Drowned Doughnuts

Drowned Doughnuts


Welcome to the first post of 2015. Yes, I know I’m a bit slow out of the gate and that January is almost half over, but I’ve got several plates spinning just now *she says, enigmatically* so it’s all going to be a bit ad lib for the next few months, I’m afraid. Bear with.

As a reward for your patience, I have a delicious treat for you to try this week – drowned doughnuts!

Not drowned in gooey stuff, for as you can see from the picture, the most they can boast is a light dusting of caster sugar. The ‘drowned’ relates to the method of making the dough – unusual and bizarre and so ‘out there’ it’s practically left the solar system. But it works. And it’s delicious. And so incredibly light and delicate you won’t believe.

“I can’t believe it!” you’ll cry, as you jam yet another vanilla-scented pillow into your mouth (little finger crooked, of course – we’re not ANIMALS here).

For once this dough is mixed, you cover it lightly with a cloth – or plastic, your choice – and drop it into a bucket of cold water.

Yes. Drop it into water. For real.

It’ll sit at the bottom until the yeast has worked its magic sufficiently, whereupon it will rise like a……*stares blankly into the middle distance for a while* ………. well, a very risey thing, and float on the surface. That’s when you know it’s ready.

None of this tip-toeing around, nervously chewing your lip and wondering

“Is it done yet?”

“Why isn’t it done yet?”

“Is it in a draft?”

“Shall I poke it now? “

“Maybe it’s too hot!”

“Did I kill the yeast?”

“I think I killed the yeast!”

“What about poking it now?”

“Did I poke it too much?”

“Why isn’t it done yet??”

No, none of that palaver here – just weigh, mix, wrap and *splash!*

There’s lots you can do with this dough – and we’ll be coming back to it in a few weeks (although do remind me, because you know what I’m like for getting distracted!), but as an introduction I’d like you to enjoy it elegant simplicity.

If you need any further convincing of the high esteem in which I hold this recipe, let me just say I thought it worthy of using a vanilla pod. In a dough! *lets that sink in*

Drowned Doughnuts

1 sachet easy-blend fast action yeast
200 g unsalted butter
400 g plain flour
pinch of salt
2 heaped tbs caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
200 ml milk
1 large egg

Milk for brushing

  • Put the yeast, butter, flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Tip the mixture into a bowl.
  • Put the sugar into a mortar or small bowl.
  • Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Add the vanilla seeds to the sugar.
  • Using the pestle, or the back of a spoon, stir/grind the sugar and seeds together. This will break apart the sticky mass of vanilla seeds and help distribute them evenly throughout the dough.
  • Tip the now vanilla sugar into the flour mix.
  • Gently warm the milk to blood temperature, then whisk in the egg.
  • Gradually add the liquid to the rest of the ingredients, stirring thoroughly. It will make a soft dough. It won’t matter if you just tip all the liquid in at once and it becomes too soft to mould – just use a ziplock bag for the next stage. Form the dough into a smooth ball.
  • Wet a clean tea-towel, squeeze out the excess moisture and lay it on your worktop. Place your ball of dough into the middle. Loosely tie opposite corners of the cloth over the dough, leaving room for it to swell. If your dough is very soft, spoon it into a lightly oiled ziplock bag, squeeze out all the air and seal it shut.
  • Place (yes, I know I said ‘drop’ earlier – but I was being melodramatic! I also said bucket, but unless you’ve got clean, food-grade plastic ones, use an alternative.) the dough into a deep bowl or pan of cold water. It will sink to the bottom. Make sure there enough liquid to cover it. You can now safely leave it until it floats to the surface (about an hour).
  • Remove the dough from the water and unwrap. You might want to let it drain a little before placing it onto your floured worktop. You can use paper towels to mop up any excess water.
  • Gently pat the air out of the dough with the palm of your hand until the dough is 3cm thick.
  • Cover lightly with oiled plastic and let it rest for 15 minutes,
  • Using a 5cm plain cutter, cut out your doughnuts and arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Press the cutter straight down and up again – no twisting, or your doughnuts will rise lop-sided.
  • Press any scraps of dough together and pat out again to re-use.
  • Cover the doughnuts lightly with cling film and set aside to rise for about 20 minutes while the oven heats up.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160ºC Fan.
  • Once the doughnuts have puffed up, bake for 8-10 minutes until well risen and starting to brown on the tops.
  • Remove from the oven and quickly brush with milk to keep the crust soft.
  • Cover with a cloth and allow to cool till just warm.
  • Dust with caster sugar and enjoy.

