And then, there’s North Carolina. Home sweet home. So many magical food products of my childhood and beyond were invented right here in the Old North State. The rapturously, cherry-ly delicious Cheerwine; Coke’s nemesis, Pepsi, was invented in New Bern; Texas Pete hails from Winston-Salem, which is nowhere near Texas. Lance. Hardee’s. Bojangles’.
And what is arguably one of North Carolina’s greatest contributions to food, Krispy Kreme, was invented just a mere 1 1/2 hours from where I grew up.
It might be that Krispy Kreme Doughnuts are related to the beignet, because founder Vernon Rudolph bought a yeast-raised doughnut recipe from a chef in New Orleans and began frying them up in Winston-Salem in 1937, 11 days after Amelia Earhart went missing.
In 1996, when the first Krispy Kreme store opened in Manhattan, we polite southerners tittered behind our hands as the glowing reviews streamed in. I remember reading a review that likened a Krispy Kreme to, and I’m paraphrasing because I can’t find the reference, an unbelievably light cross between a pastry and a croissant. (Cronuts, anyone?) Models, actors and others of the swanky NYC set were enraptured by a doughnut that we’d been enjoying forever. We were proud. But we maybe also found all of the hyperbole just a little silly.
Then again, I myself may wax rhapsodic in just a bit.
One of the hallmarks of a Krispy Kreme is its lightness. When warm, it shquooshes down when you bite into it. When still fresh but at room temperature, it shquooshes just a bit. The glaze is unbelievably thin. Were it not for the sheen, you might not be able to tell that a Virgin Doughnut is glazed at all. But once you pick up one of these beauties, dimpling the delicate doughnut, the glaze crackles away from your fingers. And when you bite into it, impossibly thin shards fall away, cascading down the front of your shirt and into your lap, or onto the floor if you’re experienced enough to lean over when you indulge.
I will admit Krispy Kremes are not for everyone. Some folks like a doughnut that is just a bit firmer. Maybe one a bit less sweet, although I can’t imagine how that could be a good thing. Some people just like a good cakey doughnut, and I guess that might be a better match to a strong cup of coffee.
I, however, was raised up in the church of Krispy Kreme, where communion bread melts in your mouth, making you lick your fingers, one after the other, until every last shard of sweet, crackled glaze is gone.
If I’m going to make doughnuts, I’m going to try and approximate my perfect doughnut: the plain glazed. The very same that started the ball rolling back in ’37.
Since I was in pursuit of the sweet, delicate, shquoosh of the original, I consulted the Oracle at Google and was presented with myriad recipes, all purporting to taste “just like Krispy Kreme.” I perused several of them and even decided to spend seven dimes, one nickel and four pennies to purchase the version from the Top Secret Recipes website. I spared no expense. In the end, I made two versions, the Paid For version and this one, from the Deep Fried section of Food.com. For folks who enjoy the short story, I liked the non-paid-for recipe best. For folks who enjoy a ton of detail, read on.
Version 1 (V1, the paid-for one) sought tenderness by using a mixture of cake flour and all purpose flour. But alas, I don’t think Mr. Top Secret was aware of the tenderizing properties of both sugar and fat, so he pretty much left both out. The resulting doughnut was tasty, but had more chew than a Krispy Kreme should have. I will say that, if you’ve never had a Krispy Kreme or have always wished that they were just a bit chewier, these might be the doughnuts for you. I did not test out his glaze formula, but just from reading over the ingredients, it seems a viable glaze Option.
Version 2 (V2 from Food.com) was, for me, much closer to the mark. It used 100% all purpose flour and also was enriched with an egg, milk, shortening and a fair amount of sugar.
Both doughs were at a super-high hydration level. I calculated V1 at 77% and V2 at around 73%. For comparison’s sake, most breads fall somewhere between 58% and 68% hydration. What I ended up for both versions was much more of a batter than a dough. Rather like a flowing pate a choux. It was a bit daunting to think of having to roll out batter, but all was well in the end.
