Perfect Beginner’s Yeast Doughnuts

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What a storm we had last night! It looked like the Blitzkrieg outside with all of the lightening and thunder, I’ll say that much. The rain was much needed here, though – it’s been so hot and humid that I thought summer was coming back for a second round, but today is gorgeous, sunny, and cool, or at least it was at 7 AM, so here’s to hoping that fall is around the corner. Kramer and I keep joking that “winter is coming,” so we need to enjoy the warm weather while we can, but I’m really looking forward to jeans-and-sweaters season. I’m sure that come December, though, when I’m trekking through a few feet of snow on my way to work, I’m going to be wishing that it were hot and humid again.

These doughnuts really changed my mind about how hard it is to make a doughnut. I had never tried it before, because not only do doughnuts involve using yeast, which always scares me a bit, but you also have to fry them in hot oil, another one of my fears. I pushed those worries aside, though, because this recipe from Alton Brown is very accessibly and easy to understand. The dough isn’t at all finicky – it comes together quite easily and isn’t too sticky when being rolled out, which I was so happy about, because there’s nothing worse than trying to lift up mounds of old dough from your kitchen counter, is there? It rose just as it was supposed to, and the interior of the doughnuts were light and sweet, with lots of little air holes that make up the perfect doughnut. While I want to play around with this recipe a bit to get it just the way I want it, I think that this is a great start to a new doughnut-making relationship for me and my kitchen. I did some doughnuts in a classic vanilla glaze, some I tossed in cinnamon-sugar, and I even filled some doughnut holes with blueberry jam. It was fun to try out a few different things, and I have many more ideas in mind now that I know that making doughnuts isn’t so hard, after all! Kramer brought these into work, and I hear that they were a big hit (or at least I hope so and he’s not just trying boost my ego). I promise you that doughnut making is well within your grasp – give it a try and I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

The Perfect Beginner's Yeast DoughnutsThe Perfect Beginner's Yeast Doughnuts
Measure out your shortening.

The Perfect Beginner's Yeast Doughnuts
Pour the hot milk over the shortening, whisk until it’s completely melted, then let come to room temperature.

The Perfect Beginner's Yeast Doughnuts
Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and allow to dissolve for 5 minutes.

The Perfect Beginner's Yeast Doughnuts
Combine the eggs, sugar, nutmeg, and salt.

The Perfect Beginner's Yeast Doughnuts
Measure out your flour.

The Perfect Beginner's Yeast Doughnuts
Beat the yeast, milk, and shortening in with the egg mixture, then add in half the flour, mix together, then add in the remaining flour and knead for 3-4 minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

The Perfect Beginner's Yeast Doughnuts
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and set in a warm spot to rise for 1 hour.

The Perfect Beginner's Yeast Doughnuts
When the dough has risen, roll it out onto a lightly floured surface, to about 1/2 inch thick.

The Perfect Beginner's Yeast DoughnutsThe Perfect Beginner's Yeast Doughnuts
Cut out the doughnuts. I played around with the shapes, since it was my frist time making doughnuts.

The Perfect Beginner's Yeast Doughnuts
Place the cut-out doughnuts and holes on a baking sheet, cover lightly with a cloth, and allow to rise for another 30-45 minutes.

The Perfect Beginner's Yeast Doughnuts
Mix together your cinnamon and sugar.

The Perfect Beginner's Yeast Doughnuts
Heat your oil to 365 degrees F and fry the doughnuts on each side for 1 minute.

The Perfect Beginner's Yeast DoughnutsThe Perfect Beginner's Yeast Doughnuts
If you want to toss the doughnuts in cinnamon sugar, do it immediately after removing them from the oil.

The Perfect Beginner's Yeast DoughnutsThe Perfect Beginner's Yeast DoughnutsThe Perfect Beginner's Yeast Doughnuts
Continue frying the doughnuts, and place them on a cooling rack. Combine the glaze ingredients in a medium bowl.

The Perfect Beginner's Yeast Doughnuts
Dip the cooled doughtnuts in the glaze and place them on a cooling rack to firm up.

