There are few cities that don't have at least one beloved doughnut shop in every neighborhood, a testament to the sweet and sticky appeal of this universal treat. Commercially-made doughnuts vary in quality, but have an essential sameness about them. Many bakers like to make their own doughnuts at home, experimenting in search of the best texture or a healthier dough. Using your bread machine to mix the dough can take much of the work out of this process.
There are two basic approaches to doughnut making. The first uses a cake-style mixture leavened with baking powder. These are often referred to as "old-fashioned" doughnuts, and are usually scented with a hint of nutmeg. Filled and glazed doughnuts are made with a soft, sweet yeast dough, like holiday breads. Cake doughnuts don't mix properly in a bread machine, because its paddle is too small and the machines heat the dough as they work. This causes the baking powder to work too quickly, resulting in a dense doughnut. Yeast doughnuts, on the other hand, work perfectly well in a bread machine.
Choosing a Recipe
If you don't already have a favorite doughnut recipe, cookbooks and the Internet are filled with options. Choose a recipe that fits your bread machine, or can easily be scaled down. For example, if your machine bakes loaves of up to 1 1/2 pounds, you should look for recipes containing no more than 3 to 4 cups of flour. Many of the recipes available are already tailored for use in bread machines, which makes the transition much easier. If you're working with an existing favorite recipe, or one that wasn't invented with bread machines in mind, you'll need to make a few small adjustments.
Adjusting your Recipe
Recipes written for mixing by hand or in a stand mixer vary widely in their methods, depending on the original baker's preferences. Bread machine recipes are much more consistent, as they were formulated to take advantage of the machine's strengths. Almost invariably, that means putting all the liquid ingredients into your machine's pan, then combining the dry ingredients and adding them afterwards. If you're using fresh or dry active yeast, add it to the liquid ingredients before any fat and let it proof before you proceed. If you're using quick-rising yeast, add that to the dry ingredients.
Most recipes produce a soft dough, well within the capabilities of your bread machine to mix. If your chosen recipe produces an especially stiff or especially wet dough, it might not mix correctly. In that case, finish the batch by hand or in a mixer, and choose a different recipe next time. If you find that your doughnuts cook correctly but darken too much, cut back slightly on the sugar. If they're perfectly cooked but pale, increase the sugar slightly or add a pinch of baking soda. For lighter doughnuts, spray them sparingly with pan spray on both sides and bake them on a parchment-lined sheet at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until puffed and brown.