Friday, May 31, 2013

Homemade Doughnuts (Yes You Can!)

Having tried my hand at every other passing dessert fad--pie, cupcakes, macarons--it was really only a
matter of time before I broke down and made an effort at crafting my own homemade doughnuts as the craze sweeps through town. Right off the bat, I'll tell you that homemade doughnuts are both easier and harder than you would think. Easier in that deep frying is very intimidating but actually SIMPLE if you invest in an accurate thermometer, and harder in that it takes a loooooong time, plus you have to deal with that eternal prima donna: yeast.

Add to that, there are approximately 9, 537 doughnut recipes which claim to be "THE BEST EVER!" I even purchased three different cookbooks devoted exclusively to doughnut recipes, and each book espoused a completely different recipe and method. So. That being said, if you think all of this might already be a little much for you, you can still have delicious baked doughnuts at home with half the hassle. But, I encourage you to take the yeasty doughnut plunge, because it was totally worth it.

I have to say, I loved these doughnuts. They were tall, thick and--my favorite part--chewy. If you're more of a Krispy Kreme fan, this is probably not the recipe for you. But, if you like your fried dough to have a bit of chew, then you should definitely give this one a whirl. Also, having subsequently tried a recipe using less flour, these doughnuts were also considerably stronger and easier to handle, so they might be a good option for beginners.

Have you ever had one of those "Ah ha! Why did I never think of that before?!" moments in cooking? That definitely happened to me with Top Pot's doughnut recipe and their description of using a pan of boiling water to create a proofing box out of your oven. Pure. Genius. If you don't actually have any "warm, draft-free" areas in your home and always have trouble getting yeast doughs to rise, this will change your (baking) life.

Overall I was thrilled with these doughnuts and plan to make them again, though you only have to read about the recent difficulties encountered by Zeke's DC Donutz to understand one of the big downsides of doughnut making--you may want to open a window

A few notes: You absolutely need a thermometer for these doughnuts to work. You don't need anything fancy, and the candy thermometer you bought years ago, used once for fudge, then lost in the cabinet will work just fine. I also recommend any type of steel or metal implement for transferring the doughnuts from the baking sheet to the oil--a metal spatula, offset spatula, or some other heat-resistant implement that you can dunk directly into the oil is ideal. When transferring the doughnuts to the oil, try to shake off as much excess flour as possible, as it's these particles that can pop and burn, leading to a fire. Finally, I would recommend halving the frosting recipe unless, well, you really ingest doughnuts purely as a glaze delivery mechanism :)

Raised Glazed Ring Doughnuts
     makes 12-14, plus holes
     From Top Pot

3 Tbs (four 1/4 oz/7 g packets) active dry yeast
1 cup very warm water (about 105 degrees)
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 Tbs
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground mace (optional)
2 tsp salt
4 to 4 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for rolling/cutting
1/4 cup vegetable lard
 3 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Canola oil, for frying

1. Whisk the yeast, water, and 1 Tbs of the sugar together in the work bowl of a stand mixer and set aside for 5 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, mace (if using), salt, and 4 cups of the bread flour. Set aside.

3. Add the shortening, egg yolks, and vanilla to the foaming yeast mixture. Mix with the paddle attachment on low speed for 1 minute, to break up the shortening. Add about a third of the dry ingredients and mix until blended on low speed, then repeat with the second third of the dry ingredients.

4. Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining dry ingredients, mixing on low speed until no white spots remain each time, adding additional flour as necessary, until the dough is dry enough to clean the bottom of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and knead for 2 more minutes. (It should be smooth like bread dough, but still a little tacky).

5. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet sprinkled with 1 Tbs flour, shape into a flat disk 6 inches in diameter, dust lightly with flour, cover with a dish towel and set aside.

