Episode 7, GBBO 2012, technical challenge

Jam Doughnuts

“A naughty treat that’s unbeatable when eaten warm and covered in sugar.”

That’s the description for Paul Hollywood’s jam doughnuts on the BBC website. And it’s true. But making anything that has to be fried in hot oil is not my favorite way to spend a hot day in July (no matter how naughty the outcome)!

So in what may have been a stroke of genius, I decided to move the fryer outside, to our screen porch, so I wouldn’t have to heat up the house or deal with the smell of frying oil that seems to permeate the whole house, often lingering for days.

But of course first I had to make the dough. It is not that difficult, just a bit time consuming. As with most bread doughs, it requires two proofs, so give yourself a good 3 hours, at least. The bakers on the Great British Baking Show only had 2½, so they really had to hustle!

As Paul points out in the Masterclass (episode 2 on Netflix), this is quite a wet dough, so it helps if you have a mixer with a dough hook. That way you don’t have to get your hands all messy. But you’ll still want to knead it by hand so it doesn’t get overworked, and the kneading can be a bit tricky, since the dough wants to stick to your hands. My advice is to cover your hands with flour, and sprinkle it liberally onto the dough as well as the surface where you’re kneading. The dough will lose its stickiness as you knead it, and when it feels smooth and elastic, it’s ready for the first rise.

When it’s doubled in size, after about an hour, the dough will look very sponge-like when you pull it away from the bowl. Dump it out and divide it into 10 equal-sized pieces. Roll them into smooth balls and leave them to rise for another hour, until doubled in size again.

These seemed like massive doughnuts to me, but I guess you want them large enough to hold the jam. If I hadn’t been following Paul’s brief, I would have made them smaller—at least to get an even dozen out of the batch.

By the time my doughnuts were proved I had my fryer set up on the screen porch and ready to go. Let me just say that you don’t have to have a deep-fat fryer to make doughnuts (or any other fried foods for that matter), but it helps tremendously. I remember my mom frying doughnuts in a deep saucepan on the stove, using a large thermometer to try and maintain the right temperature by turning the heat up and down as needed. It’s a lot easier to plug in the fryer and set the temperature where it needs to be.

Because you can only fry one or two doughnuts at a time, it’s important to keep the raw ones covered, either with plastic wrap or a damp towel. I forgot to do that, so my doughnuts formed a skin that made for some large air bubbles when they were frying. I actually had to hold them down in the hot oil to keep them from flipping over.

Other than that, I didn’t have any problems frying them, except for the fact that they lost their nice round shape when I had to peel them off the parchment paper. Maybe putting them on a floured baking sheet, like it says in the recipe, would have been a better idea. Note to self: I guess Paul Hollywood knows a thing or two when it comes to bread dough!

I drained the doughnuts on paper toweling for a minute or two and then popped them into a bowl of sugar to coat them generously. I let them cool completely before filling with jam.

Since I happened to be making these on the 4th of July, I decided to fill half the doughnuts with strawberry jam and half with blueberry jam. I had some homemade strawberry jam in the freezer, which I had thawed the day before, and some blueberry jam that someone had given me for Christmas. Because they were both a bit chunky, I pureed them in the blender to make for easier piping. Or so I thought.

The piping, it turns out, was the hardest part for me, maybe because I don’t have one of those syringes that they used under the Great White Tent. 

First, I tried an old-fashioned cake decorator—you know, the metal ones that also work as cookie presses? Yes, I still have one of those; I use it to make spritz cookies every Christmas. (I’ve thought about replacing it, but the new ones don’t come with my favorite cookie press shape—the camel!) I thought the plain, cone-shaped nozzle would work well, but apparently my jam was not thick enough, because it started leaking out everywhere.

So I tried a regular piping bag with a really narrow tip, but that didn’t work either. In the end, what worked best for me was a turkey baster! It also allowed me to see exactly how much jam I was putting into each donut, so I could make them about even. The only problem was, by this time, I had tried to fill almost all the donuts, so only the last two or three turned out with a nice amount of filling. The rest of the jam seemed to end up on the outside of the doughnuts! Fortunately, I found that rolling them in sugar covered a multitude of sins! 

At least I can say they were well-cooked (i.e., not raw!) and a good texture inside. My one caveat, though, is that they are best served the same day they are fried. As with all doughnuts, they don’t keep very well.

Here is a link to Paul Hollywood’s jam doughnut recipe, but I have adapted it below for American bakers.

Paul Hollywood’s Jam Doughnuts

Credit: BBC.com
Adapted for American bakers


  • 3¾ c. bread flour
  • ¼ c. superfine (or baker’s) sugar
  • 2½ T. unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 pkgs. yeast
  • 1½ t. salt
  • 5 oz. milk, warmed to 120°F
  • 4½ oz. water
  • 2 quarts (approx.) sunflower oil
  • Sugar for coating
  • 1 c. jam, pureed or sieved (allows for spillage)
    • Directions

      1. Place flour, sugar, butter and eggs in a large mixer bowl fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add yeast and salt to opposite sides of the bowl. Begin mixing as you pour in the milk and about 3 ounces of the water. (Alternatively, you can mix with your hands, but it will be very messy.)
      2. When a dough is formed, gradually add the rest of the water and continue mixing for about 4 minutes.
      3. Tip dough onto lightly floured surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. (Dough will be very sticky at first, but will gradually become less so. Dusting with a small amount of flour will help.)
      4. Place dough in a clean bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and let rise for an hour. When the dough has doubled in size, tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knock the air out by kneading a few times. Divide into 10 equal portions and shape into smooth balls. Place all the balls on a floured baking sheet and let rise another hour.
      5. Heat oil in deep fat fryer to 350°F. When doughnuts have doubled in size, lower one or two at a time into the hot oil, cooking for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown, on each side. (Keep the rest covered with plastic wrap or a damp towel until you put them in the fryer.) Remove doughnuts from the oil to a paper towel with a slotted spoon and almost immediately roll in sugar. Set aside to cool.
      6. When doughnuts are completely cool, use a thin, sharp knife to make a cut in the side of each one, reaching to the center. Use a piping bag or cupcake/doughnut filling syringe (or a turkey baster) to fill the doughnuts with jam.
      7. Serve immediately.

      Next week: An Enriched Celebratory Loaf

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