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After the churro fry off, I vowed to never do another deep fried “bake off.” And yet two months later, I now have a glazed yeast donut fry off under my belt. This can be attributed entirely in part to collaborating with Elisa from @saltedrye, her wonderful group of friends who came to help, and of course my family. (Thank you for letting us fry 9 batches of doughnuts in the front yard, feeding us, and providing more helping hands!)
To me, the obvious choice for a donut fry off is a classic glazed yeast donut. When it comes to fried dough, I’m not that picky–I’ll eat anything from melt-in-your-mouth soft to a slightly breadier donut. But if I had to pick an ideal texture, it’d be airy and light with a slight chew. I generally don’t prefer chewier, brioche-style donuts as much as ones that have a gentle bite and mostly melt in your mouth, and I adore a really crackly glaze.
Let’s get on to the results!
- 27 total tasters
- All 9 recipes were fried the day of tasting
- Donuts were rolled ~1/2″ thick and cut using a 3″ ring
- All donuts were fried in canola oil in electric skillets
- Tasters ranked each donut on a scale from 0-10 for overall flavor, texture, and as a whole
- Ingredients were measured by weight according to the King Arthur website
- Gold Medal bleached all-purpose flour
- King Arthur bread flour
- Crisco shortening
- Kirkland vanilla extract
- Bob’s Red Mill baking powder and soda
- Morton kosher salt (I couldn’t find my normal Diamond kosher salt, so we used 2/3 the amount of salt called for in each recipe to account for the extra saltiness of Morton)
- Fleishmann’s active dry and instant yeast
- Imperial granulated sugar and powdered sugar
PARTNER NOTE: I’m delighted to be partnering with Imperial Sugar on this bake off as I’ve consistently used their consistent, high-quality pure cane sugar products throughout my bake offs. Imperial Sugar is non-GMO verified, allergen free and gluten-free!
For more sweet inspiration, you can visit Imperial Sugar to find more than 4,000 expert-tested recipes, free downloadable vintage cookbooks, sugar scrubs and bath products at the Sugar Spa, and lots of helpful guides on their blog. You can also check out their Pinterest, You Tube, Instagram for even more recipe inspiration!
Factors in the Yeast Donut Fry Off Recipes
- Flour: Chef Steps was the only recipe to use all bread flour while all other recipes used all-purpose flour. This made a clear difference as the Chef Steps recipe was significantly sturdier and chewier than all other recipes (which could also be due in part to the diastatic malt powder). If you like more chew (for those brioche-style donuts), definitely consider using bread flour!
- Potato: Female Foodie and Bravetart were the only recipes to use mashed potato in the dough. You can see from the above chart that both recipes used less milk than others–the potato seemed to replace this moisture which makes sense as the potato starch is supposed to yield additional moisture/tenderness. I found this to be more true with Bravetart than with Female Foodie. These recipes were different enough (Female Foodie uses more flour) that I couldn’t tell the specific difference the potato made. Bravetart was EXTREMELY soft with a nice chew whereas Female Foodie was sturdier with a more substantial chewiness.
- Honey vs. sugar: I didn’t expect the use of honey to make a big difference (Claire’s recipe was the only recipe to use honey), but it added a surprising depth of flavor. The honey came through quite strongly in a way that I loved! I can’t speak to how it affected the texture (too many confounding factors), but if you like the flavor of honey, I would definitely give her recipe a try.
- Whole eggs vs. egg yolks: Binging with Babish and Natasha’s Kitchen were the only recipes to use egg yolks instead of whole eggs. Both had slightly tighter crumbs, but I didn’t find them richer necessarily than other recipes. To me, using egg yolks is kind of a pain and I’d rather find a recipe that uses whole eggs.
- Fat: In the constant butter vs. oil vs. shortening debate, I didn’t find that I could detect a big flavor difference in the doughs from the varying fat sources. Most recipes called for butter, but I think you could easily swap out the fats in any of the recipes with minimal impact as the deep frying makes it harder to pick up the flavor in the dough.
