Sourdough bomboloni — aka deep fried donuts — sound decadent to the extreme, but actually they’re quite delicate in flavor and texture. When you fry the donuts at 355-370°F, they barely absorb any oil but they still get a wonderful thin exterior and a puffy interior from being immersed in hot oil.
Moreover, this donut dough is leavened with sourdough, contains lemon zest and a glug of rum, and perhaps most importantly is made with Breadtopia’s bolted all purpose flour, which offers a fantastic midpoint between refined flour and whole wheat flour.
The new flour I’m using makes this recipe a slight variation on a recipe I worked on a few years ago with another baker. We hybridized the softest sourdough donuts recipe from the My Daily Sourdough Bread blog and the donuts aka pillows of joy recipe from the book Baking School: The Bread Ahead Cookbook.
Perfectly delicious plain, or you can fill the donuts with custards, creams, jams or jellies
The bolted all purpose flour I use in this recipe is very finely milled, soft in flavor, and has about 12% protein. The resulting donuts feel like they were made with refined flour but they have more color and flavor. If you choose to use white bread flour or a white all purpose-and-bread flour mix, you can reduce the flour by 30g (from 530g to 500g). In this dough, the bolted flour is more manageable at a lower hydration. I’d actually predicted the opposite–that the germ and small amount of bran would make the bolted flour dough feel dry, but this wasn’t the case.
As written, this recipe will have you prepping a sweet stiff levain the night before, mixing dough in the morning, shaping dough in the early afternoon, frying dough just before dinnertime, and eating sourdough bomboloni for dessert (and breakfast the next day). You absolutely can tinker with this schedule though, by doing the first rise at a lower temperature (all day), by refrigerating the dough after the bulk fermentation, or by refrigerating the shaped dough (if you have room in your fridge).
These donuts are fantastic with just the sugary exterior (or try cinnamon-sugar), but if you search online, you’ll find myriad tempting fillings like this vanilla custard. With my latest batch of donuts, I made two simple not-quite-homemade fillings. One was a mix of crème fraîche and strawberry jam, and the other a mix of crème fraîche and Milka brand’s chocolate hazelnut spread (similar to Nutella). These fillings satisfied my wish for sweet-tang and used up the aging crème fraîche in my refrigerator.
Scaling and Freezing
Once I set up a deep frying system with a hefty amount of oil, I tend to want to make as many donuts as possible, even if it means I’m gifting donuts to friends, eating donut-ham sandwiches for lunch, and wrapping and freezing finished donuts to be eaten later.
You can do these things too, or you can freeze the dough after shaping but before the final proof. Wrap each ball individually and when you’re ready to use them, unwrap them while they’re still frozen (to prevent sticking) and re-cover the dough balls loosely while they defrost. Then let them rise and expand as depicted in the gallery below before you fry them as per the recipe instructions.
Tools (see the list after the photo gallery)
Sourdough Bomboloni (Donuts)
These aromatic, pillowy soft, and slightly sweet donuts are so delicious. The bolted hard red winter wheat, rum, lemon zest, and sourdough fermentation add complexity to the flavor, making rich or sweet fillings an option but not necessary.
All of the stiff levain from above when it is ripe/tripled (195 grams)
24-32 ounces of light oil, such as canola or refined peanut oil for frying
100 grams of granulated sugar (½ cup) to roll the donuts in
Optional whipped cream, nutella, jam, lemon curd and many other possibilities for filling the donuts
Combine all of the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low-med speed for about 10 minutes using a dough hook. Scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically and check on the dough texture after about 5 minutes. The dough should be a little sticky, but shouldn’t come apart on your fingertips. Add more flour in small increments (2 Tbsp/17 grams) to get to a lightly sticky feel.
If you want to hand mix the dough, start by using a bowl and spatula, and then move to slapping and folding the dough on a clean work surface. Thisslapping and folding videoshows the progress of a similar sticky dough.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled/buttered container and cover it. After about 30 minutes, give the dough a quick stretch and fold to confirm the gluten is developing nicely and the hydration is manageable.
Let the dough rise for at least 4 hours in a warm place, low 80s if possible. You might place the dough in your oven with the light on, use a Raisenne hot pad, or a proofing box. The dough should have expanded by between 75% and 100% before you move onto the next step (see photos in the gallery below).
Dividing and Shaping
Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto a floured work surface.
Roll the dough into a tube and divide it into 16 pieces (about 70-80 grams each).
Form the dough pieces into balls and place them on a heavily floured baking sheet with about 2 inches between each ball.
Cover the baking sheet and let the donuts rise 2-4 hours, until doubled (see photo gallery below). My tray of dough was in a cooler environment for this second rise, and the final proof took 3 hours.
In a cold 4-6 quart Dutch oven or heavy deep saucepan, add oil until its about 2 inches deep.
Heat the oil, checking the temperature frequently. You may want to lower the heat on your stove when the oil reaches 350°F because the temperature of the oil may continue to rise too quickly if you don’t.
Begin frying the donuts when the oil reaches 355°F and if the oil climbs over 370°F, pause and let the oil cool down.
If your oil temp is below the suggested range, the donuts will not form a skin and will absorb oil. And if your oil temp is above the suggested range, the donuts will burn on the outside while the inside remains uncooked.
Using a metal spatula or dough scraper, transfer 3-4 dough balls, one at a time, from the baking sheet into the hot oil.
Fry the donuts for 2-3 minutes per side, flipping with tongs or a slotted spoon. Use the tip of your thermometer to pop any air bubbles that form on the donut surface.
When both sides of the donuts are golden in color, use a slotted spoon to remove the donuts from the oil and drain off the excess oil, then place them on paper towels.
Topping, Filling and Storing
As soon as the donuts are cool enough to handle, roll them in granulated sugar.
If you’re going to fill the donuts, let them cool completely beforehand. You can then make a cuts in the sides of the donuts with a knife or chopstick, and fill the holes via a pastry bag with a cream piping tip, or you can cut the donuts completely in half on the horizontal and spread filling throughout the center of the donuts, for more of a sandwich style donut.
Store the donuts covered at room temperature for several days.
Never use water to put out a grease fire. Use a kitchen fire extinguisher or cover the fire with a metal lid.
Keep water away from the hot oil. When water has contact with hot oil, it vaporizes into steam, and can splatter oil widely and cause burns.
Add the oil to an unheated and dry pan to prevent splattering and burns.
Never leave the pan unattended when it is in use.
Make sure the oil and pan are completely cool before cleaning.
Pour cool oil into a container and filter it for later use or discard it. Check with your local waste management department, as you may be able to dispose of the oil at a recycling center. Don’t pour oil down the drain; it can harden and clog pipes.