The Science of Fried Donuts

French Toast, the breakfast of champions, is quite possibly my favorite breakfast of all time. But, a few weeks ago, I was plopped down at a diner in New York, a little weary from the evening before, and I saw my other favorite breakfast of all time on the menu. Donuts. Oy vay… How can you decide?

Well, I chose not to and ordered both, but it got me thinking, “How could I combine by two favorite things??”

It was a Hallelujah moment.

Donuts are a pain in the behind to make, but french toast is easy as pie. So buy the donuts, then treat them just like I would the Challah bread that I usually use for my french toast!

Now, here is where the science (and the most important) part comes in- what donuts do I use?

Donuts are a controversial topic in any friendship, family discussion, or relationship for me. Your donut choice defines you.

I am a Dunkin Donuts chocolate iced with rainbow sprinkles girl until the end of time. And if you don’t like them, or prefer others, then your taste buds just simply are not sophisticated enough for me to have a meal with you. I have always poo pooed any type of fancy donut. In a pinch I’ll have a krispy kreme, but never, ever will I go anywhere near a fancy donut.

DSC_8468However, in the spirit of culinary exploration I figured that I should try a couple different types, but was positive that my double D’s would win every time.

I admit, I was wrong. It wasn’t the double D’s, nor the double K’s, but it was the fancy donuts that won.

So how on earth is it that the fancy donuts won- that is my question.

Let’s get down to business with the science of french toast. My recipe contains the bread (or donuts), egg yolk, whole milk, cinnamon, and vanilla. The last two don’t have any effect on the final toast, they just taste darn good.

DSC_8473So that means that the milk and eggs determine the final batter structure. When egg yolks are cooked  (not whites because we want that rich flavor in our finished dish) the proteins denature and form a strong network (i.e. when you fry an egg it all comes together and is firm). So the egg yolks actually set the milk (that makes the bread soft) that is used so that the milk doesn’t seep out.

Now, the double K’s and the double D’s are pretty darn moist already. And that ladies and gentlemen, is the problem with them. Dip those babies into the milk and egg batter and they get soggy, fall apart, and are generally icky. Can’t believe I am saying this.

But the fancy donuts are much drier (which is why I don’t really like them). But they soak up that egg and milk mixture to perfection. And stay together even after you have saturated them giving that perfect custardy inside and crunchy outside.


The not so beautiful double K’s

The crunch is the reason you should fry donuts in the first place. The texture is unreal. This is because of the Maillard Reaction: a chemical reaction between amino acids and sugar that gives browned food that delicious nutty flavor. However, this reaction actually produces water, so having a high water environment inhibits the reaction that gives that nutty richness to your food. Therefore the moist Double D’s and Double K’s don’t brown up properly whereas the fancy, dry donuts, are actually just right.


The perfect fancy donuts

Disclaimer: This does not make me a convert to fancy donuts- but I guess when I am frying them I’ll consider it.


So, without further ado: The Perfect Fried French Toast Donut


  • 240ml single cream (1 cup half n half)
  • 5 Egg yolksDSC_8476
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla beanDSC_8480
  • 8 Donuts (better if a day or two old)

Preparing your French toast:

  1. Whisk all of the ingredients well in a deep dish.
  2. Cut the donuts lengthways and then dip both pieces into the batter, allow excess to drip back into dish.DSC_8482
  3. Melt butter in a frying pan on medium, add your donuts. Cook until golden brown on both sides. (This should take about 1-1.5 minutes per side).DSC_8487
  4. *Serve with maple syrup or powdered sugar. Or both!—I was raised on Aunt Jemima’s “comes-in-a-plastic” bottle syrup in in Miss-ur-ah


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