Earlier this year, the test kitchen focused almost exclusively on donut recipes for our March 2013 special feature on donuts. As a gluten-intolerant person, I was shut out of one of the most important functions of my job: tasting the final products. While my co-workers were busy devouring old-fashioneds and crullers, I experienced our donut-making bonanza with my other senses: feeling the warm silkiness of rising yeast dough, listening for the pop of hot fat in the fryer, and breathing in ethereally sweet vapor clouds of confectioners' sugar. At the end of the day, though, I wanted to be one of the lucky ones, blithely scarfing down a donut of my own, which is why I came up with three gluten-free recipes for cake donuts, my favorite kind.
Sans gluten, the dough doesn't run the risk of getting overworked like dough made from gluten-rich wheat flour, so the donuts never turn out tough or chewy. Instead, they stay cakey, with a delicate crumb that contrasts nicely with their crisp crust. Not only that, but the variety of flours used in gluten-free baking provides a wider range of subtle flavors: Oat flour lends a hearty, wholesome quality (and a dose of healthy fiber) to the oat old-fashioneds, which get a rum-raisin topping; millet flour has a sweet, slightly earthy taste, and gives the classic chocolate-glazed cake donuts a delicate, creamy interior; and sorghum flour ensures that the chocolate donuts with zebra glaze are moist, with just a hint of rich nuttiness. They're so good, in fact, that they can even fool gluten eaters.