Whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a mixer.
Add in the water and the 2 tablespoons of oil. Place the dough hook on your mixer and mix the dough together on medium-low speed.
Scrape down the sides a few times as necessary, and mix the dough for about 4 to 5 minutes. It should be starting to gather around the dough hook at this point. If the dough seems to dry, you can sprinkle in tablespoons full of water as it finishes to bring it together.
Grease a large mixing bowl, and scrape the dough into it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm, draft-free place for 1½ - 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.
Heat the oil:
Line a cooling rack or plate with paper towels, and place this near your cook top. Have a metal slotted spoon or spatula ready. Melt the ¼ cup of butter and have this nearby, along with a pastry brush.
When the dough has finished rising, pour vegetable oil into a large, heavy-duty pot—like a cast iron or enameled cast iron pot. Heat the oil over medium-high heat: you want the oil to reach a temperature of 350° F, so check the oil often with a thermometer.
While the oil heats, prepare the dough:
Lightly flour a work surface, and keep a little extra flour nearby. Tip the dough onto the floured surface. Sprinkle the top with flour, then roll out the dough. It doesn't have to be super thin—aim for ½-¾ inch thick.
Use a knife or pizza cutter to cut the dough into about 10 equal-sized pieces.
Fry the dough:
When the oil is ready at 350° F, get one of your pieces of dough. If it's sticky, dust the dough and your fingers with a little flour to make it easier to handle.
Give the dough piece a few gentle stretches. Carefully lay the piece of dough in the oil—it should immediately begin to puff as the oil bubbles around it.
Use your slotted spoon, spatula, or tongs to move the dough in the oil, turning it as you see the underside begin to brown. Continue frying and turning the dough until it is browned on all sides: this should take 2 to 2½ minutes.
Remove the dough from the oil to the paper towel-lined rack.
Continue frying the other pieces of dough this way. Check the temperature of the oil frequently as you fry to maintain the temp of 350° F, and adjust the heat under your pan as needed.
If the oil is way too hot, carefully slide the pan off the burner for a minute or two to help bring the temperature down.
Brush with butter:
When all the pieces have been fried, brush them with the melted butter. No matter what other toppings you add, this melted butter is key for the moisture and flavor it adds.
My favorite toppings are a thick dusting of confectioner's sugar and a drizzle of pure maple syrup. Chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, or honey are also delicious. And to really make it a treat, try fruit sauces like blueberry or simmered apples.
Enjoy the warm dough immediately. Makes about 10 pieces. Leftover dough can be stored covered at room temperature for a day or two.
OPTION: use pre-made dough
If your pre-made dough is refrigerated, place it in a greased bowl, cover it, and let it come to room temperature before preparing the oil. Frozen dough should be allowed to thaw in the fridge, and then brought to room temperature.
OPTION: save your oil
You can save and reuse your cooking oil for your next batch of fried dough or other fried food. Let the oil cool, then pour it through a paper towel-lined strainer to removed the solids. Save the oil in a closed bottle or other container.
Maintaining the proper oil temp is key to getting great fried dough. Heat the oil to a temperature of 350° F, and adjust the heat as you cook to maintain this temp. A thermometer is the best way to get the temperature you need—use a digital thermometer like this one. (affiliate link.)
Melted butter brushed on the hot fried dough gives a crucial (and delicious!) flavor. After the butter, you can add your favorite fried dough toppings.
This recipe has not been tested with an air fryer.