- Nutmeg: Love it or hate it, nutmeg is the spice that adds that tiny “ooh, a donut” flavor to many donut recipes. Just a tiny amount generally helps enhance the flavor of your donut (and make it taste more like a donut shop donut). I was surprised that only Bravetart’s recipe called for nutmeg, where I think it added great flavor, though others didn’t prefer it. As someone who isn’t the biggest fan of nutmeg, I’d still recommend adding a tiny pinch to enhance whichever donut recipe you choose.
- Active dry vs. instant yeast: Just a note that you can use these two types of yeast interchangeably. For whatever reason, most of the recipes I used called for active dry. The only difference: active yeast has larger granules which require proofing in water before using, whereas instant yeast has smaller granules that you can mix in directly with the dry ingredients because they will dissolve more readily. Instant yeast will also rise slightly faster than active dry yeast so keep an eye on the rising time.
Video Tasting Review of all 9 Donut Recipes
If there’s one tasting video you can’t miss, it’s this one! Elisa joins me to taste our way (again) through all 9 donuts and we discuss notes on each one. I promise it’s much more coherent than just watching me talk about whatever the bake off subject of the day is 🙂
Results: Top Three Glazed Yeast Donuts
Though I normally post a chart showing all the scores of how each donut was ranked for taste and texture, I’m changing things up! I whole-heartedly believe all of these donuts are DELICIOUS and worth making (some with a few tweaks).
So here are the top three donuts, as rated by my specific group of tasters. It’s worth reiterating that there are a lot of places where donuts can go wrong (in the mixing, the proofing, the frying, etc.). While we tried our best to be true to the recipe, I note below where I think we may have made missteps which could have affected a donut’s ranking through no fault of the recipe developer.
Again, I think there is merit to ALL of these recipes. The donuts that follow the top three aren’t necessarily in scoring order, so I encourage you to skim the descriptions of each and find the donut that sounds right for you!
- Claire Saffitz
- Natasha’s Kitchen
Analysis: A Discussion of 9 Glazed Yeast Donut Recipes
Claire Saffitz: A honey-spiked, slightly cakey donut with an almost crunchy glaze
Claire’s quest to find a Krispy Kreme lookalike on Gourmet Makes led to a recipe that features honey instead of sugar and both oil and butter in the dough. The most unusual feature of her recipe is the use of refined coconut oil in the glaze (along with powdered sugar, vanilla, salt and whole milk).
While I don’t know if I’d call this a Krispy Kreme replica, the texture was pleasingly light and fluffy–not quite chewy, but not melt-in-your-mouth soft. It’s a little toothsome with an almost cakey, slightly breadier crumb that springs back after biting into it. I absolutely LOVED the salty honey flavor that came through in the dough, a perfect foil to the sweet glaze. I think the use of coconut oil helped with the firmer texture of the glaze (make sure to buy REFINED coconut oil, which won’t taste like coconut). My only complaint: I do feel like this donut absorbed a little more oil than some others, which led to a moister texture that some loved (others thought these were too oily). Claire calls for frying these at 325; I’d probably try frying at 350 next time to see if that reduces the greasiness.
- This was hands down my winner. The texture was perfectly soft and bready, and I loved the slightly salty/tangy flavor, a perfect balance to the vanilla glaze.
- Liked a bit of the crisp texture, the inside wasn’t cakey or springy, but in between. Classic donut.
- Great flavor! Well-rounded flavor profile that went beyond just sugar! The texture could have been improved (more airy).
- This was my favorite! It had hints of tea flavor and was crispy and light – basically the perfect donut!
- Taste’s like bob’s (fave donuts in SF!)
- Looks oiler than #1 or #2. The texture on the inside looks translucent – almost like a mochi donut. Upon first bite, it’s very oily but i like the chew! And I think I taste hints of honey?
- Unfortunately this one was one of my least favorite doughnuts! I liked the darker color of this doughnut. The crunch when you bit into it was really satisfying, also the honey flavor in the glaze was really delicious and unique! What ruined the doughnut was the greasiness! That batch of dough seemed to soak up too much of the grease after frying so when I bit into it all I could taste was grease and honey.
