How to Make Letter Donuts.

Way back in April, I started planning out my May bakes. I’ve talked about my monthly planning process before, but if you missed it – I usually plan the entire month of bakes all at once. Usually one or two things a week – something dessert-y and something breakfast-y/afterschool snack-y. It keeps me on track and help reduce decision fatigue throughout the month. Having too many options isn’t always a good thing, for me at least.

Anyway, I knew that I wanted to do something super fun for the last day of school for the boys (and for me! lol). Cake? (Did that last year for the last day of school, so meh.) Pie? (A possibility, but I make a lot of pie during the summer, so I didn’t want to overdo it right off the bat.) Donuts? Now here, we had a real possibility. I’ve only made homemade yeast donuts one other time and they were gooooood, but I wanted to do something kind of wild. I wanted to make donuts in the shape of letters. Donuts with a message!! Please don’t give me all the credit for this idea though. It’s not that original. I’ve seen donut shops make letter donuts, and I’m sure I saw it on Pinterest long ago. And when I was researching how to do it, I watched a few helpful YouTube video tutorials. But could I do it? Well, obviously, I gave it a shot and they turned out SO CUTE. You guys, the possibilities are endless here!! You could make any message you wanted! What a cute centerpiece for a baby shower, a birthday party, anniversary, graduation party, etc. I mean like I said…endless. I wanted to jot down a few notes here for future reference for you (and for me) if you ever decide you want to give letter donuts a try.

If you’d like to read the full recipe from the original source at Delish click here. I used the “how to make donuts at home” recipe and it did not disappoint. The recipe comments were especially helpful when thinking through how to make the dough the best it could be.

I will jot the recipe down here too, just in case it ever disappears from their website. I also plan to add this recipe to my family cookbook (I just write all of our “keeper” recipes in one notebook to have all together.). This is one I will make again. I’m including my edits to the recipe here (less flour in the dough, more milk in the glaze) so if you want the original, go to their site!

Yeast Donuts

1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, divided
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 cups plus 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Canola or vegetable oil, for frying

1/3 cup whole milk
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Grease a large bowl with cooking spray and set aside. In a small, microwave-safe bowl add the milk. Microwave until lukewarm, 40 seconds. Add a teaspoon of sugar and stir to dissolve, then sprinkle over yeast and let sit until frothy, about 8 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 4 cups of the flour and the salt.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together remaining sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla.

Pour in yeast mixture, mix to combine, then add in dry ingredients, stirring until a shaggy dough forms.

Turn out onto to a lightly floured surface and knead until elastic and only slightly tacky, adding more flour a teaspoon at a time if needed, about 5 minutes.

Form into a tight ball then place dough in oiled bowl and cover with a clean dish towel. Let dough rise in a warm spot in your kitchen until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Alternatively if making letters: make sure that the donuts don’t lose their shape when moving them to the Dutch oven to fry, you can put donuts on individual squares of parchment paper and just gently tip them into the pot when you’re ready to fry.

Punch down dough, then turn onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a ½” thick rectangle. Using a donut cutter or 3” and 1” biscuit cutters OR letter cookie cutters, punch out your donut. Re-knead scraps together and punch out as well.

**To make letters, I just rolled out the dough a little thinner than 1/2″ and I used medium sized letter cookie cutters. The dough was a little tricky to get through all the way through cleanly with my plastic cookie cutters, so if you roll the rolling pin on top of the cookie cutters it forces it through and was so easy to get off. I think metal cookie cutters would probably work a little better if you need to buy some, but the plastic did work fine!

Place donuts and holes onto baking sheets, cover with dish towel, and let rise again, about 40 minutes more.

Make glaze: In a large bowl, whisk together milk, powdered sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.

Line a large baking sheet with paper towels. In a large dutch oven over medium heat, heat 2” oil to 350°. Cook donuts, in batches, until deeply golden on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Holes and small shapes will cook even faster!

