams) all-purpose flour
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Frying and sugaring
• 3 cups (654 grams) refined coconut oil, give or take as needed
• 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) sugar
• 1 pinch kosher salt
See the full recipe on Food52.
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