There are plenty of ways to say I heart you this Valentine’s Day – but one of the nicest-looking, easiest decorating techniques I’ve seen is the stenciled powdered sugar heart. Even if you miss the mark it looks lovely – and there’s no need for an icing decorator set or frosting skills. If you have a piece of paper, cut out a heart, place it over your target (anything from cookies to cakes to doughnuts – chocolate is best for contrast) and dust away. For dark hearts on a light background, use cocoa powder instead of sugar.
We’re lucky to have a fabulous gourmet doughnut shop – Jelly Modern – close by, who do a range of Valentine’s Day-themed doughnuts:
If you’re not close enough to order a box, you can do it yourself – homemade doughnuts are all the rage this year, and easier to make than you might think.
These classic yeast-raised doughnuts can be flavored or glazed anyway you like. Try adding vanilla, orange or lemon zest or cinnamon to the soft dough, or experimenting with various frostings and glazes on your finished doughnuts. Leaving the middle inside will allow you to add a jelly filling, or keep it plain and you’ll have a great flat surface for your sugar hearts. The dough will be sticky – resist the urge to add more flour, it should be a bit tacky.
When it comes to cooking your doughnuts, use a light vegetable oil with a high smoke point (I like canola for its low saturated fat content and neutral flavor) and ensure it’s hot enough without smoking – the doughnuts should cook through all the way without turning too dark on the outside. If they take too long, they’ll absorb more oil and become greasy and heavy. If you have a thermometer, aim for around 350F.
Classic Yeast Raised Doughnuts
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups milk, warmed
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter or shortening, softened
canola oil, for cooking
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar (plus extra for dusting hearts)
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup milk
In a small bowl, stir together the yeast and water and set aside for 5 minutes. (If it doesn’t get foamy, toss it out!) In a large bowl, stir together the milk, sugar and eggs; add the yeast mixture and stir until well combined. Add 2 cups of the flour and the salt and beat until well blended. Add the butter and beat until incorporated.
Add the rest of the flour gradually, stirring (or using the dough hook on a stand mixer) until the dough comes together and isn’t too sticky. Continue to beat with the dough hook or turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Cover and let sit for an hour, until doubled in size.
Roll or pat the dough out and cut into doughnuts or rounds (if you don’t have a doughnut cutter, use a round cutter or glass rim, then another smaller round cutter for the middle). Cover and let sit for a half hour to an hour, until they puff up again. (They’ll rise even more as they cook.)
Heat a couple inches of oil in a heavy pot until hot but not smoking. Gently cook the doughnuts in batches, without crowding, turning as needed until golden on both (or all) sides. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.
To make the glaze, whisk together the ingredients in a small bowl until smooth; it should be thick but still pourable. Add more milk or sugar as necessary to make a fluid glaze. Dip the tops of the doughnuts and let them set on a wire rack. Once completely cooled, cut a heart shape out of the middle of a piece of paper or card stock, hold it over each doughnut and shake powdered sugar through a sieve overtop. Remove the paper.
Makes about 2 dozen.