These doughnuts are yummy, healthier and sourdough but not sour! It’s a great recipe if you and your stomach want to avoid a large quantity of oil, or if the violent heat of deep-frying terrifies you. I’m an oil wimp myself, so when I got an airfryer I thought ‘Yay, gonna make doughnuts!’ These doughnuts (or donuts, if you prefer) are not the denser cake-like baking powder ones but are made with a sourdough-leavened loose brioche-like dough and the airfryer makes them puff up like ‘real doughnuts’. Except that they’re less sweet or greasy, which you might like as they’re also of a less doughy consistency but rather light and similar to their European beignet cousins.
If you have a sourdough starter (borrow one if necessary!) and airfryer (deep fry them otherwise) then all you need is flour, milk, eggs, sugar and salt plus the fillings. And only after airfrying, you rub on a little light vegetable oil so sugar can stick to the doughnut. Of course, they’re at their best fresh out of the airfryer. But they’re rather addictive and I found myself producing multiple batches, not just for test purposes but mostly so I could fill the freezer with them – oh the joy of a constant supply of healthier airfried sourdough doughnuts! 🙂 They’re lovely plain but reach heavenly heights filled with jam and whipped cream or just jam, custard, apple purée or Semla marzipan and cream fillings. Doughnuts are amazing and so versatile! Are you tempted? Donut (do not, lol) resist! 🙂
This is the delish semla one.
Here’s the gooseberry jam and instant custard one. Yum yum.
You can have them just plain, especially when recently out of the airfryer.
But I really love the jam and whipped cream ones – which unfortunately were wolfed down so there are no photos. Oops.
WARNING AND ENCOURAGEMENT
Had to work on timings to avoid staying up to 4 in the morning to shape or knead doughnuts (I forget which it was – it’s a sleepy blur of a memory). I’m including an adaptable, improved schedule which allows you to sleep at night – yay! The whole process stretches over 3 days so pre-planning is pretty vital. As is usual with naturally-leavened doughs, there isn’t much hands-on work, but there are long waiting times while it proofs. Anyway, it’s all totally worth it and I’ll definitely be making them again! Do try them! 🙂
THE RECIPE – for 12 larger doughnuts (or 14-16 medium ones)
- Get dough to ‘window pane’ when mixing;
- place shaped doughnuts on squares of baking paper to avoid sticking and deflation, so they can be moved easily to the airfryer (my first prototypes lost shape and air when unsticking and clumsily moved from proofer to airfryer);
- for the final proof, a warm even temperature of 26°C is important. I originally shaped 15 doughnuts, so in my Brad & Taylor proofing oven a few had to be placed on a higher rack, where it was cooler and they didn’t rise so well! My solution was the next time to have only 12 larger doughnuts that could all fit on the nice warm lower rack, where they all became equally fluffy and happy;
- make sure the buns really puff up to ‘jiggly’ light during the final proof; and
- generally work out the best timings for your doughnuts (see Timings section below).
By working on all this, my doughnuts went from lovely and yummy to extra puffy and light. This was the last prototype, no. 4.
All timings are estimates, adaptable and dependent on your starter, flour, dough, room temperature or proofer. There’s some flexibility to work round your schedule. However, if you proof much too long you could have a stronger-tasting, more sour dough. On the other hand, if you don’t proof long enough, especially on Day 3, your buns won’t puff up as light.
If you can’t follow the timings suggested below, maybe calculate your own in advance so you’re not up at 4 or 5 in the morning transferring dough to the fridge or shaping doughnuts.
Day 1 – stiff levain
- Refresh 100% starter around 2-4pm or later if it’s very hot (until it more or less doubles in size)
- Make stiff levain at 11pm/12 midnight with active starter; allow to triple in size overnight (8-10 hours at 24-26ºC)
Day 2 – mix, bulk & cold proofs, shaping and final proof
- Mix at 8-9am (takes total of 1 hour with resting times)
- Bulk proof 9-10am to 3-4pm (around 6 hours at 24-26ºC)
- 3-4pm: cold-proof in fridge 6-8 hours
- 10pm-11.30pm: shape (30 mins) and proof overnight 10-12 hours
Day 3 – check on final proof, airfry, eat
- Airfry doughnuts (between 9.30am and 12 noon): 9-10 mins each group of 3 (x 4 batches) – total time: 45 mins
If you’re running a bit late and go over timings on Day 1 and 2 of this schedule, it’s not a problem – it could mean staying up a bit later on Day 2 to shape doughnuts (eg. 1am) then airfrying doughnuts nearer teatime Day 3.