6. Create a proofing box in your oven: Bring a large kettle of water to a boil. Pour 8 cups of the boiling water into a 9x13 inch baking dish and set it on the floor of your oven. Place the sheet with the covered dough on the middle rack of the oven, close the door, and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

7. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll into a roughly 12 inch circle, about 1/2 inch thick, with a lightly floured rolling pin. cut into 12 doughnuts, flouring the cutter before each cut. (re-roll the dough for additional doughnuts). gently transfer the doughnuts and holes to two baking sheets sprinkled with 2 tbs flour each, arranging them at least 2 inches apart, and let rise in the oven (with new boiling water), uncovered, for another 30-45 minutes, until doubled in size.

8. Using a candy thermometer to measure the temperature, heat oil (at least 2 inches deep) in a deep fryer, large pot, or high-sided frying pan over medium heat to 350 degrees. when the doughnuts have doubled, carefully place a few in the oil, taking care not to overcrowd them, and fry for about 30 seconds. (Note that the doughnuts will look more brown when they're done than they do in the oil). Carefully turn the doughnuts and fry for another 20-30 seconds, then transfer to a cooling rack set over a layer of paper towels to cool, rounded side up.

9. While the doughnuts are still very warm, dip the rounded side of each into the warm glaze. let dry on cooling racks, glazed side up, for 10-15 minutes.

Simple Chocolate Icing

4 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tsp light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbs hot water
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted

1. Place the confectioners' sugar, corn syrup, salt, vanilla and hot water in a alrge mixing bowl. Using a whisk, blend until the mixture is smooth and all of the sugar has been incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if necessary. Add the chocolate, and stire to combine completely. If the icing seems too thick, add more hot water a teaspoon at a time.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sucré, New Orleans

This month I finally got to take my first trip to The Fiancé's hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana. Along with meeting family and friends, and marveling at the historic and unique architecture, I couldn't wait to try out all of the famous local foods. In addition to the obligatory gumbos, crawfish, poboys, beignets and King Cakes (yes, I may have sampled all of these and more, don't judge), when researching a bakery to visit, Sucré came up again and again.
While I wouldn't call it a "traditional" New Orleans bakery, the treats at Sucré have an overwhelming French influence, which IS traditional New Orleans :) Along with delicate patisserie desserts, gelato, and cupcake, Sucré also specializes in artisan truffles, chocolate bars and--of course--macarons.

In addition to the traditional almond, vanilla, pistachio and chocolate flavors, Sucré also features seasonal and New Orleans-flavored favorites I'd never seen before such as carrot cake, white chocolate lavender, bananas foster and pecan pie.

With plenty of tables and an assortment of teas, coffees and drinking chocolates, Sucré is the perfect stop after an afternoon of shopping on Magazine Street, or for a little taste of Paris in the bustle of The Big Easy. Can't make it down south anytime soon? Sucré delivers!

Wish I'd been able to try the S'mores tart--comes heated in its own miniature skillet!

More truffles than you know what to do with. Luckily there's a handy flavor guide

If you go
3025 Magazine St
New Orleans, LA 70115

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Mango Souffles with Coconut Lime Creme Anglaise

Since my local climate could never be mistaken for anything approximating "tropical," it's always a little
surprising to me that mango season falls in the spring--a time of year more often featuring blustery rain than the warm tropical breezes I associate with mango.

Luckily I was able to take advantage this year and indulge in a taste of the tropics with this souffle recipe and the previously unbeknownst to me Ataulfo mangoes I came across at Whole Foods--a small, oblong, yellow mango known for its thin pit.

I don't know why I always waltz into complicated recipes as if nothing could possibly go wrong, thinking that foods with finicky reputations must just be flukes of poor recipe nature. Macarons, for example. Though whole books and classes revolve around the exact technique to achieve their footed perfect domes, I was still surprised when my last batch turned out flat and chewy.

Ataulfo Mangoes

Similarly with these souffles. Thrilled to see tall, fluffy custard towering out of its ramekin when I opened my oven door, I found myself yelling "Noooooo!" just moments later as they slowly collapsed. C'est la vie. These souffles were still delicious, and I would love to be able to give you some tips right now about how to keep your own souffles from falling, but a quick internet survey will give you thousands of supposed hints all essentially coaching you to "whip the egg whites as much as possible--but not too much!!" Right.

