Doughnuts shrinking when cut - Help!


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Hi all,

I am trying to make doughnuts and over recent weeks, I have tried many different recipes but they always seem to massively shrink when cut, and roll out quite wrinkly (?) and from this, I have deduced that it must be a problem with my methods/techniques as opposed to the recipe(s). I have a feeling I might be knocking back too much but I do not know for sure as my baking knowledge is very minimal. To give you more info, the recipe I have been using is as follows:


650g plain flour
120ml water
180ml milk
75g unsalted butter
60g caster sugar
2 eggs
7.5g active dry yeast

Melt butter into milk while heating gently until bubbles rise around the edge
Add milk/butter to dry ingredients
Combine ingredients
Mix in mixer with dough hook for 6-8 minutes or until comes away from the sides of the bowl
Shape into rough ball and set to rise for 60-90 mins
Knock back
Roll out and cut (THIS IS WHERE THE PROBLEM IS!)
Leave to rise for another 45-60 mins until doubled in size
Fry 1 min each side at 180C


To give some more context, I have tried many different recipes (some with much more milk, some with no milk, some with more butter so more like a brioche) and many different ways of rising the dough (two lots of proving with knocking back in between, rise in the fridge overnight) and this always happens! I have also tried varying the flour:liquid ratio right up to the point where the dough is so wet that it is barely workable and the same still happens. To help, I have attached an image also. Please help, I just want to make great doughnuts!!!!!!!!!!

ADDITIONAL: I always allow the dough to double in size while rising. It is seemingly rising fine
 

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Welcome to the forum. I think it’s a combination of several factors (recipe, fermentation, and handling) causing an imbalance of extensibility (ability to stretch) and elasticity, (ability to return to original shape). Too much elasticity results in a dough that “shrinks” back instead of holding its shape.


Low hydration: lower hydration creates more dough strength, which creates more elasticity. This recipe is at 46%. Increase the hydration to between 50% - 55%.


Kneading and long fermentation: both promotes dough strength. So if you are going for a long fermentation period, you must reduce the kneading. Knead to dough characteristics, not the clock. If you are going for cold fermentation, knead until the dough comes together in a smooth mass. It will be sticky, but that’s a fine. You just want to be beyond the shaggy stage.


In general, for doughnuts, knead less than you would a bread dough as the goal is both a tender crust and crumb. So even if you do a short first rise, you just knead until the dough is smooth and stretches. It should also have pulled away from the sides of the mixing bowl.


“Knocking back”: the terms “knocking back” or “punch down” are really bad terms as it implies heavy handed decompression. This should never be done regardless of the type of dough and fermentation used.


I recommend you always place dough in an oiled bowl. Do not knock back or punch the dough down after the first rise. When ready to roll, gently turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. That will release quite a bit of the trapped gas as the dough stretched out of the bowl. Then gently press the dough with your fingertips while shaping into a rectangle. Then roll. The action of rolling will complete the release of gas.


If you refrigerate overnight, you can go straight from the mixing bowl to the refrigerator. You don’t need to do anything else until you are ready to roll it.


Nothing: doing nothing is a very important part of working with yeast dough. Let it go through its fermentation process without handling it. Then do as little handling when rolling and cutting.


Temperature: if you refrigerate the dough, let it sit at room temperature for about 20 min before turning out of the bowl.


Rolling: be careful not tear the skin when rolling. Do not apply downward pressure and outward force with your body weight over the rolling pin. Rather, let the weight of the rolling pin do the work. This takes a some getting used to as you learn what to feel for in the dough as you roll.


With every pass of the rolling pin turn the dough 1/4 of a turn. Then ensures uniform thickness and prevents sticking. If the dough is stuck to the counter, you will pull and tear the skin. That exposes the sticky interior; then more flour is needed. Excess flour makes the dough tougher and drier.


Observation: with each pass of the rolling pin watch the dough. If it springs back even slightly, stop rolling, cover the dough with cling wrap and let it relax for 10-15 minutes. Rolling dough that exhibits signs of too much elasticity only exacerbates the problem.


Cutting: before cutting rest the dough to let the gluten in the dough relax.


Excess flour: be sure to brush off all the excess flour after cutting. Flour on the surface affects how the donut fries.


Parchment: in the spirit of handling the dough as little as possible, place cutout doughnuts on greased parchment squares. To fry flip the doughnut paper and all into the oil with the paper side up. Within a few seconds the paper will detach and remove it with tongs.
 