A proofing oven/or standard oven on appropriately low setting (with door open) really helps if you’re working in a cold environment and these doughnuts love a nice constant warm rise. The brad & taylor proofing oven has really helped me get great fluffy rises and it’s relatively cheap, compact and easily dismantled for storage (not getting sponsored by them, by the way).
You’ll need a digital weighing scale for this recipe. Please consider getting this if you don’t have one, for more precise baking and an easier life (for me too, as I’m not spending ages converting). Apologies to ‘cups and spoons’ people.
Refresh 100% hydration starter around 2-4pm – later, if kitchen’s very hot. Use when more or less doubled in size, active and bubbly.
- 38g active sourdough starter (100% hydration, made with white strong bread flour)
- 38g water (at warm room temperature – 22-24ªC)
- 76g strong white (bread) flour
- At around 11pm/12 midnight, add starter and water into a large jar (I use a tall glass mason jar with airtight sealed lid). Stir with spoon to combine.
- Add flour and sugar and mix until combined. Knead a little with fingers to get thick homogenous dough. Flatten stiff levain lightly with fingertips to get even surface.
- Make note of the height levain should reach to triple in size (eg. can use elastic band around jar).
- Allow levain to triple in size overnight (8-10 hours at 24-26ºC). Stiff levain is more stable and stays up longer than the usual starter – so there’s some leeway if you want to get up later.
Mix and bulk proof
- 350g strong white flour (or 175g strong flour and 175g all-purpose/plain flour – I like this combo)
- 137g of the stiff levain
- 90g lightly beaten egg (about 2 small-medium eggs, less 1 tbsp or so), at room temperature
- 115g/ml whole milk
- 60g sugar (I used unrefined golden caster sugar)
- 6g fine sea salt
- 67g unsalted butter, good-quality French-style
Please follow the steps in the illustration and/or in the written instructions below (for printable pdf of illustration, please click here).
- At 8-9am (when stiff levain has tripled in size and is slightly domed on surface), warm milk to 22-24°C in small-medium saucepan. Whisk in salt and sugar to dissolve, then whisk in beaten egg.
- Add flour, milk mixture and stiff levain (in 5 to 6 pieces) to standmixer bowl. Mix with dough hook on low speed 3-5 minutes until just combined.
- Cover bowl with plastic shower cap or tea towel and rest 30 minutes in warm place (22-26ºC), like a proofer.
- Continue mixing again on standmixer 5 minutes, on medium speed. Then gradually add pieces of softened butter, letting each cube be incorporated before adding next piece. When fully incorporated, raise speed to medium-high and mix a further 15-25 minutes until you get window pane texture, where you are able stretch a section of dough between your hands and it doesn’t break – it looks elastic, a bit rubbery (you can stretch it thin so it’s like a window pane and theoretically a newspaper can be read through it!).
- Transfer dough to clean bowl (very lightly oiled with a little neutral vegetable oil). Cover and proof in warm place (24-26ºC) for a total 6 hours (from around 10am to 4pm) doing 2 turns during this time. The following timings for the two turns are flexible.
- 1st turn – after 1.5 hours (around 11.30am). Pull up a piece of dough from the side and stretch it to fold over the middle to the other side. Go around the bowl, repeating with 3 or 4 sides. Turn the ball over in the bowl.
- 2nd turn – after another 2.5 hours (around 2pm) – repeat process in step 7 (be gentle so as not to deflate dough too much).
- By end of bulk proof, dough should have risen a little and have some structure.
- After the 6 hours (around 4pm) place covered bowl with dough in fridge, to cold proof 6-8 hours.
- After the 6-8 hours (around 10pm to 11.30pm) take cold dough out of fridge to shape. Cut into 12 equal pieces of 66-67g each (or up to 15 smaller pieces, if you prefer).
- Cut 12 (to 15) squares of baking/parchment paper (about 7 to 8cm/3in square). Arrange squares, spaced out, on a baking tray (my proofer tray is 28cm×35cm but bigger would be great).
- Gently flatten each piece of dough with palm of hand then gently stretch and lift up one side to bring into middle, pressing down lightly. Repeat with the 4 or 5 other sides. Turn piece over. This step (and the following Step 4) is illustrated below (see only numbers 2 to 5).
- Roll under fingers/palm on flat surface (very lightly floured, if necessary) to create smooth balls with a ‘skin’ that will spring back a little when poked lightly with finger.
