Ahh, doughnuts. Few treats get children so excited! I’m personally not a fan of deep fat frying. My body doesn’t react well to the smell and when I eat it much my stomach feels unsettled. That, and my hips and thighs swell in a strange sort of allergic reaction. At any rate, when I’m the cook at the wheel, I prefer this healthier recipe for baked doughnuts. If you want to, have your little chefs assist you through the entire recipe. It’s not too difficult, and those little hands always get a kick out of kneading and rolling. Observing first hand the effect of yeast is a science project in itself. And since these are baked, not fried, they’re not only healthier, but you also have a little less to worry about in the burn department. As another option, you can have the doughnuts ready, and just let the children help with the topping. Either way, this cooking activity is sure to excite your little ones as they personalize each doughnut. Turn it into a literacy activity by reading a good book like The Great Doughnut Parade beforehand, or while the dough rises!
Here’s the to-do and to-what list:
2 pkgs (or 2 Tbsp) dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup vegetable shortening, margarine, or butter
1/4-2/3 cups sugar (depending on how sugar-free you’re trying to be)
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Toppings (melted butter, cinnamon sugar, sprinkles, powdered sugar glaze, etc.)
Mix half of the flour, the yeast, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
Melt the shortening in the water (but don’t get it too hot). Add the water, milk, vanilla, and eggs to the dry mixture and mix well. Slowly add in the remaining flour until you have a soft dough. Turn onto a flour dusted surface and knead just a few times. Place in an oiled bowl and cover with a towel. Let it rise in a warm (not hot) place for 30-60 minutes or until doubled in size. (I find that if I turn my oven on at 200 degrees for about 1 -2 minutes, then turn it off, it makes a perfect warm spot to speed up the rising time.)
Punch down the dough and turn it onto floured dusted counter again. Roll out about 1/2 inch thick. Cut out the doughnuts and place them on a greased cookie sheet, about 1 inch apart. Allow to rise for about 20 minutes while your oven preheats to 450 degrees. Bake about 10 minutes, but watch them closely because all ovens cook a little bit differently, and at 450 degrees a little extra time makes a big difference! When they are just a bit golden, remove from the oven.
Give each child a doughnut to first “paint” with a pastry brush and melted butter, or powdered sugar glaze (mix powdered sugar and milk until it is about the consistency of Elmer’s glue). Then they can either shake on sprinkles, dip in cinnamon sugar, or top in whatever other way you can imagine! Serve while still warm! Then maybe you can have a doughnut parade of your own!
**Don’t be afraid of yeast bread recipes. As I mentioned before, it is a great science experience and it doesn’t have to be complicated. I prefer SAF yeast. You add it directly to your dry ingredients, and don’t have to mess with the whole warm water and sugar concoction. Give it a shot!