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Welcome to the forum @Doughnutter :) (great username by the way!)

I can't add anything to the advice above, but let us know how you get on with your next batch.
 
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Update!

Did a batch today and made the following adjustments:

Made the dough wetter (55% as suggested)
Kneaded what I felt was a 'minimal' amount - until the dough just began to come away from the sides of the mixer
I accidentally left the dough to rise slightly too much (approx 2.5-3x the size) as I had to leave the house. D'o(ug)h.
Very little knocking back - following the above instructions to turn out onto the side and press down with fingertips
Rolled out very carefully using just the weight of the roller


I cut out the dough and the first one did stretch back but much less than before, so I left the dough to rest for a while on the side. This solved the issue! I went to cut them out and they were not stretching back at all, perfectly round.

As stated above, there were still some issues that might have caused the initial stretching (such as I accidentally proved too long and could possibly knead the dough even less) but overall, the problem is solved and I am very very grateful! Thank you to @Norcalbaker59 and I will most certainly re-visit this forum in the future.
 
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Update!

Did a batch today and made the following adjustments:

Made the dough wetter (55% as suggested)
Kneaded what I felt was a 'minimal' amount - until the dough just began to come away from the sides of the mixer
I accidentally left the dough to rise slightly too much (approx 2.5-3x the size) as I had to leave the house. D'o(ug)h.
Very little knocking back - following the above instructions to turn out onto the side and press down with fingertips
Rolled out very carefully using just the weight of the roller


I cut out the dough and the first one did stretch back but much less than before, so I left the dough to rest for a while on the side. This solved the issue! I went to cut them out and they were not stretching back at all, perfectly round.

As stated above, there were still some issues that might have caused the initial stretching (such as I accidentally proved too long and could possibly knead the dough even less) but overall, the problem is solved and I am very very grateful! Thank you to @Norcalbaker59 and I will most certainly re-visit this forum in the future.

I’m so happy to hear your doughnut issues were resolved. Looking forward to hearing about your future baking adventures.
 
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That's great news, good work! :D Thanks for reporting back so quickly too!
 
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Hi all,

I am trying to make doughnuts and over recent weeks, I have tried many different recipes but they always seem to massively shrink when cut, and roll out quite wrinkly (?) and from this, I have deduced that it must be a problem with my methods/techniques as opposed to the recipe(s). I have a feeling I might be knocking back too much but I do not know for sure as my baking knowledge is very minimal. To give you more info, the recipe I have been using is as follows:


650g plain flour
120ml water
180ml milk
75g unsalted butter
60g caster sugar
2 eggs
7.5g active dry yeast

Melt butter into milk while heating gently until bubbles rise around the edge
Add milk/butter to dry ingredients
Combine ingredients
Mix in mixer with dough hook for 6-8 minutes or until comes away from the sides of the bowl
Shape into rough ball and set to rise for 60-90 mins
Knock back
Roll out and cut (THIS IS WHERE THE PROBLEM IS!)
Leave to rise for another 45-60 mins until doubled in size
Fry 1 min each side at 180C



To give some more context, I have tried many different recipes (some with much more milk, some with no milk, some with more butter so more like a brioche) and many different ways of rising the dough (two lots of proving with knocking back in between, rise in the fridge overnight) and this always happens! I have also tried varying the flour:liquid ratio right up to the point where the dough is so wet that it is barely workable and the same still happens. To help, I have attached an image also. Please help, I just want to make great doughnuts!!!!!!!!!!

ADDITIONAL: I always allow the dough to double in size while rising. It is seemingly rising fine
You used no salt?
 
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You used no salt?

The dough doesn’t salt. Salt is only required if you’re trying to slow fermentation over a long period of time and if you use a strain of fast acting yeast. The dough is not fermenting overnight and the yeast is active dry yeast which is a strain that is very slow developing.
 
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Ah ok. You have so much great knowledge...thanks for sharing! So when you overnight proof with instant yeast should you add more salt to the original recipe?
 
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Ah ok. You have so much great knowledge...thanks for sharing! So when you overnight proof with instant yeast should you add more salt to the original recipe?

@sechje,
Dough for long fermentation should be made with active dry yeast since this strain of yeast develops slowly. When you use active dry yeast, salt isn’t necessary if fermentation is short. It doesn’t mean you cannot add it, but you don’t need it for short fermentation. Salt has three functions in baking, a couple that I will touch on below.