The Perfect Beginner's Yeast DoughnutsThe Perfect Beginner's Yeast DoughnutsThe Perfect Beginner's Yeast DoughnutsThe Perfect Beginner's Yeast DoughnutsThe Perfect Beginner's Yeast DoughnutsThe Perfect Beginner's Yeast Doughnuts

The Perfect Beginner's Yeast Doughnuts
Serves: 22 doughnuts, 25 doughnut holes
For the Doughnuts
  • 1½ cups (360 ml) milk (I used 1%)
  • 2½ ounces (70 grams or about ⅓ cup) vegetable shortening
  • 2 packages (14 grams) instant yeast
  • ⅓ cup warm water (105 to 110 degrees F)
  • 2 eggs, light beaten
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (if you don't like nutmeg, use ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon)
  • 23 ounces (about 5⅓ cups, but I really recommend weighing it out, if possible) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • Canola, peanut, or vegetable oil, for frying (enough to fill your pot with about 3 inches of oil)
For the Cinnamon-Sugar
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
For the Glaze
  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup water
For the Doughnuts
  1. Heat up the 1½ cups of milk in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat until steaming and very hot, about 3-5 minutes. Whisk in the shortening, whisking until fully melted. Set aside until the milk has cooled to room temperature.
  2. Heat up your water to 105 to 110 degrees F, then sprinkle the yeast over it, allowing it to dissolve for 5 minutes. When it has mostly dissolved, add it to a large bowl (preferably that of your stand-mixer, if you have one) and add in the milk and shortening mixture. Add in the eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg (or cinnamon), and about half of the flour. Beat the ingredients together on low speed until just moistened, then add in the rest of the flour. Beat until just combined, then switch out your attachement for a dough hook, or knead by hand. Use the dough hook until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, which should take about 3-4 minutes. Oil a very large bowl and place the dough inside. Cover well with plastic wrap, place in a warm spot, such as near your window, and allow to rise for 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.
  3. After the dough has risen, roll it out on a lightly floured surface, until it is about ½ inch thick. Use a doughnut cutter or a glass to cut out the doughnuts (and use a shot glass to cut out the holes of the doughnuts if you don't have a doughnut cutter). Place the cut-out doughnuts on a lightly floured baking sheet, and cover with a dish towel. Place in a warm spot for another 30-45 minutes and let the dough rise again.
  4. When your doughnuts have risen, heat your oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot, such as a Dutch oven. Heat the oil to 365 degrees F, then carefully place the doughnuts in the oil, cooking 3 or 4 at a time so that they aren't over crowded. Cook for 1 minute on each side, then transfer to a cooling race to cool. If you want to roll the doughnuts in cinnamon sugar, roll them in the combined 1½ cups of granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon immediately after removing them from the oil. If you want to use the glaze, wait to glaze them until they are completely cool.
  5. To make some jelly-filled doughnut holes, simply make a hole in one side of the doughnut with a chopstick, and wiggle the chopstick around inside the doughnut hole to make room for the jam. Use a pastry bag with a metal tip, and squeeze the jam into the doughnut until it's filled. Glaze or toss in powdered sugar, whichever you desire.
  6. These can be stored in an container with a loose fitting lid, separated by parchment paper, for 24 hours. I recommend letting them stay out in the open air as long as possible before storing them, as the humidity inside of the container can cause them to become soggy after too much time - they truly are best when enjoyed the day of, but as long as you are careful with them, they are delicious the next day, too.
For the Cinnamon-Sugar
  1. Whisk together the sugar and cinnamon, adding more of one or the other if you feel it's necessary. Dip the doughnuts in the cinnamon-sugar mixture as soon as they are removed from the hot oil and set on a rack to cool.
For the Glaze
  1. For the glaze, whisk together the confectioners sugar, vanilla extract, kosher salt, and water until smooth. Add more water or confectioners sugar if needed. When the doughnuts have cooled completely, dip them all in the glaze and place on a rack to set. If you have leftover glaze, feel free to double dip the doughnuts.
Adapted From


38 Responses

  1. J says:

    THESE ARE MAGNIFICNET. I want to eat the screen.

    • Sydney says:

      @J: Thank you so much!

      @Lindsey: Thanks – my thoughts exactly! 😉

      @Chris: It’s true! I want to try apple cider ones, also – maybe that will be the next project!

  2. Lindsey says:

    yes please! this looks like the perfect Sunday morning :-)

  3. You can’t lose when going with an Alton Brown recipe. I remember that episode of Good Eats where he made these. Your’s look even more delicious. I think I’ll try these in the Fall (Which for me, mentally, is September 1) – I want to try Apple Cider Donuts!

  4. HabibaAdel says:

    They look amazing! I’m really loving you’re blog, your recipes look divine. :)
    17 year old girl from Egypt.

    • Sydney says:

      @HabibaAdel: Thank you so much!

      @Mom: Thank you!

      @Mindy: Be not afraid! 😉

      @Michelle: I want one of those! I want to make mini doughnuts, now.

      @Stacey: I’m sure he will be eternally grateful!

  5. Joanne says:

    Every picture is cuter then the next. The Baby jelly holes photographed adorable!

  6. Mindy says:

    I, too, run the other way anytime I see yeast as an ingredient, yet you’ve convinced me that this should be my first attempt. The outcome looks completely worth it!

