Food & Drink

How to Reheat Doughnuts

My dad didn’t cook often when I was growing up, but the dishes he did make were excellent. There’s one cooking hack he’d pull out for breakfast that I still use today: re-frying doughnuts. He learned it from his parents, I learned it from him, and now this easy treat evokes a sense of nostalgia in me strong enough to share it with you. This breakfast specialty starts with nothing more than a slightly stale pastry, but yields a crisp, buttery, and sweet doughnut I think is better than the original.

The magic of a re-fried doughnut lies in its texture. My dad’s sweet creations would have a super crisp layer of caramelized sugar on both sides, similar to the top of a crème brûlée, that satisfyingly cracked as you cut into them. The technique is simple: you start with day-old, plain glazed doughnuts (as Texans, we preferred Shipley Do-Nuts plain glazed). They can be refrigerated overnight, or covered and left at room temperature until the next day. Heat two or three tablespoons of melted butter or margarine in a medium nonstick skillet until melted. You want enough butter to coat the entire bottom of the pan, so you’re truly re-frying the pastries. Using a nonstick skillet is essential, since you’ll be dealing with hot, sticky sugar.

Once your butter is very hot and sputtering, — bordering on starting to brown — place the doughnuts in the pan, being sure to not crowd them. Let the doughnuts sit undisturbed for about two minutes, then check to see if they are starting to crisp up. Once the surface begins to  caramelize and you see a darker golden brown color developing, flip them over and cook the other side. The butter will likely begin to brown during this process, which adds even more rich, nutty flavor. But if you notice that it’s starting to burn, reduce the heat a little and add a small piece of cold butter to the pan. Sugar and butter are two things that can burn fairly quickly as they cook, so you’ll want to stay ready at the stove throughout this entire process. If your doughnuts were refrigerated overnight, then place a lid over them for a minute or two as they cook to help them fully reheat through the center. After both sides have been re-fried until crisp, remove the pastries from the heat and let them cool for a few minutes. The sugar will firm up more as they sit, giving you that perfect crunch as you cut into each doughnut with a fork and knife — and I can assure you, this is definitely a fork and knife situation.

This trick works best with classic yeast doughnuts, but you could also cut cake or old fashioned doughnuts in half like a hamburger bun and then toast them cut-side down in a pan of melted butter; they won’t be caramelized, but they certainly will be delicious. I love re-frying glazed doughnuts because it’s so simple in concept and execution, but the caramelized product is one of the easiest ways you can wow and impress brunch guests. It’s also a small way to reduce food waste, since lots of doughnut shops throw out or give away items they didn’t sell that day. You’re just one morning away from learning that doughnuts are good, but re-fried doughnuts might be even better.

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