Bravetart: an airy, squishy-soft donut speckled with nutmeg
Bravetart was one of two recipes that uses mashed potato in the dough. According to King Arthur, the original Krispy Kremes were made with potato–the starch adds moisture to help promote tenderness. But noo, you definitely can’t taste the potato in the dough. Bravetart’s recipe also stood out for its use of baking soda in addition to yeast as well as a hint of grated nutmeg.
These were far and away my favorite pillowy, squishy texture. The soft and airy crumb compresses with each bite, lending a slight chewiness but also an airiness that makes it feel like these donuts are on the verge of melting in your mouth. We’re talking Hawaiian roll vibes, but make it a lighter, fluffier, sweeter donut. I also loved the donut-y flavor that just a hint of nutmeg adds (though others found it overwhelming). These donuts were actually written as a sugar-covered donut, so I used the Female Foodie glaze to coat these donuts. I might pair these with a slightly thicker glaze next time, but overall for a soft, squishy, flavorful donut, these were a winner!
- Good flavor. Very airy and glutinous.
- At first I wasn’t into it because of the spice, but… the flavor profile is fairly well-rounded. The texture is not bad but on the denser side. Surprisingly, I came back to it. This would be good for people who enjoy some spice
- Do I see flecks of vanilla beans? Or nutmeg, or cinnamon? I like how the inside color is a shade darker than the others – is there rye or whole wheat flour in there? Upon first bite, I love the chewiness and pillowy texture, plus the kick of spice (I can’t quite put my finger on what it is!) is wonderful 🙂
- Very good. There was a hint of a flavor that I couldn’t identify, like tea or something, that I didn’t care for, but the doughnut had a great moisture and sweetness.
- Good texture but I really wasn’t a fan of the spices in the dough – I prefer a plain yeasted donut.
- Too squishy
- This doughnut was very down the middle for me! The flavor of the dough and the icing were ok, however it was almost like the texture was too light and airy? Like it disintegrated too fast in my mouth.
Natasha’s Kitchen: a close-textured donut with a toothsome bite and a sweet vanilla glaze
Natasha’s recipe stood out for her use of egg yolks and also her “secret to the fluffiest homemade donuts”: scalded milk. She says she’s tested dough both ways and scalded milk yields the airiest dough. Scalded milk is heated to a near boil, then cooled, which denatures whey protein in milk. This basically allows easier gluten development, which results in fluffier/springier donuts. Her recipe calls for a simple vanilla glaze. Though you can make these in under 3 hours in one day, I used the overnight variation for the first rise.
It could have been baker’s error, but Natasha’s donuts didn’t expand very much in the oil, making for more petite donuts with a close-crumbed texture. I liked the toothsome bite of these–they’re a little chewy on the front end before kind of melting into your mouth. The vanilla is quite present (it’s in both the dough and glaze). The dough looked dry to me but was surprisingly not dry. Overall, a similar texture to Claire’s donut, but slightly cakier, closer-crumbed and a little less soft. A great pick if you’re looking for a not-as-chewy almost cake donut-esque hybrid.
- One of my favorite doughnuts! The dough was so light and airy I liked how it wasn’t heavy on my stomach. The glaze was really nice and it worked perfectly with the doughnut as well.
- Nice fine crumb, good glaze flavor, light and not too chewy
- Good vanilla flavor, nice moistness, a little on the heavier side for me.
- Fluffy, sweet, kind of borderline cakeish
- Texture looks more crumbly. Upon first bite, I like the big bubbles inside (looks almost honeycomb-like), and I love the soft texture! I love the thick, sweet glaze.
- Neutral/pleasant taste. Texture was ok/good – like what you’d expect from a donut shop
- Way too sweet, and I like sweet. Texture is more cakey/heavy, which I don’t prefer.