  7. I received a doughnut pan for Christmas and still have yet to use it! I’ll be keeping this recipe handy….

  8. Stacey Evans says:

    You make everything look so yummy! I will definitely try these next for P.J.

  9. Miss says:

    I am a doughnut fanatic and it’s a long way to the the doughnut shop from my house-like an hour! So I will be giving these a whirl, they look fantastic!

    • Sydney says:

      @Miss: Thank you!

      @Tanvi: I did, too, before I made these. ~The more you know~

      @Caleblargo: As these are the first doughnuts I’ve made, I can’t speak for what would happen if you used butter, however, they are partially hydrogenated soy and palm oils, no animal fats, if that makes you feel better!

      @Stacy: I hope that you do! Fearless!

      @Sasha: Thank you so much! You’re too sweet :)

      @Rachel: That’s my next plan, but I’m not sure about baking time with this particular recipe – give it a try and let me know what you think! You’d probably have to brush them with butter and then roll them in cinnamon/sugar before baking them, though.

  10. These look incredible! And surprisingly straightforward. I definitely thought making doughnuts was much more complicated!

  11. caleblargo says:

    Wow, those look amazing! I can’t wait to make these. Is it possible to use butter instead of crisco? I’m not into the whole partially hydrogenated oils thing 😀

  12. Yummy! I’ve only ever made cake doughnuts- probably because I’ve always been a little intimidated by the idea of frying traditional doughnuts, too! Now I might just have to go for it =)

  13. Ive never made doughnuts but my goodness how i want to! And yours look so so perfect, like bakery-shop perfect, that i think this might well be the end of my search for the first recipe i am to try :) gorgeous photos too, truly lovely!

  14. Rachel says:

    Can you bake the doughnuts rather than fry them??

  15. Tina From Pa says:

    May I have a few PLEASE! You just added another must try to my collection! Thanks for another winner!

  16. I can’t stop staring.

    I am so impressed. I am terrified of yeast doughs (I tend to kill them like I kill plants… which is to say that, essentially, they don’t stand a chance). But under Alton’s supervision, you say? Hmm. Maybe I’d consider it. He does know an awful lot about an awful lot of things.

    These doughnuts look unbelievable. I am positively drooling. The cinnamon sugar and glaze was enough but blueberry jam, too?! Amazing. And how crazy was that lightning storm?! We decided to grab some midnight gelato and drive around, watching the sky light up like War of the Worlds. It was kind of fun :)

  17. Lindsay says:

    Wow, they look amazing! My grandfather used to make donuts but they were always a little…rock hard :) so I’m excited to try this version.

  18. Emma says:

    Thank you so much for name the mass of ingredients in grams, degrees etc. I’m from Germany and it was always sorta difficult to convert the instructions. Your blog is fabulous, I’m obsessed with your recipes. :-)

    • Sydney says:

      @Emma: With yeast doughnuts, I think it’s definitely necessary! You can also thank Alton for the conversions, haha. I’m glad you like the site – I love knowing that there are readers all over the world!

  19. ana says:

    Thanks for sharing! What is the texture of these doughnuts? Are they light and fluffy or soft and chewy? Also, would it be alright to cut smaller but slightly thicker circles? I want to make small chubby doughnuts. :)

    Great post, and very pretty food photography!

  20. Too bad about the Crisco. I do not eat partially hydrogenated stuff. Wonder if this would work with something other than shortening

  21. montaha says:

    can I use butter ? and for the packages , can you measure it in spoons please?

    • Sydney says:

      Butter will yield a different result, but you are welcome to try. The problem with butter is that it has a lower melting point, which will effect the dough as soon as it hits the frier. For the yeast, 1 package is 2 1/4 teaspoons (generally), so you’d need 4 1/2 teaspoons.

  22. Angel says:

    How about coconut oil. I am not into hydrogenated oils either.

  23. […] Glazed Donuts {Adapted from Crepes of Wrath and Heather […]

  24. Jayaymeye says:

    Angel, my thought on coconut oil is that it has an even lower melting point than butter, so my guess is probably not…

  25. Becky Bay says:

    I can’t seem to make any donut recipe help . I haven’t tried these will try these

  26. Kathy says:

    I made some yeast donuts and fried them in sunflower seed oil/grape seed oil and canola oil. The flavor of the donuts was AWESOME!! Soooo much better that vegetable oil!!

  27. Sunita says:

    Hi, I was going through recipe for making donuts for my kids party. Loved ur recipe and would like to try. I have some questions. 1. Why shortening, y not butter. Most recipes say butter? 2, if the party is in evening can I make it in afternoon also 3. Can I fill it with melted chocolate or some Jam?? Requesting ur response. Thanks

    • Sydney says:

      Shortening has a higher melting point so it makes these great for beginners! You can certainly make them ahead of time, and of course, fill them with whatever you like!

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