Instant yeast is not meant for any long fermentation since it is a fast growing yeast. In fact manufacturers do not recommend its use for overnight fermentation. Instant yeast was developed for use in doughs to be made and baked within a couple of hours. It produces a strong first rise, and a very poor second rise. Instant yeast is a very poor quality yeast IMO. I don’t use it.

Salt has three main functions in baking: flavor, fermentation control, and dough conditioning.

In fermentation, when salt is present with yeast, there is an exchange of water molecules through osmosis. That in turn slows the reproduction of yeast. That is why salt should not come in direct contact with yeast.

When you make a dough for long fermentation, 12 hrs or more, salt is used to control the development of the yeast. This prevents possible over-development of the yeast. If there is too much yeast in the dough, they consume all the starch in the flour and any added sugar; once out of food, they begin to die. Once dead, they don’t produce any waste (CO2). So the dough become flaccid, deflates, and sticky.

Added sugar on the other hand feeds yeast until the percentage reaches 12% or above. Then it will begin to kill off the yeast as too much damages the cell walls.

There is also natural sugars in the flour (starch). Since salt inhibits the development of yeast, it preserves the destruction of some of these natural starches in flour during long fermentation. Since there is less consumption of these natural starches, there is more maillard reaction during baking; so salt helps promote browning.

As a dough conditioner, salt increases dough strength by acting as a binder to the gluten proteins. There are times when you want a really strong dough to hold water and gas, to expand rapidly without falling apart, like in the oven spring in bread. Or the extra strengthening effects to counter the effects of tenderizers like sugar or soft water. Salt can actually contribute to the problems in rolling and cutting dough by contributing to too much gluten is development in the dough.

The OP is using a recipe that develops in 2 - 2.5 hrs. That is a fast developing dough. The recipe had 9% sugar. The added sugar isn’t enough to sweetened the dough. It is there to feed the active dry yeast to aid development. There is no reason to inhibit the yeast in a dough that is only developing for 2.5 hours at most. So salt is not necessary.

Now if the baker wanted to add salt for flavor, that is fine. But the baker would have to think about how the salt would effect the dough in the other ways.

Hope that make sense
 
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Wow so much helpful info...I really appreciate you sharing your vast knowledge. Do you consider Saf instant yeast a low quality yeast? I have been trying to use this yeast and get differing results. Overnight proof has worked much better for me and short proof hasnt proofed very well for some reason...
 
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Wow so much helpful info...I really appreciate you sharing your vast knowledge. Do you consider Saf instant yeast a low quality yeast? I have been trying to use this yeast and get differing results. Overnight proof has worked much better for me and short proof hasnt proofed very well for some reason...

SAF us a good brand. BUT—It’s not what I think about a brand that matters, but what is in the product that you are using that matters. You should understand what is in the ingredients you are using, why they are in the ingredients, and whether you need these additives in your product to achieve the results you want.

Red: ascorbic acid*; not osmotolerant; short fermentation time; no rehydration required

Blue: osmotolerant (sugar 10% - 30%); no oxidizing agent*; short fermentation time; no rehydration required

Gold: osmotolerant (sugar 10 - 30%); long fermentation; no oxidizing agent; no rehydration required

Premium: use 30% less yeast; short fermentation; not osmotolerant; no rehydration required; I don’t thing this one has an oxidizing agent...

Active Dry: rehydrate; long fermentation; no oxidizing agent.

They have other yeasts as well, but this will give you an idea of why it’s important to read and understand the labels.
*ascorbic acid is an oxidizing agent; it is used as a type of dough conditioner to enhance gluten development.
 
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Welcome to the forum. I think it’s a combination of several factors (recipe, fermentation, and handling) causing an imbalance of extensibility (ability to stretch) and elasticity, (ability to return to original shape). Too much elasticity results in a dough that “shrinks” back instead of holding its shape.


Low hydration: lower hydration creates more dough strength, which creates more elasticity. This recipe is at 46%. Increase the hydration to between 50% - 55%.


Kneading and long fermentation: both promotes dough strength. So if you are going for a long fermentation period, you must reduce the kneading. Knead to dough characteristics, not the clock. If you are going for cold fermentation, knead until the dough comes together in a smooth mass. It will be sticky, but that’s a fine. You just want to be beyond the shaggy stage.


