When canned biscuit dough can produce a donut of passable quality, can you imagine what honest-to-goodness homemade biscuit dough would do? And what if that dough had the best qualities of both a good, buttery biscuit and a yeasted donut? I couldn’t help myself. I had to find out.
I was not disappointed. As soon as the first round hit the oil, I knew I was in for a treat. I could see the layers of dough puffing up into a crispy, tender, yeasty donut. I could smell the butter in the dough sizzling and taking on nutty, caramelized notes. When I cut into one, still-warm, I could see all the flaky layers separated out. It looked like a poor-man’s cronut. And it tasted even better. —Sarah Coates
Mix the yeast into the room-temperature milk. Set aside while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.
Place all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix briefly to combine.
Cut the cold butter into 1/2-inch cubes, and add them to the dry ingredients. Work the mixture on a low speed for about 2 minutes, or until the butter is mostly incorporated into the flour, with some larger flakes of butter still visible. Mix more than you would for traditional biscuits or a pie dough: Most of the butter should be incorporated into the flour.
Add the milk and yeast to the mixer, and mix on a medium speed, just until the mixture starts to cohere and there is no dry flour in the bottom of the bowl.
Dump the mixture out onto a floured surface, and pat and knead it together until it forms a smooth ball. Roll the dough out to about 1/2-inch thickness, and use a doughnut cutter (or a biscuit cutter and a piping nozzle) to cut out as many donuts as you can. With a 3-inch cutter, you should end up with 10 biscuits, re-rolling the dough scraps twice.
Set aside your donuts and donut holes in a cool place for 30 minutes. Unlike traditional yeast baking, you do not want to put this in a warm spot -- that would cause the butter in the biscuits to melt and would make these very tough to work with.
When the donuts have had their 30 minute rest, heat about 2 inches of oil in a wide, deep pan, and bring it up to 350° F (170° C). Alternatively, you can place one of the donut holes into the cold oil. When it turns golden brown, the oil is hot enough to fry in.
Place a few donuts at a time into the hot oil (fewer is best -- you don't want the oil to bubble over). They need about 1 1/2 minutes per side. When they have turned a dark golden brown and have puffed up to about twice their size, the donuts are ready. Carefully remove the donuts from the oil, and place them on a cooling rack or some paper towel to drain.
Once they're all cooked, you can either toss the donuts in cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar, or glaze them. I used a mixture of puréed blackberries and icing sugar to top mine.
Sarah is the author and photographer behind The Sugar Hit, a blog solely devoted to the joys of eating. She is a typical 21st century creative type, totally obsessed with food, writing, design, photography and styling. She lives in Brisbane, Australia and regularly eats mountains of crudités in a misguided attempt to offset the staggering amounts of butter she consumes daily.