That title may sound odd to some of you, but I can guarantee that the end results are always yummy. Yes! it is possible to make your favorite doughnuts using natural yeast.
If you have already mastered making sourdough bread, then this process will be familiar to you. But if this is your first time, worry not! I will walk you through the whole process every step of the way. Come along!
As a first step, we need to get the starter ready! So if you want to know more about the starter and how to get it ready, I have written a whole post dedicated to that single topic. A bubbly active starter is the key to a fluffier doughnut.
So feed your starer at least 6 hours prior to using and have it ready. It should be at it’s peak. If you think your starter has depleted, feed it half the normal portion and let it get activated.
Making the dough is easier than one would imagine. I use this straight forward method as it is easy to remember and require less time. Weigh all the ingredients into the same bowl. Give it a good mix using a spatula. Then transfer to the mixer fitted with a dough hook. This helps bring ingredients together easily without having to stop and scrape your mixer bowl several times. Then let the mixer do all the hard work.
Mixing the dough till the right stage is important. First let the mixer run for about 5-8 minutes on slow speed. If the dough is tough, add a teaspoon of milk at a time and get it to the right consistency. The dough should be loose and easy to mix but not runny. Initially the dough will be stickier. This is okay. As you mix, the stickiness will disappear and the dough will start to look shiny and smooth. At this stage let the dough rest for a couple of minutes and then mix on medium- high speed for about two minutes. Scrape the sides and dust the sides with flour as you go. The dough will be much manageable now and it will start to come together and off the sides of the bowl. At this stage, remove the dough to a floured surface and knead by hand. Use flour to stop it from sticking to your hands or the bench. Form the dough into a smooth dough ball.
Now the dough is ready to be proofed. Place in a large glass or plastic container, cover and let it sit until doubled in size. This can take 5 to 8 hours depending on the room temperature. Leave in a warm place to speed up the process.
The longer it takes the intense the flavor gets. If you don’t like the sour taste in your doughnuts, speed up the process. the sour taste isn’t very pungent, it is very subtle and almost like an after taste, mostly pleasant when paired with a sweet filling.
Once doubled in size, de-gas the dough (punch it down to release most of the air) and form in to a ball again and place in the same container. Cover tightly and place in the fridge for the retardation process. This will develop flavor and also a good way to time your final product. If you want to make the doughnuts on the same day, then leave the dough outside and let is double in size again.
Shaping doughnuts is easy. Take the proofed dough on to a floured surface. This time, do not punch the air out, but slowly flatten the dough. Use a rolling pin and dust the dough with flour to stop it from sticking. The dough should be of at least 3/4 of an inch in thickness. Cut out doughnuts using a round cookie cutter. (Use a thin drinking glass if you don’t have a cookie cutter/ or anything that does the job works fine). You can even cut them in to square shapes too.
Too much thickness will destroy the shape and it won’t sit flat once proofed. If you roll out too thin, then the doughnuts will be flat and we won’t be able to handle them or fill them with tasty filling.
Line a baking tray/cookie sheet with baking paper. Dust the paper with a light coating of flour. Place the cut out doughnuts on the trays wide apart. Leave about half an inch gap all around as they will expand.
Now cover the trays with a cling warp/plastic and leave aside until the doughnuts have doubled in size. They will look plump and wobbly, so you will know when they are ready. Keep an eye, as they might over proof.
Do not throw away any left-over dough. Simply kneed them together, wrap and leave for 15 minutes to rest. Roll out again and cut more doughnuts or make small balls which can be fried into bomboloni later.
Fry the doughnut in moderate-hot oil. I don’t measure temperature usually. Instead use some left over dough to test the oil. If the dough browns too quickly or you get lots of bubbles and splashing, the oil is too hot. It should take about half a minute for the dough to turn golden. So half a minute each side and the doughnut will be cooked. A cooked through doughnut is light and when you tap slightly, will sound hollow.
You can use, vegetable, canola, sunflower, grape seed or even coconut oil to fry these.
When the doughnuts are cooked, let them rest on a paper towel for a few seconds and then roll out on cinnamon sugar. Be creative. I sometimes use just sugar, or mix chocolate malt powder with sugar (like these ones in the picture) or use other spices like cardamom, cloves etc. They can be plain too, if you want to glaze them or dip them in chocolate.
Fill the doughnuts with any filling. Jam, custard, lemon curd, nutella, ganache, caramel, pretty much anything works!
I have used a chocolate ganache mixed with chocolate malt powder. Simply add 1/4 cup malt powder(oveltin) to the cream once boiled (250 g cream to 250 g dark chocolate)I used a bitter sweet dark chocolate (62% cocoa) and this gives a nice deep rich chocolate intensity. Add a table spoon of honey to balance out the bitterness if you like.