In general, for doughnuts, knead less than you would a bread dough as the goal is both a tender crust and crumb. So even if you do a short first rise, you just knead until the dough is smooth and stretches. It should also have pulled away from the sides of the mixing bowl.


“Knocking back”: the terms “knocking back” or “punch down” are really bad terms as it implies heavy handed decompression. This should never be done regardless of the type of dough and fermentation used.


I recommend you always place dough in an oiled bowl. Do not knock back or punch the dough down after the first rise. When ready to roll, gently turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. That will release quite a bit of the trapped gas as the dough stretched out of the bowl. Then gently press the dough with your fingertips while shaping into a rectangle. Then roll. The action of rolling will complete the release of gas.


If you refrigerate overnight, you can go straight from the mixing bowl to the refrigerator. You don’t need to do anything else until you are ready to roll it.


Nothing: doing nothing is a very important part of working with yeast dough. Let it go through its fermentation process without handling it. Then do as little handling when rolling and cutting.


Temperature: if you refrigerate the dough, let it sit at room temperature for about 20 min before turning out of the bowl.


Rolling: be careful not tear the skin when rolling. Do not apply downward pressure and outward force with your body weight over the rolling pin. Rather, let the weight of the rolling pin do the work. This takes a some getting used to as you learn what to feel for in the dough as you roll.


With every pass of the rolling pin turn the dough 1/4 of a turn. Then ensures uniform thickness and prevents sticking. If the dough is stuck to the counter, you will pull and tear the skin. That exposes the sticky interior; then more flour is needed. Excess flour makes the dough tougher and drier.


Observation: with each pass of the rolling pin watch the dough. If it springs back even slightly, stop rolling, cover the dough with cling wrap and let it relax for 10-15 minutes. Rolling dough that exhibits signs of too much elasticity only exacerbates the problem.


Cutting: before cutting rest the dough to let the gluten in the dough relax.


Excess flour: be sure to brush off all the excess flour after cutting. Flour on the surface affects how the donut fries.


Parchment: in the spirit of handling the dough as little as possible, place cutout doughnuts on greased parchment squares. To fry flip the doughnut paper and all into the oil with the paper side up. Within a few seconds the paper will detach and remove it with tongs.
Hey thanks so much for sharing you knowledge! I was wondering if I might be able to pick your brain about something else? I’m happy with the flavor and texture of my doughnut, however aesthetically they are lacking. I find they are uneven in shape, the white ring doesn’t go the whole way around the middle of the donut, they also occasionally blister as well as occasionally shrink when cooking and are smaller then the shape of the donut cutter. My recipe/method is below.

177mls full cream milk
50grams of sugar
Bring to boil
Add
113grams butter
until melted
Bring down to room temp (which is about 26/27 degrees Celsius)
Add
60ml water
7grams active dry yeast
1 egg
Pour into mixing bowl and add
475 grams flour (I use 12.5% protein flour)
25grans diastatic malt powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
mis until passed window pane test
Let double
Knock down
Place in fridge overnight
Fold on itself 3-4 times
Roll to 11ml thick, cut shapes
Fry at 180-190 (I set my fryer to 190 but it drops between 180-190)
 
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Hey thanks so much for sharing you knowledge! I was wondering if I might be able to pick your brain about something else? I’m happy with the flavor and texture of my doughnut, however aesthetically they are lacking. I find they are uneven in shape, the white ring doesn’t go the whole way around the middle of the donut, they also occasionally blister as well as occasionally shrink when cooking and are smaller then the shape of the donut cutter. My recipe/method is below.

177mls full cream milk
50grams of sugar
Bring to boil
Add
113grams butter
until melted
Bring down to room temp (which is about 26/27 degrees Celsius)
Add
60ml water
7grams active dry yeast
1 egg
Pour into mixing bowl and add
475 grams flour (I use 12.5% protein flour)
25grans diastatic malt powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
mis until passed window pane test
Let double
Knock down
Place in fridge overnight
Fold on itself 3-4 times
Roll to 11ml thick, cut shapes
Fry at 180-190 (I set my fryer to 190 but it drops between 180-190)

1. uneven in shape and shrinking when cutting: you have a problem both over kneading and developing too much gluten in the dough (shrinking when cutting); and improper proofing (uneven shape when frying). Review what I’ve written about baker’s percentages and DDT

2. White line: review what I’ve written about DDT

3. Blistering: when you have lots of blisters on dough when frying is a caused by dough that is proofed at too high a temperatures. Review information about DDT.