New York Times: a melt-in-your-mouth cloud-like cakey donut with a lovely vanilla flavor
This recipe was the closest to a benchmark recipe (it’s very similar to other popular recipes like Sally’s Baking Addiction, Joshua Weissman, Red Star Yeast, Bless This Mess, etc.). It’s a very straightforward recipe that can be made in under 2 hours, using milk, sugar, AP flour, butter and whole eggs.
Texturally, this donut was extremely fluffy and light with a delicate crumb that basically melts in your mouth. This donut had almost zero chew (since it just melts away). It absorbed more oil than some others, which could be fryer error, though we did fry it at the specified 375 degrees. The vanilla-scented glaze was quite sweet, making for a very sweet, decadent donut. I can see why this donut formula is so popular–this is my ideal melt-in-your-mouth texture, but just a little too greasy. I would love to try these again, but find a way to make them less oily!
- Good moisture, love the balance of crispy soft and oily
- Ethereally airy and cake-like with very little chewiness. Delicate like a sponge cake. Sweeter than all the others. I really like this one but wish the texture had a little bit more “oomph” to it – this one feels too delicate.
- I really liked the texture so I’d likely eat it again even though it skewed a bit too heavily iced for me
- The lightest. Positive for some, negative for others.
- Flavor was ok but too sugar-forward. Texture felt open but something felt off about it. Might’ve been just too sweet
- No distinct flavor, just a tad sweet. Texture is light, but I missed the chew or nice bite.
- Too oily, the taste of the oil overpowered the doughnut.
Binging with Babish: a rich, tight-crumbed donut with good chew and a thick, crackly glaze
Babish’s donut stood out for its use of all egg yolks (a similar proportion to Natasha’s Kitchen). Notably, it’s also the only recipe that didn’t call for any fat (oil/butter/shortening) in the dough. The glaze calls for a hot water glaze with just a tiny bit of corn syrup–I added a little extra water to the glaze and it was still by far the thickest glaze of the bunch (hard to scoop/drizzle).
Like Natasha’s Kitchen, Babish’s donut had a tight, toothsome crumb that was a little chewier and also on the drier side. (This could be baker’s error as I added a little more flour to get the very wet dough to come off the mixer walls. Elisa noted that she’s made this recipe before and this rendition was drier than how her donuts usually turn out) The egg yolks lent a nice yellow hue to the interior, which had a nice yeasty flavor. I thought the super thick glaze would be overly sweet, but it actually provided a nice thickness and foil to the slightly drier donut. I loved the consistency of this thick, crackly glaze and didn’t find it too sweet. I’d love to try this recipe again without adding extra flour (I’m guessing the texture would end up more like Mel’s Kitchen Cafe or Bravetart).
- Good flavor, closest to what I’m looking for in a donut so far
- Icing is thick and sweet while the donut is so lightly flavored. Felt that was a good move. Texture was ok, kind of like dense cake
- I found this doughnut to be on the dry side even though the crumb was nice and light
- I like how chewy this one is, but it’s also a little dry. I love the thick glaze on this one. It’s interesting – the appearance was so similar to [New York Times] but the textures of the two were completely different! [NYT] had no gluten development but [Babish] has tons of gluten for a nice chew, but it’s too dry. Smells like it has a slight tang – maybe buttermilk?
- Dough didn’t have any flavor. Texture was too bready and dense.
- Glaze was very thick and way too sweet. texture was pretty good but a bit on the denser/heavier side.
Mel’s Kitchen Cafe: a tall, chewy, perfect donut shop donut with a very light glaze
Mel’s recipe caught my eye as she calls it her “foolproof” recipe after trying many different recipes. Her ratios are fairly similar to NYT (less egg, more sugar, less butter) but she recommends an overnight rest in the fridge. She also uses a fairly standard hot water vanilla glaze.
I can see why this has become Mel’s go-to recipe–with a perfectly fluffy, tight, even crumb with a balanced chewiness and bite, this reminds me of a donut you’d get at a shop. Elisa and I both loved the way the dough compresses satisfyingly in the middle when you bite into it. The texture manages to be fluffy but chewy and light all at the same time. The flavor was nicely yeasty but a little bland for me. I feel this doughnut would be a great backdrop for additional decorations or flavor–a thick swoop of chocolate frosting with sprinkles, a great shell for a jelly donut, or maybe a drizzle of maple frosting?