- Carefully place each ball on a baking paper square on the tray. Leave about 3-5cm between balls so they can rise and expand without touching and sticking to each other.
- Cover loosely with large plastic bag or plastic film and proof in warm place (26ºC) 10-14 hours or so (overnight).
DAY 3 – CHECK ON FINAL PROOF, AIRFRY AND EAT
- In the morning (after 10 hours, around 8.30-10am) check rise of doughnuts. They should be doubled in size, plus light and jiggly if you move tray. FINGER POKING TEST: they’re ready if when you poke surface lightly with finger tip it leaves an indent that slowly fills out again. If surface springs back immediately (with no indent) then let doughnuts proof longer (they might need up to 14 hours) but if indent just stays in and doesn’t spring back, you need to airfry doughnuts asap.
- When doughnuts are proofed, pre-heat airfryer 5 minutes at 170ºC. Carefully lift balls from underneath using the baking paper squares and transfer to inside airfryer basket (with their pieces of baking paper). Fill with 3 balls or however many will fit, separated by about 3 to 5cm/1.5-2in (they will puff up quite a bit).
- Airfry 4-5 minutes on one side. Turn over and airfry further 4-5 minutes. They should be golden brown.
- Take first batch out of airfryer. Preheat airfryer again 2 mins then fill with second batch of doughnuts.
- Spread a little oil on your hands and rub all over first batch of airfried doughnuts. Then roll them on plate filled with liberal amount of sugar (more than in the photo).
- Repeat steps 3 to 5 until all doughnuts are done.
- Allow doughnuts to cool a little before filling (especially if filling with cream).
To fill with jam, purée or custard, make an incision cut in the side of the doughnut with a small sharp knife. Then fill piping bag (fitted with medium-sized piping nozzle) with chosen filling. Insert nozzle where cut was made and press on piping bag so you feel filling is going into the centre of the doughnut, until it’s quite heavy.
Here’s the chunky apple purée recipe.
Just apple purée was a bit dry – you might like to add more sugar or have an apple and whipped cream doughnut, so it’s more moist. The apple and jam combo ones were also very yummy.
For filling with whipped cream it’s best to slice the doughnut partially to open it out (like a pacman). Spread jam or purée on bottom half then pipe whipped cream over it. Fold top half gently down. Basically, it’s a doughnut sandwich. If you make your doughnuts long and sausage-shaped you can fill with cream and jam like they do in the shops (hotdog style).
Cut off a little ‘hat’ from top of doughnut. Scoop out a little crumb from middle. Mix crumb with a little grated/crumbled marzipan and milk (to taste) then place this filling back in the hole. Pipe whipped cream over this. Note: flavour cream or marzipan with a little ground cardamom, to get extra Semla-like flavour.
Tada! Eat cream doughnuts immediately… 🙂
Eating and storing
Doughnuts are always best fresh. So eat some immediately. Once cooled you can store in airtight containers to eat the same day. Otherwise, freeze some cooled plain ones, wrapped tightly in plastic film or a reusable plastic wallet. Defrost at room temperature in airtight container 3-4 hours before eating. You can eat as it is or reheat in airfryer 30 secs to 1 minute. Then fill as desired.
Can’t beat a classic raspberry jam one!
Though the gooseberry jam and custard ones were delish too. And the semla ones. And the jam and cream ones … lol. Hope you’ve enjoyed all the sourdough airfryer doughnuts folks! Which kind would you like?
Thanks for dropping by dear reader! Wishing you a great week ahead – donut worry, be happy! With lots of yummy baking and eating. 🙂 Love, Lili x
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Thank you Irene! 😍
Donuts make me drool. 🍩🍃
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😄 Me too.
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There used to be a van outside a local market that sold fresh donuts. Deep fried on the spot and rolled in sugar. Served hot. I’d scoff down six at a time, they were divine. But I was young and thin, then.
Lovely to see you back, Lili, and still baking. 😘
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Sorry for the late reply Mary. It’s nice to be back – thank you for the lovely comment.😍 I love the image of you eating 6 hot doughnuts and can totally relate – did the same thing as a student working part-time in a supermarket bakery section. Those were the days, eh? 😊😘
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Those were definitely the days, Lili. I wouldn’t dare do it today. I will say, though, that the doughnuts were quite small. 🤭
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So tempting, i need to put air fryer on my shopping list!
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Thank you, yes the doughnuts are lovely and airfryers are great! 😊👍