I made V1 almost exactly as called for in the recipe with the addition of some dry malt powder (available at home brew stores). I also added in a bit more flour after the initial rise, just to make the dough a bit easier to handle. I cut large doughnuts with my 3 1/2″ doughnut cutter. For V2, I added the malt powder, but I added as little flour as I possibly could for the first rolling, adding in a bit more when I rerolled. I also cut most of them with the 2 1/2″ cutter. The results: V1 doughnuts held their shape fairly well when I slipped them into the oil. They only got lightly browned though since the dough contained a negligible amount of sugar. V2 (first roll) were incredibly hard to handle and they abjectly refused to hold their shape. V2 (second roll) worked out the best of all three, I believe. While both rollings browned up beautifully, the doughnuts from the second rolling were tender enough to pass the shquoosh test, and they held their shape much better than the first roll.
I went with the glaze from V2. It’s butter-rich, which isn’t necessarily what the Krispy Kreme folks use, but it turned out to be a reasonable approximation. I was pleased with both the flavor and the way it set up, although it took some playing to get the glaze the right consistency so that most of it would run off, leaving behind a thin and unbroken sheet of sugary, buttery goodness.
I won’t be sharing a recipe since I didn’t play with either recipe nearly enough to even call them “adapted,” but I will share some of the finer Procedural Points, especially since these doughs were seriously wet. One might even say runny. It was alarming, even for me.
- For both doughs, rather than add ingredients in the prescribed order, I just dumped everything together and hit it with the dough hook until everything was combined. Then, I let it knead for 5 minutes on medium low. The results (both times) were like thick, sticky pancake batter. I shrugged, scraped the dough into bowls, sprayed their tops, covered them with towels and let them rise until doubled. Even in a cool kitchen, this only took about an hour since the dough was wet enough for the yeast to get all ebullient quickly and since I used the amount called for in the recipe (I usually use way less yeast than called for and then let it rise very slowly).
- I floured the counter thoroughly. As in I couldn’t see the counter under all the flour. I scraped the dough into a wet blob and floured the top. Liberally. I rolled quickly but gently with my French pin. Fortunately with such a wet dough, it was almost like rolling out a tender pie crust–no spring back.
- Have your bench knife handy. It will help you if/when things start sticking. Just lift up the part that’s sticking with your bench knife and toss on a bit more flour.
- I cut squares of parchment, laid them out on sheet pans and sprayed them with pan spray. Slick doughnut landing pads. I placed each cut doughnut onto its landing pad, pushing them gently back into shape if necessary. Then, I pan-sprayed everyone and covered them with a towel to let double again. This time, it only took about 45 minutes.
- I used solid vegetable shortening for frying. I don’t care what the recipes that you find call for, use the Crisco. Its flavor is completely neutral, and it is perfect for this. I kept my fat between 360-370F. 365F seemed to be the Doughnut Sweet Spot, though. I melted my fat on high and then was able to maintain the temp on about setting 7-8 on my stove. I checked the temp frequently with my Thermapen. You will, too.
- When you’re ready to fry and the oil is hot enough, hold a doughnut on its landing pad a couple of inches above the fat. Tilt the landing pad down and each doughnut should slide right off and into the drink. Don’t try to fry more than 3 3 1/2″ guys at a time. For the 2 1/2″ guys, I wouldn’t try to do more than 5 at a time.
- Use chopsticks or skewers to turn the doughnuts. You can use them to remove them to a rack too, but I found it just as easy to use a big spider for that.
- These doughnuts are best served warm. So either glaze them within maybe 5-10 minutes of frying and then shove them in your face or be prepared to reheat them to eat. It’s not that they’re bad at room temperature; they’re just The Best when warm.
- If you make the buttery glaze, whisking together the melted butter, vanilla and powdered sugar will result in a curdled-looking, upsetting mass. Worry not. Once you start whisking in the boiling water, it all smooths out. Honest.
- To glaze, I dumped 1 large or three small doughnuts at a time into my Pan o’ Glaze, flipped them so they were completely coated and then shoved two skewers through their centers, one from either side, so the doughnuts were like wheels on an axle. Then, I sort of jiggled the axle rather vigorously to get most of the excess glaze to drip off. I let them set up for about 15-20 minutes on racks. There were surprisingly few dribbles on the counter.
And that, my friends, is that. If you are a fan of yeast raised doughnuts, I think you will really appreciate either version. If you are a particular devotee of the Krispy Kreme doughnut, you’ll be happier with Version 2, but don’t forget to add a bit more flour than is called for. Maybe increase the amount by about 10%.
I really hope you enjoy these, and as always, thank you for choosing to spend part of your day with me.