I must have been 6 or 7 at the time but I can still vividly recall the taste and texture of that doughnut even after all these years. It’s almost as if I had eaten it mere minutes ago. Every doughnut that I have eaten has been judged against that first one and unfortunately, too often they have not measured up.
I remember the way the fine sugar crystals clung to the moisture on my lips and how satisfying it was to lick them off in between taking bites of the pillowy soft doughnut. That doughnut was eaten in Bewley’s Café in Dundrum, the bustling Dublin suburb, where I grew up. On that particular day, I was accompanying my grandmother on her daily trip down to ‘the Village,’ as she called it, to get her ‘messages’. She had popped into Bewley’s to buy a bag of their coffee beans and in concession to my persistent begging for a treat, bought me a sugary ring doughnut. I was initially disappointed as what I had really wanted was one of the iced queen cakes, but those feeling were quickly forgotten on sinking my teeth into the doughnut. I absolutely loved it!
I have made quite a lot of doughnuts recently in an attempt to achieve what I consider THE perfect doughnut. I like slightly chewy crumb, but the doughnuts must be light. Despite being deep-fried they should not be greasy but rather, should possess a crisp exterior which gives way to a soft but perfectly cooked-through interior. After many false starts, I have finally produced a ring doughnut which satisfies all my exacting requirements … and here it is!
I find that using plain white flour rather than strong flour produces a fluffier result with just a slightly chewy texture. In addition, I have added the finely grated zest of a lemon which adds an extra flavour dimension; you can leave this out and leave them plain.450g plain flour
30g caster sugar plus extra for dusting the finished doughnuts
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
75g butter, cubed
15g fresh yeast
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Method:1. Place the flour, caster sugar, lemon zest and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir everything with your hands to distribute evenly. Add the butter and run into the flour mixture using your fingertips. Add the water and mix with your hands to form a soft dough.
2. Turn the dough out on to a clean work-surface and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and springs back when lightly poked with your finger. Place into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and set aside to rise for about an hour or until doubled in size.
3. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knock back. Roll out until it is about 1cm thick. Using a 8-10cm plain pastry cutter, stamp out rounds from the dough. Use a smaller cutter, about 2cm in diameter to stamp out the centres. Place onto a large baking tray lined with some non-stick baking parchment. Cover loosely with a little oiled cling film and set aside to rise for approximately 45 minutes until doubled in size.4. Heat some vegetable oil in a deep-fat fryer. Once it has reached 180C, fry the doughnuts in batched for about 4 minutes, turning them over half way through so that both sides are a deep golden brown and the doughnuts have puffed up.
5. Remove with a slotted spoon and allow to drain on some absorbent kitchen paper. Roll the fried doughnuts in some extra caster sugar and serve still warm (although they are also delicious cooled).