So, the whole buttermilk bar doughnuts thing started when I was having dinner with friends and they mentioned a doughnut they had eaten in Los Angeles. A mere mention, and I was instantly smitten. And not with the doughnut’s purported attributes (which I insisted they share with me), but with the name of the doughnut: BUTTERMILK BAR. Brilliant. Who doesn’t want to eat buttermilk bar doughnuts??Being a doughnut obsessive (as documented in my doughnut hole recipe), the googling began later that night. However, save for a few images, an ancient request for a buttermilk bar recipe from Yahoo Answers (am I the only weirdo who actually reads those things?), a YouTube video on how to make them in a professional kitchen (which proved somewhat helpful, actually) and an article from a Portland, Oregon newspaper about where to purchase them, I came up empty-handed in the buttermilk bar recipe department. Concluding that a buttermilk bar was probably nothing more than a buttermilk doughnut in a bar-shape anyway, I turned to my cookbooks and magazines to suss out just what went into the ultimate buttermilk bar doughnuts.From Baking Illustrated I learned about the addition of yolks — my recipe calls for 4 — making for a moister dough and more tender doughnut, from Karen Demasco’s Craft of Baking, I learned about the importance of cake flour (the crumb of a “cake” doughnut — one made without yeast — benefits from cake flour), from Marion Cunningham’s Breakfast Book, I adopted a foolproof mixing method and shortening as an ingredient (and not just as a frying oil), and I learned a lot from Saveur’s issue about the world’s best donuts. Culling from the above recipes, I developed mine — removing spices (like nutmeg and cinnamon), adding extra salt and melted butter, along with the shortening, as well as a whopping two tablespoons of vanilla paste and just a tad more leavening than one might think . . . In short, a recipe that produces a spectacular, tender crumbed, vanilla-infused, craggly-topped buttermilk bar doughnut.However, the thing about making doughnuts is that the recipe is really only half the battle: How one fries one’s doughnuts is the other half. And for frying technique I looked to Smitten Kitchen and The Pioneer Woman, where I learned about the importance/necessity of using shortening as one’s frying oil and the secret to non-greasy doughnuts (paper towels), respectively. Through trial and error on my own (i.e., after frying more than a dozen batches of these tasty treats) I realized that a slightly lower temp of 350 degrees worked best, as well as a frying time of about one to two minutes per side.As to the question of size, traditional buttermilk bars (those found in doughnut shops in LA and Portland) are quite large. However, I found frying very large doughnuts (5″ by 2″ by 1″) close to impossible without (I’m assuming) a commercial fryer (though perhaps an air fryer would do the trick).
Instead, I made my bars about 3 1/2″ by 1 1/2″ by 1/2″ (and some even smaller) and they were just about perfectly sized. And, finally, the question of whether to glaze or not to glaze (I like both) but found that glazed ones still tasted amazing the next day, whereas unglazed ones, not so much. Thus, I recommend glazing half and consuming the other half the day they are baked (not really all that hard to do . . .). The recipe can be found here.