Transfer donuts to paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain and cool slightly. Dip into glaze, then place onto a cooling rack (or eat immediately!).

I hope you guys try these!! In the shape of letters or not! They were declared delicious in our house.

Sources for the curious:
My beloved enamel Dutch oven.
– I would like to be buried with my kitchen aid mixer.
Best cookie sheets ever. I like the extra large size, but be forewarned that they are truly huge. If you’re short on space, look for this medium size.
This candy thermometer has never done me wrong. This is one recipe you truly do need a thermometer for.
– Alphabet cookie cutters. Metal. Or plastic.
– We store all of our dry goods in jars. The gallon cracker size is great for bulk things like flour, sugar, pasta, rice. We use the half gallon size for whole wheat flour, snacks, cereal, etc. and then, these small latching jars are great for dry beans, lentils, quinoa, nuts, cocoa powder, etc.
– I always use this yeast brand.
– I use these enamelware mixing bowls every single day.
– The best cooking rack.
– I want these sweet plates for serving little treats.
– I don’t usually wear an apron when I bake, but maybe I should?! Well, on second thought, maybe I’ll just make my own.
– I’ve been looking for a cute storage solution for muffins, and other small baked goods (like donuts!) this is a good one.

Please also note this terrifying surprise I found in the cookie cutters. Life with three little boys is never dull!

My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe.

We have gone through many, many chocolate chip cookies. I just feel like a home with three little boys and two adults should have homemade cookies on the counter at (nearly) all times. And let’s agree that of the multitude of cookie options in the world – chocolate chip cookies are the best. Sure, I love peanut butter, and oatmeal, and sugar, and and and, but chocolate chip cookies just scream HOME. But I don’t want any old chocolate cookie. I expect Greatness.

So, let’s talk recipes – I’ve tried many. Many many. I should probably be embarrassed by the number of recipes I’ve tried. I’ve tried the Levain Bakery Recipe, the world’s best recipe on nytimes, Joanna Gaines’ recipe from her cookbook, like three different recipes from the 100 cookies cookbook, the one on the tollhouse chocolate chip bag, the one on the Ghiradelli bag, a few random ones that have really great reviews on, a whole bunch of others that aren’t worth talking about, and finally, finally, I have this one. My favorite. It’s from Everyday Reading‘s blog, which is…not a cooking blog and honestly it’s not one that I even follow closely, but I was so sold by her description when I read it a few years ago that I had to try it. If you haven’t noticed – it doesn’t take much to convince me to try something. I quickly declared it my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe of all time.

But then after a few batches of Greatness, I decided that I had better keep trying others just in case because everyone else also says that they have the best recipe. And what if a better cookie is out there, but I haven’t tried it because I was so into this one?? But I’ve been underwhelmed by all others. This one is still it for me. Not gonna say I won’t keep trying others (just in case!), but these are the cookies I make when we have guests or when I’m bringing cookies to a party, or when I just want a really good cookie. When baked correctly, they’re done one the outside, but still perfectly soft on the inside. Not crunchy, not underdone – just perfect texture on the outside and inside. They’re beautiful. Beautiful! I know that it shouldn’t matter if a cookie is pretty or not if it tastes good, but these are PRETTY. And that means something to me. They’re what you want your cookies to look like when you’re sharing them with the world. And the taste – they’re just so dang good. Make them. Just try it. Tell me what you think! Are they really as good as I think they are? Do you have a better recipe? Because if you do – I need to try that one too. Just to make sure that this one really truly is THE best.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
1 3/4 cups purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
coarse salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375.

In a stand mixer, beat butter for about a minute. Add sugars and beat another minute or two. Scrape down sides of mixer with a rubber spatula. Add vanilla and egg. Beat again.

Add the flour, soda, and salt. Mix JUST until combined. It will look over-floured for a few seconds, but should come together fairly quickly.

Mix in the chocolate chips.

