25 October 2010

In the words of Homer Simpson...


Homemade Vanilla Bean Glazed Doughnuts

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.  Thankfully, I no longer have a fear of frying, so I was pretty excited about this challenge!

Now, here in Canada, doughnuts are pretty popular, though I didn't realize just how popular - apparently Canucks consume more doughnuts per capita than anyone else.  Maybe these stats include those incredibly addictive mini-doughnuts that you get at every summer carnival, festival and fair - hot and freshly sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, they are wickedly good.  I can guarantee you that included in their count is the Canadian institution that is Tim Hortons.  Tim Horton was a hockey player (which automatically makes him a Canadian hero), who opened up a doughnut shop in 1964 with a business partner.  Today, there are over 2700 Tim Hortons locations across Canada (don't ask me why they dropped the apostrophe "s"), almost 600 in the US, and because "Tim's" is such a Canadian staple, there is even a location at the Kandahar Military Base in Afghanistan, simply to keep our troops well supplied with doughnuts and coffee.  Ironically, they're known more for their coffee than anything else these days, and if you don't believe me, next time you run into a Canadian, just ask them what a "Double Double" is, and they'll be able to tell you.  It's pretty well known that if you can get your hands on a Tim Hortons franchise, you basically have a license to print money.  Heck, at the location a block away from my work, the drive through lineup is never less a dozen cars.  While I won't go out of my way for some Tim's, I've definitely eaten there.

Mmmmmm... Doughnuts.  Chocolate, glazed or rolled in sugar!

Lori's challenge gave us the freedom to make whatever kind of doughnuts we wanted, but she provided some recipes for both cake and yeast doughnuts.  I decided to go with the more traditional yeast doughnut recipe by Alton Brown.  Party because I prefer them over cake doughnuts, and partly out of loyalty to Mr. Brown - without him, I would probably still be doing heat-'n-eat food for dinner every night.  His "Good Eats" show was a favourite of mine when hubby and I first moved in together and my cooking skills were basic at best.  His entertaining food science approach was very inspiring, and I would head into the kitchen with a "Hey, I can make that!" attitude after every episode.  It wasn't long before my cooking repertoir expanded considerably.  So, on behalf on myself and my hubby - Thanks Alton!  Now, where was I...? Oh yeah - yeast doughnuts.  Anyway, I was pondering the possibilities of all things doughnut and started thinking about French Crullers, my personal favourite in the doughnut category.  But they're completely different from all other doughnuts... they're not yeast, and they're certainly not cake - they are incredibly light and have an airy, yet moist, custard-y interior.  Well I was able to find out (thanks Google!) that crullers are actually made from pâte à choux dough - which is awesome, because I totally know how to make that! It also explains why they're my fav... pâte à choux dough is the wonderous stuff that éclairs, chouquettes and profiteroles are made from.  It's like wonder dough!
Frying up some French Crullers
Fresh French Crullers... ready to be glazed

The yeast doughnuts do take longer to make, simply because yeast doughs need time to rise and rest and rise again, but you can still have fresh, homemade doughnuts in a little under 3 hours. Conveniently though, there is just enough time while the yeast dough rises to make the crullers.  French Crullers are pretty straightforward: make the choux dough, pipe it into a swirly dough shape using a star tip and a piping bag, and fry.  When they come out of the hot oil you can glaze them or roll them in sugar, plain or seasoned with a spice of your choice, such as cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg... pretty much anything you like!  As for the yeast doughnuts, you can really go crazy with toppings, glazes and even fillings - just remember to omit cutting a hole in the doughnut if you're going to fill them.  I opted to make a vanilla glaze using confectioners sugar, vanilla and cream - and it paired perfectly with the crispy dough.  I also made a ganache to use a rish chocolate glaze for some of them.  Finally, I pureed some strawberry preserves and piped them into the few hole-less doughnuts I cooked up, and used the vanilla glaze on them as well.  A word of advice if you're going to make filled doughnuts: be careful not to overstuff them with your filling.  I sent the filled ones off to work with hubby with the warning that folks should watch out for the exploding doughnut.  I'm pretty sure one of his coworkers started their day off with a strawberry stain down the front of their shirt... oops!

Homemade Jelly Doughnuts - what could be better?

So, having made my own doughnuts from scratch, crullers are still my favourite, though the other ones are way better than store bought.  I can also say that I will certianly be making these again - to fill a request from my nephew in California.  He spent many mornings going for "doughjeez" with his grandpa when he lived in Canada, and he is bona-fide doughnut lover.  Unfortunately, we recently discovered he has a severe allergy to soy, and Sis has yet to find a doughnut they can buy down there that is soy-free.  So I'll happily cook up a fresh batch for him at Christmas.  After all, one of my favourite things about cooking and baking is making someone's day by making their favouite treat - especially if they are otherwise deprived of it.

Sweet, warm & waiting to be devoured....
Happy doughnut making!

Yeast Doughnuts
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown
Makes 20 to 25 doughnuts

360 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
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.

Pâte à Choux
makes approximately 12 French Crullers

125 ml milk
125 ml water
125g unsalted butter
4g salt
140g all-purpose flour
4 large eggs (at room temperature)

Place the milk, water and butter into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. Once the butter has completely melted, add in the flour and stir vigorously, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the dough is well mixed and resembles the texture of wet sand.
Place the dough into the bowl of a food processor (or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment). Turn the food processor on to cool the mixture for a couple of minutes. With the processor running, add the eggs, one at a time, through the feed tube. Scrape down the bowl if necessary, and continue to process until the dough becomes thick and glossy.
Scrape the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.  Gently pipe large circles of dough onto a sheet of parchment paper sprinkled generously with flour.
Preheat the oil in a deep fryer or Dutch oven to 365˚F. Gently place the doughnuts into the oil, 2 or 3 at a time.  Cook for about 1 minute per side.  Remove from oil and place onto a cooling rack.  Allow them to cool slightly before dipping in glaze or dipping in sugar.

The incredible exploding doughnut

Vanilla Bean Glaze
60ml (1/4 Cup) heavy cream
1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste (or you can substitute with vanilla extract)
205g (1 1/2 Cups) confectioner's sugar

In a medium bowl, combine the cream and vanilla.  Gently whisk in one third of the confectioners sugar until well blended.  Gradually blend in the rest of the confectioners sugar, 1/3 at a time, whisking until smooth.

Dip the warm doughnuts into the glaze, and coat completely.  Lift the doughnut out of the glaze by threading a skewer, dowell or the handle of a wooden spoon through the hole of the doughnut.  Suspend the doughnuts over the bowl for a couple of minutes to allow the excess glaze to drip off.  Transfer the glazed doughnuts to a plate, platter or tray.  Serve immediately.

Give 'em a dip in some Vanilla Bean Glaze

Almost ready to eat.....!


Butter said...

Oh my! Looks like it is time for doughnuts- Great minds think alike! I want these now...really bad....
- Butter

Audax said...

WOW and WOW both of them look so delicious and tasty and I love the back story to these, a very long post LOL LOL. Wonderful effort. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

Romy said...

Your doughnuts look great, Julia! I especially like the photo of them swimming in the big bowl of glaze. Awesome job on this challenge!

Lori said...

What variety! You did an amazing job.

Hazel said...

This post has made me very, very hungry indeed.