A few weeks ago, I promised the kids I'd make doughnuts if school was cancelled on account of the big bad blizzard that was predicted to slam the Boston area. But Waltham turned out to be one of the only communities NOT to preemptively declare a day off for the 2 inches of snow we ended up getting (the Cape got slammed, not us). So to celebrate prudence and restraint on the part of the Waltham public schools, I decided to exercise my own version of prudence and restraint by making doughnuts anyway.
As I'm sure you all know, I love doughnuts. Yes, I do believe this has come up before. My favorites are old-fashioned cake doughnuts, but I can be tempted by any doughnut, anytime. That means I have eaten a lot of disappointing doughnuts in my day. So when I say that the particular doughnuts pictured above are the best plain doughnuts I've had in recent memory, I'm speaking from a place of experience. They are damn good doughnuts and you can make them yourself. These are not squishy, yeast-raised doughnuts a la Krispy Kreme. These are crusty and craggily on the outside, tender and cakey on the inside with a hint of nutmeg. The secret to the tender crumb is sour cream and a quick rest in the refrigerator before frying. You don't want them to be perfectly round and smooth. Perfectly round and smooth equals machine-made doughnuts. You're making these with your own two hands—let your hands take the credit.
This recipe makes 8 or 9 doughnuts and holes. There's probably not quite enough glaze for the whole batch, but that's because you need to keep some plain for me, for when I arrive unannounced through the chimney for my late morning doughnut fix.
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 large egg yolks
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup sour cream
Vegetable or canola oil, for frying
With an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together for 1 minute on medium speed until sandy. Add the egg yolks and beat for 2 minutes more until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg together in a medium bowl. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture and mix until just combined. Alternate adding half of the sour cream and half of the remaining dry ingredients, mixing on low just until combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Heat the oil (2-3 inches deep) in a large, heavy bottomed pot until a candy thermometer reaches 350 F. Turn out the dough onto a floured counter and roll out to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Using a 3-1/4-inch biscuit cutter or drinking glass, cut out as many circles as you can, flouring the cutter to prevent sticking. Gently pat together and reroll the scraps to make additional doughnuts. Use a 1-1/4-inch biscuit cutter to cut out the centers. (Don't have a cutter that size? Poke a hole with your finger and twirl the doughnut around on the floured counter until the hole is the size you want. You'll just have to forego the munchkins.)
Add the dough to the hot oil in batches of 2 or 3, being careful not to crowd the pot and drive the oil temperature down. After a few seconds, the doughnuts will float to the top. Fry for 75 to 90 seconds until golden brown and cracked. Flip and fry the other side for 60 to 75 seconds until golden. Transfer to a rack set over a pan lined with paper towels to drain. For best results, ice as soon as possible while still warm.
A note on frying: Do not splash the dough into the hot oil. You will burn yourself and hate me forever. Dip one end of the dough into the oil, then let the top fall towards the back of the pot, so the splash goes away from you, while simultaneously moving your hand away. Same goes for the doughnut holes. Don't plop them all in or you'll be sorry. Find a slotted spoon and lower the dough balls into the oil, then gently wiggle the spoon out from underneath.
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoons sour cream
3-4 tablespoons hot water
In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, honey, and sour cream. Whisk in the hot water, starting with just 3 tablespoons and then dribbling in only as much additional water as it takes to make a smooth, runny glaze that still coats the back of a spoon well. If the slurry ends up too runny, add more confectioners' sugar. Dip the warm doughnuts into the glaze, one side at a time, letting the excess run off for a few seconds. Allow the doughnuts to dry completely on a rack until the glaze crisps up, at least 15 to 20 minutes.
Sour cream, butter: Cabot, Cabot, VT
Eggs: Chip-In Farm, Bedford, MA
Honey: Boston Honey Company, Reseska Apiaries, Holliston, MA