Scoop golf-ball size spoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheet, sprinkle each ball with a pinch of kosher or sea salt and bake for 9-11 minutes. They should be light-colored and puffed when they come out of the oven, but dry-looking (not shiny or wet). I often give them a little squish out of the oven on all the sides with a spatula to get that extra crinkly look on top. Then, let cool on the pan for about 3 minutes then transfer to cooling rack.

**Notes: For the cookies you truly deserve – use Ghiradelli 60% Cacao. It really does make a difference.

And if you know me at all, you know that I am partial to King Arthur’s unbleached all purpose flour in all things baking.

For perfectly sized cookies, I use this cookie scoop and I honestly don’t know how I lived without one before.

Heart Hand Pies.

Don’t know if you’re keeping track, but there are exactly 21 days in which to fit as many heart themed treats as humanly possible. I just counted. So far at our house, we’ve made heart shaped chocolate chip cookies, sprinkled heart shaped sprinkles on everything we’ve eaten, made heart shaped banana muffins in a heart mold, cut strawberries into the shape of hearts and even smushed rice into a heart cookie cutter to make heart rice. Lol I know, I know. I’ve gone too far. I know what you’re thinking. Come on, Em! We all know that Valentine’s Day is a total commercialized crock of garbage! We don’t need one day to celebrate love! You know what my answer is? I don’t care! Nope! Not a bit! I love it! I love celebrating all holidays, commercialized or not. It’s an opportunity to make something special for my kids. And of course, an opportunity to foster my own personal joy too.

I love miniature pies in all forms, and these little heart hand pies are up there on my favorites list. If you would like to know how I made them, you have come to the right place. (See here and here for other mini pies I’ve done in the past).

Now…of course you can and should use pie crust from the grocery store if that’s more your speed, but if you’ve never made a pie crust before you might try it! It’s incredibly easy after a little practice. I’ve always used Erin McDowell’s All Buttah crust from The Book on Pie and it’s never gone wrong on me, but there are a myriad of recipes out there. Find your favorite! For the filling – I just used regular old strawberry jelly from the jar, but you could do anything here. Pie filling, butter and brown sugar, lemon curd, cream cheese, Nutella. The sky is the limit really.

Alright let’s get down to the recipe, shall we? If you can even call if a recipe. It’s more of a method than anything. Get or make pie crust, cut out shapes, poke vents in top crust, add filling, add top crust, crimp, egg wash, bake. Those tiny hearts in the picture? Those are just little heart pie crackers. No filling. I just added egg wash, a sprinkle of Demerara sugar and baked.

Heart Hand Pies

2 pie crusts
Filling of your choice
Egg wash (one egg whisked with one tablespoon water)
Demerara sugar or drizzly icing

Begin by preheating your oven to 375. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Roll out your pie crusts on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch. Cut out as many hearts as you can (or any other shape!). Keep re-rolling the scraps until you have used as much as you possibly can. You (I hope obviously) want an even number. At this point I used the small cookie cutter to cut little heart cookies with the extra crust. If at any point your pie crust is feeling warm or too floppy to work with, put in the fridge or freezer for 5-10 minutes to firm back up. The colder they are, the better they will hold their shape while baking.

Now, set the bottom crust on your cookie sheet, add pie filling. How much will depend on the size of your shape. I used about a tablespoon, but wish I had squeezed in more. As for the top crust, you need to add vents with a fork or knife. This releases steam while you’re baking so the tops don’t burst in the oven. After adding the vents, place the top crust over the bottom, lining up the edges. Use a fork to crimp around all edges of your hand pie. Brush the tops of each pie with your egg wash and sprinkle Demerara sugar on top, if desired. (I sprinkled sugar on half and did icing on the other half after they were cool, but I have to tell you that the ones with icing were eaten first.) Again, after all this if your pies are feeling loose or floppy, stick them in the freezer or fridge for a few minutes to firm up. They will bake up much better if they’re cold!

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top and on edges. Let cool, and add icing if using. Enjoy!