Grandma Leite’s Doughnuts | Malassadas

This recipe, adapted from the one my dad’s mom used to make in the Azores, has a flood of memories attached to it. I would sleep over at her house many a Friday night, and on Saturdays she’d make these for my cousins, Fatima and Joe, and me. Hot out of the sugar-cinnamon bowl is the only way to eat them.

In the Azores, some cooks shape these over their knees until they’re practically the size of lunch plates, just like my grandmother used to do. Others stretch and flop them out in their hands. I’ve made these smaller so they’re easier to work with, and fiddled with the recipe a touch, but beyond that, welcome to my childhood.–David Leite

LC Puffy, Crispy, Fried Dough Goodness Note

Whatever you call this recipe for Portuguese fried dough—malassadas, doughnuts, fritters, heavenly—we think you’ll be woo’d by the infallibly puffy, crispy, fried dough goodness. We certainly were.

Portuguese Doughnuts | Mallassadas Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 4 H, 30 M
  • Makes 24

Ingredients

  • For the doughnuts | malassadas
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking sheet
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons or 1/4 ounce)
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons warm water, 110°F (43°C)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • For the cinnamon sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

  • Make the doughnuts | malassadas
  • 1. Heat the milk, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, just until steam begins to curl from the surface and bubbles form around the edges, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool until lukewarm.
  • 2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in the warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  • 3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and the eggs on medium-high until thick and luscious looking, about 5 minutes. Switch to the dough hook, add the milk mixture, the yeast mixture, and the flour, and mix on low speed until a soft dough forms, about 7 minutes, adding more flour if needed. The dough should be just slightly tacky but not sticky.
  • 4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, shape into a ball, and place in a lightly buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until double in size, about 2 hours.
  • 5. Lightly coat a 13-by-18-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and turn the dough onto the pan. Press and poke it with your fingers, much like making focaccia, to help stretch it until it’s about 1/2 inch thick. Lightly coat the top of the dough with cooking spray, loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest until double in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  • Make the cinnamon sugar
  • 6. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl.
  • Fry the doughnuts | malassadas
  • 7. Fill a medium saucepan with 3 inches of oil and heat over medium-high heat until it reaches 350°F on a deep-fry or candy thermometer. Monitor the heat to keep a steady temperature. Using scissors or your hands, cut or pull a 2-to-3-inch piece of dough from the baking sheet and stretch it into a 4-to-5-inch circle, then lower it into the oil and fry, turning it frequently, just until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, 45 seconds to 1 1/2 minutes, depending on the size. Drain the doughnut on paper towels for 30 seconds and then toss in the cinnamon sugar. Repeat with the remaining dough. Devour warm.
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Comments
Comments
  1. Tracy says:

    I want to make these for my daughter’s wedding. Can they be cooked ahead of time and frozen? And if so, do I put the sugar on them before freezing or after i take them out? Thanks.

    • David Leite says:

      Tracy, some cooks do fry then freeze malassadas, but, to me, they never taste same. Any fried dough is best eaten right then and there. Obviously, it would be hard to make a whole raft of malassadas on the spot at a wedding. My advice is to fry up a batch, sugar half of the doughnuts, let them all cool, then freeze them. Defrost them and see if either version works for you.

      • Ellie says:

        My family is from the Azores and we would freeze these all the time. When I was in college my mother would make these in large batches and freeze them so I could take ziploc bags full to school with me. They freeze very well and last months in the freezer. The key is to sugar them first, let them cool and then wrap them in aluminum foil and put in a freezer-proof ziploc bag before freezing. We would do 2-3 malassadas per foil wrap so you had serving size portions ready. When you want one, pull it out of the freezer still wrapped in foil, let them sit for a few minutes then pop them into a toaster oven or regular oven at about 300-350 still in the foil. They come out just as crispy on the outside and soft and tasty on the inside. I usually sprinkle with a bit more sugar and cinnamon after since much of the original sugar will melt in. Nothing compares to freshly made malassadas, but this is not a bad substitute when you can’t have them fresh!

  2. Maria says:

    I am from Sao Miguel and have first hand experience helping my mom make these. I’m not sure which island this recipe is from but I NEVER saw my mom stretch it over her knees or top it with anything besides granulated sugar. Growing up in Fall River, malassadas were available just about any Sunday from the local bakeries or the Portuguese churches and they were in the same style as my mom’s. Will share recipe if you’re interested.

    • David Leite says:

      Maria, hello! I, too, am from Fall River, MA, and I remember eating these all the time. Both of my grandmothers along with all my aunts made them. One of my grandmothers was aware of some cooks using their knee to shape them. I’d love to see your recipe.

    • ana crespo says:

      hi maria. my name is ana crespo. I used to live in fall river so I know exactly what you are taking about. is there anyway you could email me the recipe? I moved with my husband and children and want my kids to grow up with the same traditions I had as a kid. my email is acrespo1212@gmail.com. also if you have the recipe for sweet bread, rice pudding and queisadas de nata that would be fantastic any other recipes you would like to forward I would love to try :-) thank you

  3. Mary-Anne says:

    I would love to see your recipe Maria. Thank you.

  4. maria says:

    hi everyone. i did made this dough. so easy. i love it from when my mom taught me. i have missed her so much. i will never forgot about her passing. i want to say thank to my mom so much for everything she taught me in the azores, portugal, where we were born, rabo de peixe.

    • David Leite says:

      maria, I’m so happy you made this recipe. It’s amazing how some dishes remind us so much of our family. I remember my ávo Leite making malassadas when I was a kid. How I loved to eat them warm from the skillet–after their dip into the granulated sugar pool, that is!

  5. Miriam says:

    Maria and David, I grew up in Fall River too But now I live in Brazil..I remember the Espirito Santo Church feast where the portuguese ladies made the Malassadas!! My mom is from the Azores and I have to get her recipe. Great meeting u guys here. Miriam

    • David Leite says:

      Miriam, thanks for this. I’m substituting my family’s recipe for this, so please take a look in about a day. It doesn’t contain liquor and should look even more familiar.

  6. Jeanne Lima Egan says:

    Hi, my Dad ‘s family came from Maderia Island. I visited the island long ago. I want to know if a bread machine can be used to mix the dough? I sure would like to try your receipe. THANKS

    NJ

    • David Leite says:

      Jeanne, Madeira is gorgeous. I love the north side of the island, especially. Regarding using a bread machine to make the malassada dough, I’m at a loss. I’ve never used one, so I don’t know what adjustments–if any–you need to make to a recipe. I’d say give it a whirl. And if you do, please come back and let us know if it works. We can then help others.

  7. K says:

    Hi David, We get malasadas from the local bakery here in RI and I was wondering how are they different from the dough boys (fried dough) my mom makes? she used bread dough the malasadas taste like a egg based dough. love both.

    • David Leite says:

      K, I’m not sure exactly what goes into dough boys. From what I remember from back home, they’re sugared bread dough, which is simply flour, yeast, water, and salt. Malassadas contain butter, milk, eggs, and sugar in the dough, so they’re richer.

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