Everyone loves doughnuts—anyone who says he doesn't is either lying or has never had a good one. A shiny glazed doughnut—soft, squishy and irresistable; an apple fritter that actually tastes like real apples; a cake doughnut that has the depth and tanginess of buttermilk. A good doughnut may be hard to find, but a good doughnut is not hard to make. With a wet and sticky dough and fresh hot oil, you will have a doughnut that is crispy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside.
I've found that most people aren't afraid of making doughnuts, they're afraid of frying them. Frying isn't difficult as long as you have the right equipment, stay organized, and follow a few simple rules. Choose a light, neutral vegetable oil such as canola. The amount of oil depends upon the size of your pan. Normally, the oil should fill the pan halfway. Use a deep, heavy-duty saucepan that holds and maintains heat and a deep-frying thermometer to monitor the temperature of the oil. If the oil isn't hot enough, you'll have heavy, greasy doughnuts. If it's too hot, they'll be dark on the outside and raw in the middle. Before you begin frying, have everything you need near the stove: the uncooked doughnuts, tongs or a slotted spoon, and paper towels for draining.
Over medium-high heat, bring the oil up to 375°F. One at a time, drop the doughnuts into the hot oil, leaving enough space between them so they're not crowded. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, until lightly browned and thoroughly cooked. Remove and drain on paper towels. Always check the temperature between batches and allow the oil to come back up to 375°F before frying the next round of doughnuts.
My friend Nancy Silverton is one of the greatest pastry chefs and bread bakers this country has ever produced. So when she gives a recipe for doughnuts, I'm sure to dog-ear the page it's on. She kindly allowed Serious Eats to feature a few of my favorite doughnut recipes from her book Pastries from the La Brea Bakery. I'll be posting them throughout the day, but first, here's her take on what may be the biggest stumbling block for most home cooks: the deep-frying process.