The Absolute Best Vessel For Baking Donut Holes

How delicious is fried dough? It's so delicious that variations of the snack exist across a huge range of cultures, from the Italian carnival sweet chiacchiere to sugar-dusted Mexican churros to lightly salted Chinese youtiao. However, when most of us think of fried dough, our mind goes straight to doughnuts — those delectable rounds that come in a myriad of flavors, such as apple cider, pumpkin, and plain ol' glazed. What sets doughnuts apart from other fried dough? Well, it's the hole in the middle, of course!

Unless you're dealing with a filled doughnut, doughnuts — like their breadier cousin, the bagel — are ring-shaped. However, bagels are formed by rolling out a cylinder of dough and forming it into an "O" (via King Arthur Baking). Doughnuts, on the other hand, are made by cutting circles from dough and using a smaller cutter to pop out the center of the doughnut. The innovation, traced to a 19th-century Maine teenager named Hanson Crockett Gregory (via South Florida Sun-Sentinel), allows the doughnuts to fry more evenly and quickly, instead of wallowing in the oil to cook through (via HTN). Those tasty castoffs became known as doughnut holes, and thankfully, it's easy to create this beloved snack at home without having to make doughnuts from scratch.

Mini muffin tins create convincing baked doughnut holes

You might have a craving for doughnut holes, but don't feel like mixing dough, rolling it out, cutting it into large circles, and popping out the interior round of dough. You may also want to avoid committing to the messy process of deep-frying in hot oil. If this is the case, a trick suggested by America's Test Kitchen just might be the one for you. Instead of a fairly laborious process, this recipe calls for simple quickbread dough, in which an extra egg yolk and a bit of cornstarch work to approximate the texture of a cake doughnut.

Once the balls of dough are formed, they're brushed in melted butter, and then rolled in cinnamon sugar before being dropped into mini muffin tins. When placed in a hot 400-degree Fahrenheit oven, that fat and sugar crisps into a crunchy, sweet exterior that's a satisfying dupe for deep-fried doughnut holes — all with way less cleanup.