- Chewy texture was delicious
- Liked the yeasty, clean flavor. Texture was great
- Flavor was on the lighter side, nice crumb but could use a little more flavor in the glaze. Tastes like a typical doughnut shop doughnut.
- Solid flavor, texture was a little dense but one of our favorites so far
- Ok wow thought I wouldn’t like this but I was into it. It was a bready donut with a decent chew to it (which I thought was dense on first bite but realized it’s a strength). In contrast, the flavor was underwhelming / lacking depth. But this is one of the two best donuts IMO.
- Quite dense, a little bready and chewy for my liking. Tighter crumb than I prefer, on the breadier side of the spectrum
- I like how chewy this one is, but it doesn’t taste like a doughnut – it tastes like challah. A very nice challah – slightly sweet and chewy, eggy.
Chef Steps: a tall, brioche-like, bready donut with substantial chew and a yeasty flavor
Chef Steps was the only recipe to use all bread flour (which has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour). It also used a mixture of oil and butter (like Claire’s recipe) and lists diastatic malt powder as optional (we used it) which helps promote browning and an enhanced rise through breaking more starches down into sugar, which yeast uses as food.
The enhanced rise from the diastatic malt powder could help explain why this donut was significantly taller than the others! It was also far chewier than the rest with a strong (but not rubbery) bite and a nicely yeasty flavor. This was Elisa’s favorite donut–she loved both the flavor (she got slight honey notes) and texture. I also enjoyed the chew of this donut, but generally would prefer a softer donut. Note: Elisa made this dough and never got the very wet dough to come off the paddle/sides of the mixer completely, but the donuts still turned out well! This is a clear winner for anyone who prefers good chew in their donut.
- This one has a salty-sweet flavor that I liked. Almost caramel flavored.
- Unique texture. Maybe a bit dry. Good crust.
- A little too chewy for my liking. Reminded me of a soft pretzel or challah
- The flavor didn’t stand out to me and the crumb was too bready for what I’m looking for in a yeast doughnut
- Looks very close textured and smells very bready. Love the dark crust on the outside! I do like the thickness of the glaze.
- Flavor had notes of sugar & milk. Texture was dense and quite bready
- I really enjoyed the flavor on this doughnut. The icing provided a great balance of sweet and dough! The dough itself seemed a little heavier so it was a bit heavier on my stomach
Female Foodie: a light, plush, fluffy donut with a beautifully open crumb and a runny glaze
As one of two recipes that uses potato in the dough, Female Foodie’s recipe diverged from Bravetart in that it uses oil in the dough instead of butter and adds a full cup more flour and additional milk. The original donuts are huge (the dough should be 1.5-2 inches thick to achieve the original shape), but we rolled ours smaller to get regular-sized donuts. It calls for a simple powdered sugar glaze (and a lot of it).
I loved the light, open-crumbed texture of this donut–they were chewy in a springy way, with a very lightly textured interior. They’re plush and airy, but not squishy in the style of Bravetart. The contrast of the golden exterior to the open crumb inside was extremely satisfying. The runny glaze set in a thin and crackly layer over the donut. Most tasters loved the texture of this donut but thought the flavor was a little bland. These donuts are meant to be eaten hot and fresh out of the fryer, and I think that would be an absolute dream, serving these donuts up to their highest calling. My only note: I would halve the glaze AT LEAST. We made a full batch of glaze to glaze half a batch of these donuts plus a batch of Bravetart’s donuts and ended up with a lot of leftover.
- Light and fluffy
- Tasted like a sugar donut but not overly sweet.
- Very close textured, but plush. Gorgeous amber color on the outside! The inside of the doughnut is a little bland and eggy. I feel like I’m eating day-old challah, but it’s not bad!
