Monday, August 1, 2011

Week One -- Doughnuts

Okay, I realize that there is a doughnut or donut or do-nut place on just about every corner and that they are amazingly cheap, but I’ve decided to ignore those two points. This week we are making doughnuts. (I am choosing this spelling for simplicity sake.)

I should start by admitting that I have never actually deep fried anything. It’s sort of the whole idea of food swimming in oil, but it’s also the mess that has been prohibitive. But, I have decided to be fearless this year. We’ve made baked doughnuts. I bought a doughnut pan from King Arthur Flour last year, thinking we’d be baking doughnuts all the time, but the truth is, we’ve only used it once. The doughnuts were okay, but they definitely weren’t the puffy bits of heaven that we buy down the street.

I poked around in my cookbooks and online and found what I think is an excellent recipe. (We’ll see.) It’s from Alton Brown’s show, Good Eats. I picked it because it’s simple and also because I really do think Alton Brown is cool in a geeky, smart way. Other reasons for picking this recipe: no lard (we’re vegetarians) and no off-the-wall ingredients (sweet potato, bananas, avocado???).
Mixing the dough was easy. I didn’t even bother to haul out the stand mixer. I just did it by hand. And honestly even though I spent three years as a professional baker, it makes me crazy sometimes to have measurements given by weight. I have a scale, but again… hauling it out is a pain, so I just went by feel. I added flour little by little until the dough became soft and not too sticky. (One note: this recipe makes a mountain of doughnuts! We ended up freezing half of it to use later… maybe cinnamon rolls or something.) The first rise was about an hour.

We rolled it all out and then I set my son cutting it. At first he was bummed that we didn’t have a doughnut cutter, but he rallied. We also used some dough to make impromptu twists. Then it was one more rise for thirty minutes. I took that time to make the two glazes... vanilla and chocolate... and heat up the oil. This last bit was sort of scary. I had images of kitchen fires and emergency rooms in my head. I also only used about two inches of oil. I didn't see the need for more. (And that was a good choice). I used a candy thermometer on the oil, which was a good choice as I had to keep adjusting the flame under the pot. After the oil hit 365.... which my son monitored, I slid the first few rounds of dough into the pot. They puffed immediately... which made both of us very happy. The recipe says that it takes about 1 min for each side, but it was more like 20-30 seconds. I used a long metal fork to flip everything. And then it was another 20-30 seconds before I took them out.

We drained everything on paper towels and let them cool (a bit). Then we dipped them in the glaze. The twists I sprinkled with cinammon sugar. I liked the twists the best, but my son preferred the chocolate. (Duh...) Like I said, it made a ton, so we ended up giving most of them away, but they were really, really good.... fresh eggs, good milk, good chocolate... yep, probably a bit better quality than your normal doughnut shop.

Making doughnuts was fun, but really messy and now I have a pot of oil on my stove and I’m not sure what to do with it. Yikes. But… they are wicked good. I have to say that these doughnuts beat any store-bought doughnuts hands down.

Yeast Doughnuts

recipe courtesy of Alton Brown (Good Eats, 2004)

• 1 1/2 cups milk
• 2 1/2 ounces vegetable shortening, approximately 1/3 cup
• 2 packages instant yeast
• 1/3 cup warm water (95 to 105 degrees F)
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
• 23 ounces all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surface
• Peanut or vegetable oil, for frying (1 to 1/2 gallons, depending on fryer)

Place the milk in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat just until warm enough to melt the shortening. Place the shortening in a bowl and pour warmed milk over. Set aside.
In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let dissolve for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, pour the yeast mixture into the large bowl of a stand mixer and add the milk and shortening mixture, first making sure the milk and shortening mixture has cooled to lukewarm. Add the eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and half of the flour. Using the paddle attachment, combine the ingredients on low speed until flour is incorporated and then turn the speed up to medium and beat until well combined. Add the remaining flour, combining on low speed at first, and then increase the speed to medium and beat well. Change to the dough hook attachment of the mixer and beat on medium speed until the dough pulls away from the bowl and becomes smooth, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a well-oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to 3/8-inch thick. Cut out dough using a 2 1/2-inch doughnut cutter or pastry ring and using a 7/8-inch ring for the center whole. Set on floured baking sheet, cover lightly with a tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oil in a deep fryer or Dutch oven to 365 degrees F. Gently place the doughnuts into the oil, 3 to 4 at a time. Cook for 1 minute per side. Transfer to a cooling rack placed in baking pan. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes prior to glazing, if desired.

Vanilla Glaze

• 1/4 cup whole milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 cups confectioners' sugar
Combine milk and vanilla in a medium saucepan and heat over low heat until warm. Sift confectioners' sugar into milk mixture. Whisk slowly, until well combined. Remove the glaze from the heat and set over a bowl of warm water. Dip doughnuts into the glaze, 1 at a time, and set on a draining rack placed in a half sheet pan for 5 minutes before serving.

Chocolate Glaze (Harrison’s favorite)

• 1/2 cup unsalted butter
• 1/4 cup whole milk, warmed
• 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
• 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

Combine butter, milk, corn syrup, and vanilla in medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until butter is melted. Decrease the heat to low, add the chocolate, and whisk until melted. Turn off heat, add the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Place the mixture over a bowl of warm water and dip the doughnuts immediately. Allow glaze to set for 30 minutes before serving.

Cinnamon Sugar (My favorite)

• Ground Cinnamon
• granulated sugar

Combine cinnamon and sugar to your liking. (Duh) :)

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