Baking challenge: jam doughnuts

Jam doughnuts

When I was a child, summer holidays were spent catching up with family in Belgium. Some of my most relished moments were the evenings spent at a local kermis (funfair), where I’d ride on shiny plastic horses on the carousel, or we might have a go on the bumper cars as a family. I liked being paired with my dad because he properly embraced the spirit of terrorising fellow drivers on the electric floor, driving very fast and crashing into friends and hapless strangers very hard. Between rides we’d eat the usual fairground food: a box of fries doused in mayonnaise, and for afters, a puntzak (paper cone) of smoutebollen, simple doughnuts made of a plain, deep-fried batter, coated in a powdery layer of icing sugar so thick you could see teeth-marks in it. Smout means ‘lard’ in Dutch, referring to the fat the batter was traditionally fried in; in the Netherlands, similar doughnuts are called oliebollen. I’ve never heard them called that in Belgium, though.

Sugared doughnut

Aside from these seasonal treats, I don’t remember doughnuts being a fixture of my childhood. That’s probably all for the best, in the long run.

Jammy doughnut filling

If I picture a doughnut, what comes to mind is one of those glazed American-style ring ‘donuts’, glossy with a chocolate-flavoured or pink icing and scattered with sprinkles. I didn’t know that traditional British doughnuts were round, sugar-dusted, and filled with jam until I was in my late teens. The doughnuts made for this recipe are this old-fashioned kind, sticky with jam and the caster sugar which coats them – and your lips – with sparkling shards. They are delicious – at their absolute best fresh, but they keep well for a few days. It turned out, too, that they resonated deeply with my British friends, who commented with delight on my obligatory Facebook photo. I hadn’t known people loved doughnuts so much. They are truly the original way to make friends and influence people.

Doughnuts in frying basket

Final observations: I used a deep-fat fryer for these because I was much too anxious to risk frying in a pot of oil on my gas stove. Please be careful making these, whatever method you choose. Also, deep-frying in summer is hot and difficult. Make these for people you really love who will be truly grateful.

Recipe below the jump, as ever.

This post is part of my challenge to bake my way through all the challenges of the Great British Bake Off. The challenge below is the technical challenge for week seven (sweet dough week) of series three: ten jam doughnuts.

Jam doughnuts
Recipe (with very minor amendments) from the BBC Food website.

Notes: the recipe calls for two jars of jam, but I used one and this was fine – my boyfriend actually said he liked that the jam didn’t squirt out when you took a bite. If you want very filled doughnuts, use the full two jars.

In spite of the instructions to use a strained jam, I used a thick, low-sugar, extra-fruit strawberry jam, because I thought the doughnuts would be sweet and rich enough. I was correct, but the thick-textured jam rich with whole berries, was much more difficult to pipe. I didn’t mind, but if you want an easier life, go for a very smooth, strained jam.

The recipe makes ten doughnuts – ten very large doughnuts. If you want more manageably-sized ones, try making 15 or even 20 small, bite-sized ones.

For the doughnuts

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 14g instant yeast
  • 10g salt
  • 150ml milk
  • 130ml water

For the filling

2 jars of strawberry jam

  1. For the dough, place all ingredients into a large bowl holding back a quarter of the water. Stir the ingredients together with your hands until a dough is formed.
  2. Slowly add the remaining water and knead the dough in the bowl for four minutes.
  3. Tip dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead well for 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  4. Place the dough into a clean bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise for between an hour to two hours (mine were ready after an hour and a half, when the dough is nicely risen and puffy)
  5. Tip the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface, and knock it back by kneading it a few times.
  6. Divide the dough into 10 equal portions and shape each portion into a ball.
  7. Place all balls onto a floured baking tray and allow to rise for between an hour to two hours.
  8. Preheat a deep fat fryer, filled with sunflower oil, to 180C (NB I actually found 170-175C a bit better for these).
  9. Lower each doughnut into the fryer, cooking each side for four-five minutes or until golden brown. Remove the doughnuts from the oil with a slotted spoon and immediately roll in caster sugar so that the hot fat makes the sugar stick to the sides.
  10. Set aside and leave to cool.
  11. When completely cool, use a small, sharp knife to make a cut into the side of the doughnut, reaching to the centre. Spoon the strawberry jam into a piping bag, or piping syringe. Pipe, or syringe, the jam generously inside.
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