- I enjoyed how light and springy the texture was, but overall flavor seemed a bit lacking.
- I would have liked for it to be sweeter, but otherwise it was good.
- I loved the flavor of this doughnut! The icing was really good, not too sweet, not too runny. The only thing I disliked was it was a little heavy but I would eat it again.
Saveur: A melt-in-your-mouth, delicately light donut that uses shortening in the dough and butter and evaporated milk in the glaze
Saveur’s recipe is fairly similar ratio-wise to NYT but it doubles the yeast and sugar, uses 3/4 cup more flour, and uses shortening instead of butter. It also uses butter and evaporated milk in the glaze for a Krispy Kreme-esque glaze.
Similarly to NYT, this donut was extremely soft with a perfectly golden shell, an open, soft crumb and a melt-in-your-mouth texture. Unfortunately, this donut was also among the greasiest, absorbing quite a bit of oil into the soft crumb. It called for a frying temp of 325 (the lowest temp along with Claire) which could have been the reason why it was so oily (or fryer error of course). Elisa also posited that because the glaze uses clarified butter, it may have soaked into the dough slightly, enhancing the flavor of fat as the first thing you taste. I think this donut had huge potential as a soft, not-chewy style of donut, but I’d need to try re-frying them to see if I could get them less oily (would def try a higher temp).
- Dough was cakelike and light but icing was a little greasy
- Really soft and tender dough. I noticed the really soft textured doughs tended to absorb a lot of oil (compared to the chewier doughs) which really impacted the flavor on this one. (Noticed this with both [NYT] and this one, though this one was more pronounced.)
- This one I found too oily. But loved the more savory taste and light texture.
- The greasiest of all the doughnuts. Glaze was light/hard to discern because it was overpowered by the oil.
- This doughnut was similar to [NYT] in that it was very light and it was the most oily. It is nice in a small quantity, but I wouldn’t want to eat a whole one.
How to Make Great Glazed Donuts
Here are some tips I picked up along the way:
- How to tell if your dough is sufficiently proofed: If you poke the donut and the dough springs back right away, it’s underproofed. If the dough starts to deflate, it’s overproofed. If you poke it gently and the ident holds, it’s ready to fry!
- Overnight rest for best flavor: You already know that resting cookie dough overnight makes for a better flavor. The same is generally true for donuts. An overnight rest slows down the yeast rising process, allowing for a deeper, more complex yeasty flavor. (But no one will complain if you don’t.) Also, dealing with cold dough is so much more pleasant!
- Avoid re-rolling your scraps: Re-rolling scraps will make for lumpier, slightly tougher donuts. You can reincorporate the scraps and let the dough rest for a slightly better result. But my recommendation is to cut donut holes or fry the scraps as is!
- How to tell if your frying temperature is right: The grand majority of recipes I looked at called for an oil temperature of 350-375. The only recipes that called for a lower temp (325) were Saveur (which turned out very oily) and Claire (which somehow didn’t). It’s very possible we turned up the heat for her batch). Overall, I would recommend frying at at least 350. I also recommend frying a test donut–check the exterior color, then check if the inside is cooked. Obviously you should also sample the test donut, for science.
- If the outside is brown but the inside is raw, lower the temp.
- If the outside is taking a long time to brown and the inside is cooked, try increasing the temperature.
- Glaze when warm (but not hot!): If you glaze donuts fresh out of the fryer, the glaze will run right off. Waiting until the donuts are just a little warm (vs. cold) allows a more even distribution of glaze. But if you want a thicker layer of glaze, wait until the donuts are fully cool!
Best Yeast Donut Recipe Recommendations
- Flavor: Claire Saffitz
- Texture: Bravetart
- Flavor: Bravetart
- Texture: Chef Steps
- Best chewy donut: Chef Steps, Binging with Babish, Mel’s Kitchen Cafe
- Best melt-in-your-mouth donut: Saveur, New York Times
- Best soft and squishy donut: Bravetart, Claire Saffitz
- Best airy and chewy donut: Female Foodie, Natasha’s Kitchen