[Sourdough] Pumpkin Donuts

[Sourdough] Pumpkin Donuts

It’s not often that I fill my dutch oven with oil for deep-frying – but this pregnant lady felt like kicking off the Baking Season with a bang this year… and after prepping a big bowl of Insta-Pumpkin, I couldn’t stop dreaming of homemade sourdough pumpkin donuts!

On a perfect rainy Fall weekend morning, this batch warmed our hearts and earned true epic status by featuring three sweet topping options: spiced cinnamon sugar, salted maple glaze, and dark chocolate glaze. Choose your own adventure, or choose all three like me! 

Sourdough Pumpkin Donuts

The main challenge behind developing recipes for sourdough-risen enriched breads (those made with dairy, eggs and/or sugar) is the rise. Sourdoughs require lengthier rises than commercial yeasts already, and the enriching ingredients further slow the fermentation (via sugar binding moisture, and fats limiting microbial access to flour’s carbohydrates). The worse problem is that those enriching ingredients also put the dough at food safety risk – we don’t want dairy and eggs sitting out at room temperature all day while we wait for dough to rise.Β 

My solution is to start with a warm 2-hour rise (the upper limit of time to safely limit potential pathogenic microbe growth). A comfortable temperature range for sourdough fermentation is between about 70-90 F – so in this case, I like to push to the high end because the duration is so limited. You can try all kinds of solutions for this kind of “warm place” – use a thermometer to find your best option. My house can get rather chilly, so my most reliable warm place is inside my beloved Excalibur food dehydrator on its lowest setting, which seems to measure close to 90 F.

Sourdough Pumpkin Donuts, rolled and cut

After rising in a warm place for 2 hours, the dough then moves to the refrigerator to follow through with a slow overnight rise. In my book, this is always a good tactic for breakfast bakes! The next morning, the dough can be rolled out cold, then cut and given a second proofing in a warm place again (for me, the dehydrator again) for about 20-25 minutes, until they’re just a bit more pleasantly plump! Check out this photo below – don’t worry, they will puff up more when they hit the hot oil. 

Sourdough Pumpkin Donuts, second proof

Pro Tip: To minimize handling of the proofed donuts and keep them uniformly fluffy, take a pair of scissors and snip your parchment liner into individual squares – they make it easier to pick up each donut and bring it to the oil without any pinching or prodding!

Half of the flour in this recipe is whole-wheat pastry flour, which makes these just a bit more “substantial” than your average white donut, but still enjoys a super tender, fluffy texture. I’m confident you could make the same recipe totally with all-purpose flour if it’s all you have on hand, or if you’re committed to a more traditional fully refined dough.

Sourdough Pumpkin Donuts

All in all, these donuts are epic. Warmly pumpkin-spiced, subtly sourdough, tender, pillowy puffs… hot out of the fryer and topped with salty-sweet maple, rich bittersweet chocolate, or a shimmering crust of spiced cinnamon sugar… seriously!! Don’t let fall pass you by without treating yourself to this kind of joy. 🧑

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Sourdough Pumpkin Donuts

[Sourdough] Pumpkin Donuts

The topping amounts below are enough to coat about 1/3 of the batch of donuts; if you're making only one, triple the ingredient amounts.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Rise Time 12 hours
Servings 12 standard donuts, plus about 2 dozen holes


Sourdough Pumpkin Donuts:

  • 200 grams sourdough starter recently fed and bubbly
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) buttermilk
  • 45 grams (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 195 grams (3/4 cup) pumpkin puree (about half of a standard 15 ounce can)
  • 24 grams (2 tablespoons) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice blend or your favorite mix of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, etc.
  • 3 grams (1/2 teaspoon) salt
  • 250 grams all purpose flour
  • 250 grams whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Spiced Cinnamon Sugar Topping:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice blend or your favorite mix of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, etc.

Salted Maple Glaze Topping:

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • just enough milk to make a smooth glaze

Dark Chocolate Glaze Topping:

  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks/chips
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


For the Sourdough Pumpkin Donuts:

  • In a large bowl or electric stand mixer, combine the sourdough starter, buttermilk, melted butter, eggs, pumpkin puree, sugar cinnamon and other spices. Mix until smooth, then add the salt, flours and baking soda. Mix with a dough hook attachment for about 5 minutes (or knead by hand for 10 or more minutes), until the dough is smooth and elastic (but still rather sticky).
  • Cover the bowl loosely with a damp cotton towel or plastic wrap, and put it in a warm place to rise. After two hours, move the bowl to the refrigerator to continue slowly rising for 12-24 hours.
  • When ready to finish, prepare a floured surface. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll out to about 1/2 inch thickness. Use a donut cutter to form donuts; try to cut as many donuts as you can fit from the first slab, and gently tranfer each piece to a lightly floured parchment-lined tray. Gently reform the dough scraps into a ball and re-roll as needed to cut more donuts and donut holes.
  • After cutting donuts, lightly cover the tray with plastic wrap and move to a warm place to proof the donuts for about 25 minutes, until lightly plumped.
  • While proofing, heat a large dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pan with oil over medium heat, until it reached 350 F.
  • After the donuts have finished proofing, very carefully transfer them into the hot oil, a few at a time to prevent crowding. When the first side is golden brown, flip the donuts and evenly brown the second side. Use a large slotted spoon or spider tool to lift donuts from the oil and move to a metal rack over a large sheet pan to drain.

For the Spiced Cinnamon Sugar Topping:

  • In a small bowl, mix sugar, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice blend. When donuts are fresh out of the oil and still hot, gently toss them in the sugar mixture to cover all sides.

For the Salted Maple Glaze Topping:

  • In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, maple syrup and salt. Slowly dribble in drops of milk while mixing, adding just enough to yield a glaze consistency that will coat the donuts without dripping off. When donuts have drained and cooled for a few minutes, dip one side of each donut into the glaze and return to the rack upright to let the glaze set.

For the Dark Chocolate Glaze Topping:

  • In a small bowl, combine the dark chocolate, butter, corn syrup, water and salt. Heat in the microwave in brief 30 second intervals, until the chocolate melts. Stir the mixture to a smooth consistency. When donuts have drained and cooled for a few minutes, dip one side of each donut into the glaze and return to the rack upright to let the glaze set.
Sourdough Pumpkin Donuts

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