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Ask A Local Chef: Best Donuts for National Donut Day

Chef J at Birdies - Birdies
(Credit: Birdies)

Just a couple of months ago, Chef Jason Harley introduced Los Angeles to his style of yeast-risen and cake-style donuts. Ironically, the golden fried road to donuts began with chicken. Last year, Harley, aka Chef J, opened his short-lived fried chicken lunch joint in the South Park neighborhood of DTLA, Mabel's Chicken & Waffles. Mabel's was his first venture in an area with less ties to the rich and famous, having previously worked as a personal chef and celebrity caterer before taking the helm at three other restaurants--BlackSteel, Parc and PICI Enoteca. When Mabel's shuttered, it wasn't long before Chef J transformed the concept into Birdies--a fried chicken, donuts and coffee shop.
Birdies dishes out piping hot donuts by the hour with a menu full of made-from-scratch mainstays, as well as a rotation of specials. Horchata twist with dulce de leche, triple dark chocolate, lemon thyme pistachio, Oreo cream and candied maple bacon are just a few of the regular, decadent flavors. On National Donut Day, June 3rd, Chef J will introduce a strawberry cream donut to the standard line-up, as well as a sandwich featuring his spicy fried chicken on a split donut bun that will only be available for a limited time. Early birds, get your fix of coffee and freshly fried donuts as early as 6:30a. Night owls are in luck because during the weekend, Birdies is open 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays, finally closing on Sundays at 8p. For National Donut Day, Chef J invites you to the shop for his one-of-a-kind specialties, and he's also sharing a few recipes you can make at home.
314 West Olympic Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 536-5720

Classic Glazed Donut - Chrystal Baker
(Credit: Chrystal Baker)

Classic Glazed Donut

Makes 8 to 12 donuts

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 cup whole milk, heated to 110°F
  • 2 - 2 ½ cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) superfine sugar
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature and cut into cubes
  • Vegetable oil, for frying


  • 1 ½ cups confectioners' sugar, sifted to remove any lumps
  • 3 - 4 tablespoons milk or water
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Rainbow sprinkles, optional


  1. In a medium bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of the yeast with ¾ cup of the warm milk, and stir to dissolve the yeast. Add ¾ cup of the flour, and stir to create a smooth paste. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the flour mixture rest in a warm place for 30 minutes.
  2. Once 30 minutes have passed, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the remaining 1 teaspoon yeast with the remaining ¼ cup milk (the milk will be room temperature at this point). Add the rested flour mixture along with the vanilla and egg yolks and mix on low until the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is smooth, about 30 seconds.
  3. Turn off the mixer and add 1 cup of flour, along with the sugar and salt. Mix on medium until the dough starts to come together, about 30 seconds. Add the butter and mix on medium until it's incorporated, about 30 seconds. Remove the paddle attachment from the mixer, and switch to the dough hook.
  4. Start adding the remaining flour, ¼ cup at a time (turning the mixer off for each addition), and knead the dough on medium until it completely pulls away from the side of the bowl and is smooth and not too sticky, about 1 minute. The dough will be very soft and moist, but not so sticky that you can't roll it out. (For this step, you may only need to use as little as ¼ cup flour, so there may be flour leftover.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest in a warm place for 30 minutes.
  5. Once 30 minutes have passed, gently press down on the dough to remove any gas bubbles then chill, covered, for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours.
  6. When ready to roll out the dough, line a baking sheet with a lightly floured non-terry towel. Lightly flour a work surface, and roll out the dough to a ½-inch thickness. Using donut or cookie cutters, cut out 3" diameter rounds with 1" diameter holes. (For filled donuts, don't cut out the holes.)
  7. Arrange the donuts on the prepared baking sheet, leaving at least 1" between donuts. Cover the donuts loosely with plastic wrap, and let them proof in a warm place until almost doubled in size, 30 to 40 minutes. Check to see if the donuts are ready every 5 to 10 minutes. To test, use a fingertip to lightly touch one of the donuts. If the dough springs back immediately, it needs more time. If it springs back slowly, it's ready. If the dough doesn't spring back at all, it's over-proofed. You can punch down and re-roll over-proofed dough once.
  8. While the donuts are proofing, line a baking sheet with two layers of paper towels, and place a wire rack on top of the towels. In a heavy-bottomed, large pot or deep fryer, heat at least 2" of oil until a deep-fry thermometer registers 360°F. Working in batches, use a slotted metal spoon or spatula to carefully place the donuts in the hot oil. Fry, flipping once, until light golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer as done to the wire rack, and return the oil to 360°F between batches. Let the donuts cool slightly before glazing.
  9. For the glaze, place the sugar in a medium bowl, and slowly stir in the milk and vanilla, a little at a time, to make a smooth, pourable glaze. Place two cooling racks over two baking sheets. Dip the donuts in the glaze, and set on the cooling racks. Sprinkle with rainbow sprinkles, if desired.
Old Fashioned Sour Cream Donut - Birdies
(Credit: Birdies)

Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Donuts
Makes 12 donuts

  • 2 ¼ cups (255 grams) cake flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup (100 grams) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (29 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup (113 grams) sour cream
  • Canola oil, for frying


  • 3 ½ cups (350 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 ½ teaspoons corn syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup hot water


  1. In a bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the sugar and butter together until sandy.
  2. Add the egg yolks, and mix until light and thick. Add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl in three additions, alternating with the sour cream, ending with the flour. The dough will be sticky. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill for 1 hour.
  3. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about ½" thickness. Use a donut cutter or two differently sized biscuit cutters to cut out as many donuts as possible, dipping the cutters into flour as necessary to prevent sticking. You should get about 12 donuts and holes.
  4. Pour 2" of canola oil into a heavy bottomed pot with a deep-fry thermometer attached. Heat to 325°F. Fry the donuts a few at a time, being careful not to overcrowd the pot. Fry on each side about 2 minutes, being careful not to let them burn. Let drain on a paper bag to soak up the excess grease.
  5. For the glaze, mix all ingredients in a bowl with a whisk until smooth. Immerse each donut into the glaze. Place on a wire rack above a sheet pan to catch any excess glaze. Let sit for 20 minutes until glaze is set. Donuts are best served the day they are made.
Donut Holes - Birdies
(Credit: Birdies)

Donut Holes
Makes: 3 dozen holes

  • 2 cups vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar, for rolling


  1. Preheat oil over medium heat in a 10" non-stick frying pan. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together milk, buttermilk, sugar and butter. Using a fork, stir in dry ingredients, and mix just until combined (think of making biscuit dough, you just want to incorporate the ingredients).
  2. Once the oil has reached 350 degrees F, measure out ½ tablespoon of dough, and using your hands gently roll into a ball (gently rolling to keep them fluffy, think of rolling something really fragile. This is like a biscuit though, so you don't want to overwork it).
  3. Gently place dough ball into oil, and fry until golden brown on bottom. Flip, and cook reverse side until golden brown. Carefully remove with metal tongs or a fork, and drain onto a paper towel-lined plate. Roll in sugar. Repeat this process with remaining dough. Note: These are best enjoyed the day they are made.
Chrystal Baker is a freelance food and events contributor for CBS Los Angeles, Basil Magazine and Frugivore Magazine. She is the co-editor of a recipe blog, The Duo Dishes, and manages her own lifestyle and travel blog, Any and Everywhere.


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