The first time I had a Dough doughnut was at a little sun-drenched picnic about a year ago. Linda graced us with a floppy box brimming with gems from this shop I’d previously never heard of (I live under a rock) and they looked glorious — plump and squashy, stacked two levels deep on sticky wax paper and cloaked in crackly, dripping glazes of all colors and flavors.
Overwhelmed by choice, I just went for the one with the prettiest color (because I evidently judge both books and carbs by their covers). It was an enormous and aggressively magenta beauty that turned out to be, as you might have guessed, hibiscus — and it was totally magnificent. The mouth-puckering brightness from the hibiscus is a perfect balance for the decadence of fried dough, and keeps it addictive long after chocolate or dulce de leche might have gotten heavy. Which was both a good and terrible thing, since I started with a lady-like half (ha) and ended up finishing a whole, another half … and the other half of that half. So crazy good.
So, as is my way with things I eat and love, I thought it would be fun to recreate these pink ladies at home. There’s just a teensy, a little weird, please-forgive-me twist: I baked them. I know! They’re not even cake doughnuts. I didn’t even use the cute doughnut pans. But, even though the hibiscus keeps things feeling light and fresh enough to withstand a little frying, I was just curious to see if a yeast doughnut could be baked, and when I saw that Heidi had done it, I was convinced to try. Lo and behold, I loved them. Baked yeast doughnuts aren’t the same as their fried sistren (alas, but no surprises there) and they come out looking comically pale and kind of like underbaked bagels, but they’re delicious — squashy-soft, with a hint of vanilla and a comforting chew. With a vibrantly flavorful, sweet-tart glaze to carry the day, the difference is negligible. And in exchange, you get a quicker, hands-off process, no excess of splattering oil, and the tiniest sense of virtue.
Like most of my yeast recipes, the dough incorporates an overnight rise, so you can do the kneading and the heavy-lifting in the cooler evenings, then give them a quick ten minutes in the oven the next day before it can heat up the kitchen too badly. In the same way, you can boil up the hibiscus the night before and let it all cool down before mixing up the glaze. The glaze uses a combination of a water-based hibiscus tea concentrate and a hibiscus-infused cream — I thought a concentrate-only glaze was a bit too sharp, both too tangy and too powdery-sweet, and a little cream went a long way for a smoother, rounder taste and a thicker pour. But making both is finicky, so you should feel free to experiment with one or the other in case you find that’s all you need. Either way, the recipe will yield a surplus of both concentrate and cream, which you can use to make agua fresca or cream soda — or, if you feel like waiting a few days, a mocktail recipe that will be up later this week.
P.S. In case you were wondering, though, you can fry this dough if you want. It’s great too. I tested it, for science.
- for the dough:
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 1/2 tsp yeast
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vinegar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 3/4 cups (about 350g) all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- pinch freshly ground nutmeg (optional)
- 2 tbsp butter
- for the glaze:
- 1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers, divided (you can order them here in a small amount or here in bulk)
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- The night before or several days ahead, for the glaze: Make the hibiscus concentrate by combining 1/4 cup hibiscus flowers and 2 cups water in a small saucepot and bringing it to a boil over medium heat. Simmer for 15 minutes, then let cool completely and refrigerate until needed. Make the hibiscus cream by combining the cream and remaining 1/4 cup hibiscus flowers in a small saucepan over medium heat. Warm the mixture until just the edges begin to simmer, then immediately remove from heat. Let sit until completely cool, then refrigerate until needed. In about an hour, the cream should turn a bright, pretty magenta, almost like paint. Both the cream and the concentrate will keep for a good while, at least a week or more.
- The night before, for the dough: Heat the milk until just warm to the touch but not hot, about 110 degrees. This takes me about 15-20 seconds in the microwave. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk and let sit for 5-10 minutes, or until foamy. (See Notes if your milk is having trouble foaming.)
- Meanwhile, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and nutmeg (if using) in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, vinegar, vanilla extract, and milk-yeast mixture. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until a wet dough forms.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 4-5 minutes, adding flour only as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. It should be a fairly sticky dough. Once the dough forms a semi-elastic ball, add the butter in two batches, one tablespoon at a time, kneading until incorporated after each addition. The butter will make the dough quite messy at first but should eventually incorporate into a light, silky dough. Continue to knead for 4-5 minutes. Place back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and let rise in the refrigerator overnight, until well-doubled. (If you'd like to make the dough the day of, this should be fine -- it will need about 1-2 hours at room temperature to double.)
- The day of: Turn the cold dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll it to a half-inch thickness and stamp out rounds using a 4-inch cookie cutter, re-rolling the scraps as needed. (At a certain point, I just twisted the remaining scraps into a makeshift cruller, but do whatever you like!) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and transfer the rounds to it. Using a 1-inch cutter, cut holes in the doughnut rounds. Let proof for another hour, or until doubled. In the last 20 minutes of proofing, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Bake the doughnuts and doughnut holes together until the bottoms are barely browned, about 9-10 minutes. The doughnuts will look comically pale -- this is fine. As long as the bottoms are golden, they should be cooked through. You can break open a doughnut hole to test.
- For the glaze: Combine the powdered sugar with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the hibiscus concentrate and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the hibiscus cream, and whisk until smooth. You may want to add a bit at a time, until the glaze reaches your desired consistency. When the glaze looks about right, dip the fully-cooled doughnuts in the glaze, sprinkle with a few additional hibiscus flowers, and enjoy immediately. Doughnuts will keep, but are best enjoyed within a few hours of baking.
For the glaze, you can opt to make only a hibiscus-infused cream or a hibiscus concentrate, or you can use a mixture of both, like I did. For a creamier glaze, use about 3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons cream and no concentrate; for a tart glaze, use 2 1/2 tablespoons or so of concentrate and no cream.
If your milk and yeast will not foam, you may need to scald the milk first (see this thread for more information). Heat the milk in a small saucepan just until the edges begin to simmer, then remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm, add the yeast, and proceed.
To fry these like regular doughnuts, heat about one inch of neutral-flavored oil in a pot over medium heat to 375° or when small piece of dough bubbles cheerfully when dropped into the oil. Use a fish spatula or slotted spoon (or both together) to gently pick up a donut and place it in the oil. Cook, flipping once, until puffed and dark golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Drain on napkins or a baking sheet and let cool until just warm to the touch.