I've baked doughnuts before by simply rolling the dough into circles and laying them on a baking sheet. That worked okay, but a pan would hold the dough as it rises and make puffier doughnuts. A pan also enables you to make "doughnuts" out of things like cake batter and muffin batter, which wouldn't hold their shape without a pan.
And as far as kitchen equipment goes, these pans are fairly inexpensive. For around $10, you can get a nonstick pan for either six regular-sized doughnuts or twelve mini-doughnuts. The two most popular brands seem to be Wilton, available at Sur la Table, and Norpro, available on Amazon:
• Wilton Doughnut Pans from Sur la Table, $9.95 for mini-doughnut pan or $10.95 for standard-sized doughnut pan
• Norpro Doughnut Pans from Amazon, $12.75 for mini-doughnut pan or $14.99 for a standard-sized doughnut pan
I'm thinking this would be the perfect holiday present, for either myself (attn: husband) or my baking buddies. It's going on the list right now.
Do you have a doughnut pan? Do you like it?
(Image: Sur la Table)