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.

In the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer, combine warm water, a wee bit of sugar, and yeast. Lots of yeast. 3 tablespoons of yeast.

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…

and place the dough onto the pan.

Shape it into a 6×6″ square. Yes, I realize my square is not really a square. Geometry was never my strong suit.and cover it with a clean towel.

Sidenote: I love making yeast breads. I love kind of nudging and nurturing them along and I kind of feel like I’m tucking them in for a cozy little nap (before I cut, fry, and eat them).

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.

Close the oven door and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour or until the dough is doubled. Remove the dough and the pan of water from the oven. Bring another large pot of water to a boil.

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.

Cut the dough into 12 5×2″-ish rectangles.

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.

While the doughnuts are cooling, prepare the maple frosting.

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).




  1. I wish I could eat through the computer screen right now! These look so delicious! I’m always afraid to fry stuff in the kitchen, but I may have to try these. Like TODAY!

  2. My dad used to make these for us once in a blue moon! He was a professional cook who worked with LARGE crowds so having him cook at home was a rare treat!! And making donuts for our itty bitty family was a rare treat indeed! Thank you for reminding me of a lovely memory.

  3. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!! We have plenty of donut shops around here, but NONE of them serve maple bars! I couldn’t believe it when I moved here 10 years ago, maple bars are my absolute favorite. We finally got a Dunkin’ Donut and they have maple iced, but it is not the same as their donuts are just not as good. I’m gonna try this, even though it looks a bit time consuming! 🙂

  4. These look incredible! I’ve never made doughnuts or fried anything but your directions are so precise that I think I’m willing to try this. Now I just need to round up a bunch of people to help me eat the doughnuts since I’m guessing they don’t keep well.

  5. Smart-alecky? Never! I’d just like to say that I am pretty sure the only thing mace is good for is defending yourself in a dark alley. I guess I could throw one of these bars at my attacker, provided there was mace in it.
    Looks amazing, Kate! There is a severe lack of donut shops around here as well.

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