11 Comments on “Drowned Doughnuts”

  1. Looks like an ingenious way of proving dough! Wonder if this works with other yeasty recipes too?

  2. Gillian says:

    I’m intrigued MAB! Living in Brisbane, Australia, and in the middle of summer, my mind immediately leaps on statements like ‘cold’ water, ‘warm’ room. It’s all relative, you see. A bit like your ‘cold’ beer….. but they are minor distractions. My big question is, what role does submerging the dough in water play, and how in … did you think of that??? Happy New Year MAB! Looking forward to following your wonderful blog again in 2015.

    • Martin Belderson says:

      Andrew Whitley from the Real Bread Campaign wrote about this method in Chapter Five of ‘Bread Matters’. It’s called waterproofing and has been around for a very long time. The trick of it is to have the water at a good proofing temperature – cooler than your kitchen in Oz in the summer, but warmer than mine in Yorkshire in the winter. Yeast likes 27-28 Celsius best. AW says; “Getting hold of slippery floating dough is like catching fish with your bare hands.” He was talking about large loaves; doughnuts will be easier. I’ve tried the alternative: having a small ball of dough in a jar of water at ambient temperature alongside my loaves. When the dough floated, I knew they were ready. I mostly check the proofing by eye and touch, but it is a good trick.

  3. IngridG says:

    Hi from Brisbane as well! The world is a small place nowadays…
    I’m originally from Austria and I remember very well that a lot of housewives used this method of slowly proving yeast pastry (for any baking). It justs slows down the process and gives you a better control of your time.

  4. Laura says:

    Ohhhh how clever. I can’t wait to see what else you use this method for.

  5. […] the Drowned Doughnuts recipe by Time to Cook – […]

  6. This is a really interesting way to make dough! Thanks for sharing – i’m looking forward to giving it a try. Every week, I write a post with my five favorite breakfast recipes from the week. This week, I featured your drowned doughnuts! You can find my roundup here: http://www.theworktop.com/favorite-breakfast-recipes/jan-16-2015/

  7. Josiah says:

    This is just too intriguing Mary-Anne! I’m impressed! *Adds to infinitely long to-bake list that never grows shorter* Have you tried deep frying these by any chance, like a *real* doughnut?

  8. Andrea says:

    So I attempted to make this today and it was a total bust. Oven-to-bin project. First of all, my dough did not float to the top, not even after 3 hours of proofing, so I just took it out and hoped that it would work out anyway. It didn’t. The doughnuts did not rise at all and when baked, the inside is just thick, buttery, and not at all pillow-light. What did I do wrong? The only change I made to the recipe was substitute a part of the flour with spelt flour because I ran out of plain flour. Was that it? Gaaaah, I’m so angry that so much butter and vanilla was spoiled!

    • MAB says:

      Wotchers Andrea!

      I sympathise completely – its so disappointing when you get a failure like this.

      I don’t think it could have been the spelt – to me, it sounds like the root of the problem was the yeast. It happens. Usually, it is because the yeast is too old, but you can get a dud sachet in a box you’ve just bought, too. One method of baking with yeast is to start it off with a small amount of flour and water first and when its good and frothy and demonstrating that it’s ‘alive’, then incorporate it into the rest of the ingredients. The advent of fast-action yeast had largely caused this method to be abandoned, but it might be worth trying, if only to avoid the frustration you’ve experienced.

      The fact that it hadn’t risen in three hours should have been your warning sign. I’m afraid ‘hope’ plays zero part in the success of a recipe – put your faith in ‘hope’ only if the outcome doesn’t matter. If it hadn’t already risen, the extreme heat of the oven wasn’t ever going to magically bring it to life – ultimately, the heat of the oven kills the yeast. It might have eventually worked over a much longer time, but if that isn’t convenient, for whatever reason, then it almost counts as a failure. At that point you should have cut your losses and thrown the dough away. It would not have saved the butter or the vanilla, but it would have saved your time and efforts.

      I do hope you’ll try the recipe again. If you’re not convinced by the method yet, try it with ordinary bread dough, which will at least save on the expense of ingredients to a certain extent.

      With best wishes, M-A 😀

      • Andrea says:

        Hi MAB, thank you for your reply! When I thought about it afterwards, I also thought it was probably the yeast. Anyway, I’m definitely going to give the recipe another try (once I recover from this attempt, haha 🙂 ) and I’ll let you know how it worked out. Thank you!

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