Who doesn’t like donuts? Seriously, what kind of creature devoid of a soul does not enjoy the handheld pastry covered in chocolate and sprinkles (or “jimmies” for you midwest folks). For the true lover of donuts, or doughnuts if you are too fancy to use the shortform, nothing is better than making your own batch.
The problem with that is the massive pain in the butt of making and frying the little beasts. Enter “Smart Planet”, who have lived up to their name by making their own Mini Donut Maker to make your life easier, as well as make a healthier baked version rather than diving your treats into a vat of hot oil. Courtesy of the fine folks at Think Geek, how does this donut maker hold up? Lets take a look and find out!
The box itself is colorful and relatively light, considering what is housed inside it. The donuts look like Martha Stewart herself made them, but we will get to that in a few paragraphs. I did not spend much time admiring the packaging, though, as I was hungry for some donuts!
And here is the machine itself, which is straight-forward and easy to use. The one thing you may notice immediately is the lack of any dials, buttons, or a timer. This is a super simple to use donut maker, but if that is for better or worse, you will find out by the end of this review. The only other thing in the box besides the machine is a very brief instruction manual.
The manual includes a recipe for French breakfast donuts, which was fine to use, but I decided to try a different one. Here is the recipe I went with that I adapted from Food Network’s website:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted shortening
2 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of salt
Because I am lactose intolerant, I swapped real milk for rice milk, which will affect your flavor a little so I would suggest adding a little more butter to compensate for that. I also was lazy here and did not sift the flour, and trust me, that does make a huge difference in the density of your donuts. Sifting will make them lighter, so if you have the time, make sure you sift first before incorporating other ingredients into your dry mix. It should be noted that the manual’s recipe called for less flour, and that would probably be the better way to go, but more on that later.
I was not expecting to make delicious donuts with this since the goal was to review the product, not recipes. It was a good thing my expectations were low since I screwed up the incredibly easy recipe from the start, but let’s just pretend I did everything else right for the sake of moving this article along.
The manual is a skimpy eight pages long, two of which being the front and back covers. In other words, do not expect much direction since the majority of the booklet is safety precautions. If you need help learning how to make better donuts, consult the internet like I did, since the manual glances over donut creation and maintenance.
As warned in the booklet, the machine will emit an odor and some steam once you first plug it in, but after that, you will not have to worry about any of those annoyances. There is no timer on the donut maker other than the natural timer that the donuts are built in with, which is that they begin to rise when they are done. Your donuts should take no more than three minutes to finish baking, but you can leave them in for up to five minutes if you make really thick donuts (like I accidentally did).
Back to those instructions – the guide does not exactly tell you how much batter to put into the machine, so it is a bit of a trial and error. In my first batch, I tried bigger lumps, which took longer to bake and had unpleasant excess forming those nifty handles on the sides. When I say it took “longer”, keep in mind this is a mini donut maker, so longer just meant 30 more seconds in most cases.
If your donuts are too big, they will rise and slowly push the lid off of the machine. This is their natural way of saying “take me out, I’m done.” Unfortunately, this can cause for some uneven cooking if your dough is not the exact same size. The donuts on the outer ring will lift off more than the ones closest to the hinge, and will make those less brown. If you cover them in chocolate, you will not notice them, but I got in a habit of moving the ones on the outer ring closer towards the hinge once the ones by the hinge were done, just to give them all the same color.
My first batch, as you can see, came out looking awful. Because there were no instructions on how much batter to put in, I just dumped as much as I wanted, and I paid the price for it. But, by the second batch…
I had started to figure it out. Thanks to this being a mini donut maker and not a full-sized one, the trial and error process is not too terrible. After all, each batch will take only a few minutes to make, so you can play around, and by the time you run out of dough, you will know what to do the next time you make donuts.
I managed to squeeze out about five batches of mini donuts here (which I covered in dark chocolate, and on half of my batch, dried apricot chunks), although your results will vary depending on your dough. Each donut will fit in the palm of your hand, but if you find a good recipe, will have as much flavor as a normal sized donut. By the end of my time making them, I had figured out the right way to do them and made some sweet looking treats. After the machine cooled down, a quick wipe with a paper towel is all you need to clean the trays. Then, simply put it back in the box or store wherever else you like, and dream about your next batch of donuts!
This is one of those products where you get what you pay for. At the low cost of only $20 on Think Geek, this is a great purchase. Your mistakes will still end up tasty, and you will learn quickly since you can immediately see the results. The biggest thing to watch out for is how hot the top of the machine can get, since there is no proper handle to grab it with. Otherwise, this would make a great gift for a friend, or for yourself, since donuts have never been easier to make. Is this the best machine on the market for this? No, but for this price point, you will get what you need until you are ready to make the plunge for a more expensive unit (if you even need it).
Check out the gallery below for more photos!
Thanks to Think Geek for sending us this cool product!