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Tip the flour, sugar, yeast and 1 tsp salt into a bowl and mix to combine. Pour in the milk, egg and vanilla, and bring everything together with your hands into a rough dough, making sure all the flour is mixed in. Or, do this using a stand mixer. Cover with a clean, damp cloth and set aside for 30 mins.
Tip the dough onto a clean surface and knead for 10-15 mins by hand or 5-8 mins in a stand mixer on low speed until springy and glossy. Use your hands to work the softened butter into the dough – this will take about 5 mins. At first, it will look like it’s not coming together, but keep working the dough through your fingers and it will become smooth and glossy. Form the dough into a ball and return it to the bowl. Cover and leave in a warm place to prove for 2-3 hrs, or until nearly doubled in size. Line a baking tray with baking parchment.
Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 2cm thickness, then use a 9cm cutter to stamp out as many circles as you can. Use a 4cm cutter to stamp out the middles. Re-roll the trimmings (including the middles) and stamp out more (you should end up with six ring doughnuts). Re-roll any remaining trimmings and use the 4cm cutter to stamp out five or six mini bites. Put the doughnuts and bites on the prepared tray, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for another 2-3 hrs, or in the fridge overnight until doubled in size. The lightness of the doughnuts depends on this
second proving, and a longer prove in the fridge will give the doughnuts more flavour.
Fill a deep-fat fryer following manufacturer’s instructions, or a heavy-based pan, ensuring it is no more than a third full. Heat to 170C or until a cube of bread dropped in browns in 30 seconds. Carefully lift two or three doughnuts from the tray and slide them into the hot oil using a floured spatula. Fry for 2 mins each side until puffed up and golden brown, then remove to a sheet of kitchen paper using a slotted spoon or tongs. Leave to cool. Repeat with the remaining doughnuts, then fry all the mini bites for a total of 2 mins.
When the doughnuts and bites have cooled, you can either coat them in sugar or a glaze. For sugar doughnuts, combine the sugar and cinnamon, then toss with the doughnuts. For glazed doughnuts, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and mix in 2 tbsp cold water until you have a runny icing. Dip in the doughnuts, then decorate with the toppings of your choice. Best eaten straightaway, but will keep in an airtight container for a day.
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