My mom used to make doughnuts as an extra special treat, so I always associate homemade doughnuts to those fond memories growing up. Her doughnuts were always so soft and light, dusted generously with sugar and eaten warm as they came out of the fryer in batches. Mmm. I can still smell the aroma of freshly fried doughnuts that would linger in the kitchen for hours afterwards. No wonder I was a chubby kid, heh.
These days, with the healthier eating and trying to avoid gluten, being able to have doughnuts is incredibly rare. When I was flipping through Gluten Free Baking and saw these, I knew I had to try them out. I slightly adapted the recipe (the original version includes chocolate drops in the centre of each doughnut). Never say never, but it’s probably impossible to replicate the airy softness of traditional yeast-based and made-of-flour doughnuts, so I’ll take what I can when it comes to the gluten-free versions.
These doughnuts are also yeast-based; I suspect it gives them a lighter texture, so that they’re not overly dense or dry.
For these doughnuts, we need gluten-free self-raising flour, brown rice flour, almond flour (which is just ground almonds), yeast, nutmeg (fresh or already ground), cinnamon, vanilla extract, gluten-free baking powder, xantham gum, superfine sugar, butter, eggs, and buttermilk.
Before I start making anything yeast-based, I make sure the yeast I have at home is still “alive”. It’s a good idea to test it out beforehand so you can buy new yeast if necessary. I bought a fresh batch before I made these so I wasn’t worried. As you can see from the generous froth, the yeast is well and alive. Let it hang out and get happy for a good 15 minutes.
While waiting for the yeast to get happy, all the dry ingredients are mixed together. The butter is then rubbed in until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. In a separate bowl, the almonds, vanilla extract, eggs, buttermilk, and yeast mixture should be combined, and then added into the dry mixture.
The result is a lovely golden ball of dough. The recipe states to let it sit in a warm place until double in size. I’m guessing at least an hour. My favourite trick for getting doughs to rise is to set the oven to the lowest temperature, turn it on for 30 seconds, and then turn it off completely. It warms up the oven just enough so that it’s an ideal environment for dough to rise in.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease the paper with some butter. Form the dough into about 1 1/2″ balls and cover them up with greased plastic wrap. I admit, before this I’d never greased plastic wrap before and it wasn’t exactly the easiest thing to do. I would imagine the dough wouldn’t stick to the plastic wrap if left ungreased, but I didn’t want to take the chance. Let the balls hang out for 40 minutes. Sigh… so much waiting.
Woohoo, time to fry! I used canola oil for frying. Since I don’t have an oil thermometer, I used ye olde wooden chopstick trick that my mom taught me – if the oil starts to bubble immediately around a chopstick immersed in the oil, it’s ready to go. Fry these little guys about 4-6 at a time (depending on the size of your frying vessel); frying too much at once lowers the temperature of the oil.
I was pleasantly surprised by the result. They formed a harder outer crust than normal doughnuts, but it wasn’t off-putting. The texture is closer to a cake doughnut, but not as dense; definitely lightened by the addition of the yeast, and not dry at all. Bonus points for not being overly sweet, either; they had a pleasant, subtle savoriness that balanced well with the cinnamon sugar. Also surprising is that they didn’t absorb that much oil at all. When I was done frying, it was like only a fraction of the oil was actually absorbed by the doughnuts.
These were thoroughly enjoyable and something that I’d make again.
Gluten-Free Vanilla + Cinnamon Doughnuts
- 1/2 cup lukewarm water
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 tsp sugar
- 2 1/3 cups gluten-free self-rising flour*
- 1/3 cup brown rice flour
- 1/4 tsp xantham gum
- 1/4 tsp gluten-free baking powder
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 tbsp butter, softened
- 1 cup almond meal (ground almonds)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
- 1 tbsp buttermilk
- 3/4 cup superfine sugar, to dust
- 3 tbsp ground cinnamon, to dust
To make the yeast mix, add the lukewarm water to the dry yeast in a bowl and stir in the sugar. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes, until frothy.
Sift the flours, xantham gum, baking powder, nutmeg, and cinnamon into a large bowl. Rub the butter into the flour mixture using your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Stir the almonds, vanilla extract, egg, egg yolk, buttermilk, and the yeast mixture together in a separate bowl. Pour it into the dry mixture and stir well to form a dough, adding a little more water if required. Let stand in a warm place until doubled in size (at least 1 hour).
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease the paper. Form the dough into 1 1/2″ balls (approx. 24) and place them onto the prepared baking sheet. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let sit for 40 minutes.
Make the sugar dusting for the doughnuts by mixing together the superfine sugar and ground cinnamon. Set aside.
Heat enough oil to just cover the doughnuts in a large saucepan or deep-fryer to 350F-375F. Cook the doughnuts in the hot oil, four to six at a time, for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and roll in the cinnamon sugar. Serve warm.
*The gluten-free self-rising flour mix recipe in the book is to add 1 1/2 teaspoons of gluten-free baking powder per 2 cups of the gluten-free all-purpose flour mix (1 1/2 cups sorghum flour or brown rice flour, 1 3/4 cups tapioca flour, 1/2 cup almond flour, and 1 tsp xantham gum).