To hear my parents tell it, I’ve been obsessed with doughnuts since I was a little kid. Personally, I never realized quite how much I liked them until I moved to London and found that the last Dunkin Donuts in Britain had closed down a year before. Suddenly, with the knowledge that I now lacked the choice to go to Dunkin Donuts and faced with Krispy Kreme as my only (vastly subpar, in my opinion) option for American-style doughnuts, I became somewhat obsessed with them.
British doughnuts weren’t bad by any estimation — I still dream of the dense, always too-cold jelly doughnuts at Beigel Bake on Brick Lane, and I’d never say no to a sugar-crusted custard doughnut — but they were never quite what I was looking for. My favorite among the doughnuts I’d tried on my quest, though, were the imaginative and slightly posh ones at Crosstown Doughnuts, my favorite of which was their Cinnamon Scroll.
I set out to recreate their recipe, but encountered one big problem with most doughnut recipes on the internet: they make too many. Since I’m not running a doughnut shop out of my kitchen and, in spite of my best efforts, find myself unable to eat two pounds of doughnuts in a single day, I scaled back a recipe I liked, made my best guess at how to create a cinnamon swirl inside a piece of fried dough, and found myself immensely charmed with the results. Not only were they delicious, but they were cute, three-bite affairs, which should’ve meant smaller portions but really meant that I could justify having three for breakfast yesterday.
Small-Batch Cinnamon Roll Doughnuts
inspired by Crosstown Doughnuts, dough recipe adapted from Ruby Tandoh’s Crumb
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
11⁄4 teaspoons instant (rapid-rise) yeast
1⁄2 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons milk (preferably whole)
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1⁄2 cup powdered sugar
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons milk
1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla
12 4″x4″ squares of parchment
Oil (preferably peanut but vegetable oil will suit — shortening is actually best) for frying
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, 1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon, yeast, and salt. Make sure to add the salt to the opposite side of the bowl as the yeast, just to avoid any direct contact that might slow the yeast down. Whisk to combine until everything is even and lump-free.
- Heat the milk in the microwave (about 1 minute on high power) or on the stove until it’s steaming, then take it off the heat and add the cold butter. Let stand for 5 minutes, stirring periodically. This will bring down the temperature of the milk and melt the butter at the same time.
- As the milk mixture cools, lightly beat the egg in a small bowl. Once the milk has come down to just above room temperature, slowly whisk it into the beaten egg until well-combined.
- Pour the liquids into the flour mixture and stir with a spatula until there are no patches of dry flour. The dough will begin to come away from the sides of the bowl.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until it comes together in one mass.
- Start kneading the dough, stretching it out into a longer shape and folding it back on itself, sprinkling a little extra flour if it sticks (try to add no more than 2 tablespoons of flour total). Knead the dough this way for 5-7 minutes, until it’s smooth and passes the windowpane test. (This means that you tear off a small piece of dough and pull it between your hands. If you can get it thin enough to see the light through it without the dough tearing, you’ve built up enough gluten while kneading and your dough is ready.)
- Lightly oil or butter a large bowl and put in the kneaded dough. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise at room temperature for 1 hour or until it’s doubled in size.
- After the dough’s first rise, punch it down lightly and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out into an approximately 16″x12″ rectangle.
- To create the swirl in the doughnuts, mix the water and ground cinnamon until there are no dry patches. Brush this mixture across the entire rectangle of dough so that there is an even coating of cinnamon. You may have to spread it out with your fingers, but be careful not to poke a hole in the dough. You will have some leftover mixture.
- Roll the dough up from the short side and don’t press or squeeze too tightly as you roll. Pinch the seam closed as well as you can so that there is no exposed cinnamon.
- Cut this roll of dough into 12 one-inch pieces. I find that a knife sometimes smashes the dough, so I use unflavored dental floss for this. Whatever you slice with, you’ll want to score the dough beforehand to make sure that your pieces are as even as possible.
- As you cut each slice, press down on it so that it’s flattened to about three inches in diameter and place it on a 4″x4″ parchment square. Loosely cover these slices with a sheet of plastic wrap and allow to prove 1 hour.
- Prepare the glaze while you wait: push the powdered sugar through a sieve if it’s lumpy, then whisk in the milk, vanilla, and salt. Add the melted butter and whisk until smooth.
- As the doughnuts near the end of their second proof, heat up your frying oil in the high-sided, heavy bottomed vessel of your choice. You’ll need enough oil to fill the pot to two inches, and there should be at least four inches of space at the top of the pot, just to be safe. Heat your oil on a medium flame to 350° F/175° C, then drop the heat down to medium-low to keep the temperature from getting too high. (The best and safest tool to check temperature is a candy thermometer, which will clip onto the side of the pot, but in a pinch, if you throw a 1-inch cube of white bread into oil and it browns in 60 seconds, the temperature is right for frying.) Keep your eye on the oil and adjust the heat as necessary to keep it from getting too hot, or, once you start frying, too cold.
- Use the parchment squares to lift the proven doughnuts and add them to the oil, frying no more than three or four at once. Flip them in the oil once they’ve reached a pale golden color on their undersides, then flip again to fry both sides until they are a light tan color. This slower frying method is to ensure that the doughnut cooks all the way through, but cut open the first one to come out of the oil just to double check. If it’s still raw inside, lower the heat slightly so the dough browns more slowly and cooks inside.
- Lift out the fried doughnuts with tongs or a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels or a rack.
- Allow the doughnuts to cool until they’re warm, then dip the top of each one in the glaze. The heat from the doughnuts will melt the glaze slightly and create a shiny base coat. Leave the doughnuts to cool for another few minutes, then dip in glaze again to create a slightly thicker coating.
- Eat immediately, preferably with good coffee. The doughnuts will technically keep until the next day, since the glaze holds in the moisture, but I don’t think you’ll have any leftovers.