The key to successful doughnuts is a properly proved sweet yeast dough and clean oil at 190°C/375°F — the temperature at which the exterior of the doughnut is sealed, preventing excessive fat absorption and hot enough to cause the carbon dioxide gas trapped inside the dough to expand rapidly, giving the right airy, light texture. Frying dough gives a completely different exterior finish to baking and a lovely uniform golden-brown colour.
Before you begin, change the oil in the fryer and clean the interior. Any neutral-tasting oil, like sunflower, will do. The dough is very hard to work by hand and is best made in a food mixer with a dough hook.
Sift the flours into a bowl with the salt and yeast. Put the hand-warm milk in the mixing bowl and turn on at the lowest speed, then pour in the flour. Add the softened butter dice, a piece at a time. When fully incorporated, add the beaten eggs, one at a time. Add the sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon, and run the machine for 10 minutes, turning it to full speed for the last 2 minutes.
Turn the sticky dough out on a heavily floured surface and finish kneading by hand, incorporating flour until you have a smooth, elastic ball. Brush this with a little oil, place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Leave to rise at room temperature for 2 hours, when it should have at least doubled in size.
Knock down the dough by kneading it lightly, then divide it into
Heat oil for deep-frying to 190°C/ 375°F. Fry the doughnuts in small batches, being careful not to overcrowd as this will cause the temperature to drop below sealing point. Fry for 1–2 minutes on the first side, turn and give them a further minute on the other side. When done, drain on kitchen paper.
Put some caster sugar on a plate and turn the doughnuts in this to coat while still warm. Serve as soon as possible. They are best eaten minutes from the pan.
© 1998 Alastair Little and Richard Whittington estate. All rights reserved.