How to Make Delightful Gluten-Free Donuts

Craving some sweets this spring? Use our resident gluten-free baking expert’s tips to create beautiful, delicious light donuts that will impress all your friends.

Donuts or doughnuts—however you spell them, I love to eat them! Freshly fried and covered in warm, sweet glaze are my favorite kind. I use to be able to inhale a whole glazed donut at once, but I don’t suggest that you try it. Of course, these “oily cakes” contain a lot of history and nostalgia.

Generally, there are four major categories of donuts, based on the mixture’s texture. Of course, the number of shapes, flavors, colors and garnish can be infinite. The four major types of donuts are:

  1. Yeast-raised
  2. Cake-textured
  3. French “cruller” types
  4. Beignets

Yeast-raised speaks for itself: an enriched, yeast-leavened, soft-textured bread-dough-like product. These donuts are not too sweet until the exterior glaze is applied.

Cake donuts get their name from the soft, tender, cake-like crumb structure inside. They are highly enriched in a fat mixture, whether in a firm, tender dough type or the loose, wet batter type.

French crullers are a pâte à choux-based fried doughnut, while beignets are light, tender fried dough with the shortest shelf life (probably since people consume them so quickly!).

Making any of these versions of donuts gluten free can be quite challenging. It can be tricky to get the right texture and then help the donuts survive the frying process. If you don’t get it right, your gluten-free donut could disappear into the cauldron of hot vegetable oil forever!

Personally, I’d start with the cake donut variety first. Why? Because it is firmer and has a somewhat dry texture. Again, determining the optimum mixture texture is your biggest concern. A gluten-free flour blend with a high amount of protein can be helpful, especially since most are only carbohydrate-based flour blends. The use of some gums is a good idea, when used in the desired level. Too much, and you might have a donut that doesn’t expand and is quite tough; too little, and you may find yourself with a gum mixture that could dissolve away in the hot oil.

Changing the cake dough base into a batter-style mixture can limit the number of shapes but can also speed up things when frying. Of course, we are frying, so be aware of hot oil! Place, don’t drop, the donuts into the clean, hot 350° to 375° F oil. Keep all other liquids away from the oil.

Use good, fresh, clean gluten-free oil and use a good-quality probe thermometer to monitor oil temperature. Overly hot oil will be dark and can develop a bitterness, which can affect the product. Remember, depending on the gluten-free flour blend used, there can be a fast formation of surface color, so start by frying gently, not too hot or too fast. Periodically check the interior for a completely cooked texture.

Yeast-raised gluten-free donuts should be handled fast, not allowing excessive alcohol gas to build up in the mixture. If so, that flavor won’t cook out during frying. I prefer to make a yeast-raised donut much like a gluten-free bagel, with a soft, firm texture that I can pipe into the shape by using a pastry bag. I pipe it onto individual, lightly oil parchment squares, which then allow me to place them into the hot oil one at a time with a large, perforated metal spoon or metal spatula. I’d apply this same technique for crullers, unless I’m scooping out the shape via an oiled portion scoop.

Once fully fried, drain briefly on absorbent paper, then decorate. A hot donut will allow the garnish to adhere much easier and allow for a second application, if so desired. Be patient and, of course, ready and able to sample your results. When the donuts are garnished, folks will flock to them, lured in by the sultry aroma of frying oil.

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