Just an aside, you might want to use a real brioche doughnut dough if you are trying to make a brioche doughnut.
 
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1. uneven in shape and shrinking when cutting: you have a problem both over kneading and developing too much gluten in the dough (shrinking when cutting); and improper proofing (uneven shape when frying). Review what I’ve written about baker’s percentages and DDT

2. White line: review what I’ve written about DDT

3. Blistering: when you have lots of blisters on dough when frying is a caused by dough that is proofed at too high a temperatures. Review information about DDT.

Just an aside, you might want to use a real brioche doughnut dough if you are trying to make a brioche doughnut.
Thank you for taking the time to reply. Not trying to make real brioche I just find time wise it’s easier for me to make the dough the night before then roll/cut/fry in the am.

I proof at room temp which anywhere between 26-29% - I don’t have a proofer. From what I’ve read that shouldn’t be too hot?

My issue with shrinkage is less about when it’s cut and more when it’s fried.

I also noticed in your reply to the OP you’ve mentioned about if refrigerating overnight there’s no need for the first rise? So forgive if my wrong but my interpretation is that once the dough is kneaded I place it straight into the fridge? Skip the bulk fermentation?

In regards to improper proofing causing uneven shape. I’m just at home so am proofing at room temp. But I’m on a tropical location so room temp is anywhere from 27-31 degrees depending on time of day and humidity is normally in the 80%s. Apart from using a proof box I’m not sure how to change this?
 
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Thank you for taking the time to reply. Not trying to make real brioche I just find time wise it’s easier for me to make the dough the night before then roll/cut/fry in the am.

I proof at room temp which anywhere between 26-29% - I don’t have a proofer. From what I’ve read that shouldn’t be too hot?

In regards to improper proofing causing uneven shape. I’m just at home so am proofing at room temp. But I’m on a tropical location so room temp is anywhere from 26-29 depending on time of day and humidity is normally in the 80%s. Apart from using a proof box I’m not sure how to change this?

1. all the work that you’re doing (e.g., mixing, developing gluten, overnight fermentation etc.) is the same work you would put into a brioche dough.

2. This a home baker’s recipe that someone modify to make into a “brioche“ style doughnut. Ingredients in it don’t even make sense. It has diastatic malt to increase “Maillard reaction“. But the formula is full of water (water and whole egg) which inhibits Maillard reaction. I mean whoever came up with this recipe didn’t know what they were doing. That’s why I suggested a real brioche recipe. Water also causes blistering.

3. You have a cold dough; you don’t know what the temperature of the dough is when your frying. I would suggest you check the temperature of one to find out what the temperature is before frying. So give you some idea as to whether or not you need to bring the dough up to temperature before roll and cut.

I understand that you’re baking from home, so you don’t own a proofer. But you can set up your oven to control the temperature and humidity. Just google it.
 
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1. all the work that you’re doing (e.g., mixing, developing gluten, overnight fermentation etc.) is the same work you would put into a brioche dough.

2. This a home baker’s recipe that someone modify to make into a “brioche“ style doughnut. Ingredients in it don’t even make sense. It has diastatic malt to increase “Maillard reaction“. But the formula is full of water (water and whole egg) which inhibits Maillard reaction. I mean whoever came up with this recipe didn’t know what they were doing. That’s why I suggested a real brioche recipe. Water also causes blistering.

3. You have a cold dough; you don’t know what the temperature of the dough is when your frying. I would suggest you check the temperature of one to find out what the temperature is before frying. So give you some idea as to whether or not you need to bring the dough up to temperature before roll and cut.

I understand that you’re baking from home, so you don’t own a proofer. But you can set up your oven to control the temperature and humidity. Just google it.
To avoid blistering could I remove the water and replace with extra milk?
I’m going to try to another batch today so will check my temps along the way and report back.

thanks again!
 
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To avoid blistering could I remove the water and replace with extra milk?
I’m going to try to another batch today so will check my temps along the way and report back.

thanks again!

Yes you could try using all whole milk. You still have whole egg. The egg white is 88% water; that’s why it is not used in brioche dough.
 
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Yes you could try using all whole milk. You still have whole egg. The egg white is 88% water; that’s why it is not used in brioche dough.
Ok so today’s plan
- remove water, add extra milk
- use correct DDT
- replace instant dry yeast with dry yeast
- remove diastatic malt powder
- knead less

will report back this evening! Fingers crossed
 

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