Cambridge Edition: On Doughnuts

This was the one dessert that never left our menu, and the one that people seem to feel the most nostalgic about, when I talk to them about The Hole in the Wall. I almost feel like I’m letting you in on a secret just by sharing it.

I can’t quite take all the credit for these, as the original recipe comes from Justin Gellatly, former pastry chef at St. John and now the creative force behind Borough Market’s Bread Ahead. He refers to these, quite accurately, as ‘pillows of joy’ – and I was always struck by their lightness and how delicate they are.

Our secret is that they were always made fresh every day, and cooked to order (in very clean oil) for every table. It occasionally meant that there was a few left over after service – but the team never seemed to mind.

hole in the wall doughnuts

Hole in the Wall Doughnuts

Makes enough for about 25 doughnuts.

NB: you will need a small deep fat fryer or large saucepan and a digital thermometer. You can make the dough at least 24 hours in advance, and it will hold in the refrigerator for three days if you can’t quite face munching through 25 ‘pillows of joy’ in a single day. You will also need an electric stand mixer.

500g strong white bread flour

65g caster sugar

10g salt

15g fresh yeast (or 7g dried yeast)

4 large eggs

155ml tepid water

125g unsalted butter, diced and left at room temperature for an hour

sunflower or rapeseed oil for deep frying

Fix the beater attachment to the food mixer. Place the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, eggs and water in the bowl of the mixer and mix on medium speed for five minutes. Scrape the mixture down the sides of the bowl, turn on the mixer, again to medium speed, and begin adding the softened butter about 20g at a time. Once all the butter has been added, keep mixing for a further 6-8 minutes until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. It should be smooth and shiny.

Transfer the dough to a large bowl, dust with flour and cover lightly with a clean tea towel or cling film. Leave to prove in a warm place for two hours or until the dough has doubled in size. Knock back the dough, cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least four hours, or overnight.

Cut the dough into 40g pieces and roll into balls. Place on a floured tray (not too close together - they will double as they prove a second time), lightly cover with cling film and leave for two hours.

Half fill a deep fat fryer or large saucepan with fresh oil, and heat to 180 degrees C. Gently place the doughnuts, three or four at a time (don’t overcrowd the fryer) in the hot oil and cook for about two minutes on each side, turning halfway through the cooking process. If you end up with a tenacious air bubble, use a cocktail stick to burst it. Once cooked, transfer to a tray lined with kitchen paper to remove any excess oil, then roll in sugar (or a combination of sugar and cinnamon).

Because we served the doughnuts hot, we made a salted caramel dipping sauce to serve alongside. If you want to fill them, allow them to cool completely before piping a filling into the centre. In my experience, the hardest part is not eating them whilst they’re hot – but maybe you’ll have a little more self-control...