I have a confession: I am not a huge fan of maple. If I have a choice between maple syrup and Buttermilk Syrup, I’ll choose the Buttermilk Syrup every time. I don’t even really like the smell of it; it reminds me of icky babies that need a bath (don’t ask–anyone who’s spent any in-person time with me will tell you that I have a very irrational sense of smell).
My exception? Maple bars. I love maple bars. They remind me of my dad and the occasional Sunday School hooky-playing when we’d have a quick maple bar and Diet Coke before we headed back to the rest of church.
A few weeks ago, I was browsing cookbooks on Amazon (because it is way too hard to do any effective cookbook browsing when I have kids with me) and stumbled across a cookbook from Top Pot Doughnuts, one of my favorite doughnut shops in Seattle. I had to snatch up a copy and then when it came, I started making a list of the recipes I wanted to make. And then I realized I wanted to make everything. So I let my husband choose and he promptly threw the pumpkin doughnuts out the window (boo) and teetered between apple fritters and maple bars before deciding on the almighty bar. And we didn’t regret it.
I have to say a few things about this cookbook (and I have not been compensated in any way to say any of this) because it’s very rare that a cookbook knocks my socks off. I’ll admit that doughnut-making is a tiny bit daunting, and there aren’t a lot of shortcuts or easy outs in this book. However, the instructions are incredibly thorough–they use exact measurements (like ingredients by both weight and standard measurements) as well as tactile, practical cues (like descriptions of how the dough should look and feel). It makes doughnut-making a fun challenge rather than a scary endeavor. They take huge-scale recipes and professional methods and adapt them for home kitchens, which is a task in and of itself, and then they succeed, which is even more admirable. So if you’re looking for a fun little niche cookbook to keep you busy on rainy afternoons, I totally recommend this one.
Anyway. Unpaid Kate endorsement over. For the dough, you’ll need bread flour (which has more protein and helps the dough withstand the beating it’s about to take, plus it gives the doughnuts a great, airy texture with a nice chew to them), yeast, baking powder, egg yolks, shortening, table salt, vanilla, and sugar. This recipe also called for mace, but I reeeeeally don’t like mace, so I left it out.
Don’t email me asking if it REALLY is 3 tablespoons of yeast because it really is. Patti, I can see the gears in your brain working all the way from Louisiana and I fully expect a smart-alecky comment/email at some point today.
While the yeast is proofing (check out this tutorial if you’re nervous about using yeast), whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and mace (if you’re using it).
When the yeast is bubbly and fragrant, add the shortening, egg yolks, and vanilla. Mix together with the paddle attachment on low or medium-low speed for about 1 minute. The shortening won’t be completely combined, but it will be broken up. Add approximately 1/3 of the dry ingredients mixture and mix on low until blended and then add another 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix until combined.
Switch the paddle attachment for the hook attachment and add the remaining dry ingredients. Mix on low until there aren’t any white spots remaining (see? That’s a line straight from the book and I love how specific it is!). Add enough flour so the dough comes together off the bottom of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and allow it to knead for 2 minutes. The dough should be smooth but tacky (again…I couldn’t have said it better!)
While the dough is kneading, begin bringing a large pot of water (a little over 2 quarts) to a boil.
Sprinkle a baking sheet with all-purpose flour…
Pop the pan into your oven. Place a 9×13″ dish underneath the pan of dough and pour the boiling water into the 9×13″ dish. This replicates an industrial proof box and it is not nearly as scary or work-intensive as it sounds.
Roll the dough out into an 11×12″ rectangle, about 1/2″ thick. Use a pizza roller to trim about 1/2″ off each edge. I rolled mine out on a Roul’Pat and cutting on them is not cool, so I used a plastic pizza cutter and it was magic.
Carefully slip the flat side of a flexible scraper (like this) under the long side of the dough rectangles to transfer them to a lightly floured baking sheet, spreading them about 1″ apart.
Place the pan(s) uncovered back into the oven and pour the boiling water back into the 9×13″ pan placed underneath the pans(s) of dough. Allow the dough to rise 30-45 minutes (or longer), until they have doubled.
When the dough is almost done rising, pour 2+ inches worth of peanut oil into a high-sided pan. If you can’t/don’t want to use peanut oil, you can use canola oil because they both have high smoke points, but canola oil can take on a fishy odor and flavor when it is cooked at high heats whereas peanut oil remains flavorless. Use a candy thermometer to measure the heat and when it reaches 350 degrees, use the flexible spatula to carefully remove the risen bars and place them in the oil (2-3 at a time–don’t crowd the pan!) Cook for about 30-40 seconds on one side or until light golden brown, then flip and cook for another 20 seconds or until golden brown. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels and repeat with the remaining dough, frying in batches of 2-3.
Combine 1 lb. powdered sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoon light corn syrup, 1/4 teaspoon table salt, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon maple extract, and 1/3 cup hot water (or more if needed). Whisk together until smooth.
Dip the domiest (yes, I totally just made that up) side of the cooled bars in the maple icing and smooth it out if necessary. Allow to dry for 10-15 minutes before eating. Welcome to the best doughnuts I’ve had in a looooong time (we’re lacking in the doughnut department in my particular neck of Louisiana).
Recipe lightly adapted from Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts
3 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 cup very warm (105 degree) water
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon white sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon mace (optional; I left it out)
2 teaspoons table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4-4 1/2 cups bread flour
1/4 cup shortening
3 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Peanut oil for frying
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon maple extract
1/3 cup (plus more if needed) hot water
Combine the yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1 cup very warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Allow it to proof for 5-10 minutes or until frothy.
While the yeast is proofing, combine the sugar, mace (if using), baking powder, salt, and 4 cups of flour in a large bowl. When the yeast is ready, add the shortening, egg yolks, and vanilla and mix with the paddle attachment for 1 minute to break down the shortening. Add 1/3 of dry ingredients and mix on low until blended. Repeat with the next 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Switch to the hook attachment and add the remaining 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Mix until no white spots remain and then turn the mixer to medium speed and knead for 2 minutes.
While the dough is kneading, bring a large pot of water to a boil (a little more than 2 quarts of water). Lightly flour a baking sheet.
When the dough is done kneading, transfer it to the prepared baking sheet. Form a 6×6″ square and cover it with a clean cloth. Place the pan in the oven and place a 9×13″ pan on the rack beneath the baking sheet. Pour the boiling water into the 9×13″ pan and close the door to the oven. Allow the dough to rise for 1 hour or until doubled.
When the dough is done rising, remove it from the oven and place it on a lightly floured surface. Bring another pot of water to a boil. Roll the dough into an 11×12″ rectangle. Use a pizza cutter to trim 1/2″ off all the edges of the dough. Cut the dough into 12 rectangles about 5×2″ big. Use a flexible scraper to carefully transfer the dough rectangles back to a floured baking sheet, spaced about 1 1/2″ apart. Place the baking sheet uncovered back into the oven and pour the boiling water back into the 9×13″ dish. Rise for 30-45 minutes (or more), until the dough is doubled.
When the dough is almost done rising, heat 2+ inches of peanut oil in a large, high-sided pot with a candy thermometer attached to it. Heat it to 350 degrees. When the oil is hot enough, in batches of 2-3, use the rubber scraper to carefully transfer the rectangles to the hot oil and fry for 30-40 seconds and then flip and cook for another 20 seconds or until golden brown. Remove from the hot oil, allow to drain on paper towels, and repeat with the remaining dough.
While the dough is cooling, whisk together the icing ingredients. Dip the dome-iest side of the bars into the icing and spread it out if necessary. Allow to stand for 10-15 minutes (at least) before serving. Makes 12 doughnuts.