I'd also like to say this experience will cause me to be more cautious the next time I embark on an ambitious baking project, but I doubt it :)

Mango Souffles with Coconut Lime Creme Anglaise
      from Food52

3/4 pounds ripe mango flesh, roughly chopped
5 eggs, separated
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons melted for the ramekins
1 tablespoon superfine sugar, plus some for dusting the ramekins
2 tablespoons rum
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk (any fat percentage works)
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided

1 egg
1/8 cup granulated sugar
pinches of salt
3/4 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
finely grated zest of 1 lime (about 1/2 a teaspoon) or more to taste

1. For the crème anglaise: Prepare an ice bath, place a small bowl inside of it and set aside.

2. Put the egg, sugar and a pinch of salt in a medium sized bowl and whisk until pale and thickened, about 3 minutes.

3. Bring the coconut milk and cream just to a boil, then pull it from the heat and slowly drizzle it into the egg mixture, whisking all the while to temper. When fully incorporated, return it to the pan used to heat the cream, place it over a low-medium heat and stir constantly until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 4-5 minutes. Pass the crème through a fine meshed strainer (to catch any of the egg that might have started to coagulate) into the bowl set inside the ice bath. Stir frequently until cooled to room temperature. Add lime zest to taste and reserve.

4. For the Soufflés: Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the mango chunks, the 1 tablespoon of superfine sugar and the rum. Cook, stirring, until well softened and syrupy, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer the mango to a blender and process until very smooth, pour into a large bowl and reserve.

5. Melt the other 2 tablespoons of butter and brush it inside of six - 3” diameter ramekins. Dust the inside of each with a tablespoon of superfine sugar, dumping out any excess. Place the ramekins in the fridge to chill while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

6. Heat the oven to 375℉ and place a sheet pan on a low rack to heat.

7. Whisk together the 5 egg yolks, flour, and 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Whisk until the yolks have paled and the mix has thickened slightly. Set aside.

8. Place the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring it just to a simmer. Whisk it into the egg-flour mixture very slowly, whisking all the while to temper the mixture. Once fully incorporated, pour the mix back into the pan used to heat the milk, put it back over medium heat and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, and whisk constantly until the mix thickens to the consistency of a pudding, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat, mix into the bowl with the mango purée and reserve. This is your soufflé base.

9. Place the egg whites in a clean bowl with a pinch of sugar. Beat with an electric hand-mixer on medium-high speed slowly adding the rest of the granulated sugar until the egg whites are white, glossy and hold soft peaks.

10. Spoon about 1/4 of the whipped whites into the soufflé base and whisk it in to lighten the mix. Gently add the remaining whites, and using a rubber spatula, softly fold them into the mix taking care not to deflate them.

11. Spoon the mix into the ramekins, leveling the top of each with a small offset spatula. Run your thumb inside the lip of each ramekin (this will help it rise evenly when baking), and place them on the heated sheet pan in the oven. Bake for 13-16 minutes (depending on your oven) until the soufflés have risen above the rim of the ramekins and are a light, golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a little confectioner’s sugar. To serve, cut a hole in the top of each soufflé and pour in a few tablespoons of the coconut-lime crème anglaise.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Destination Donuts, Columbus

In the Washington, DC area dessert scene, it's no secret that doughnuts are the new cupcake pie macaron.
With no fewer than four new bakeries devoted exclusively to gourmet doughnuts opened already this year, as well as numerous restaurants in town jumping on the bandwagon, DC's First Annual Donut Fest, and even The Great Donut Derby bracket sponsored by Washingtonian Magazine, you don't have to go far for a doughy round of fried goodness.

Though we may be saturated in doughnuts here on the East Coast, from what I can tell this latest trend has yet to make the jump to the Midwest. On my last trip home to Columbus I was able to find one brave purveyor of artisan doughnuts making the rounds at local markets.

A self-described chef, food lover and tattoo enthusiast, Destination Donuts creator Heather Morris left a career in corporate catering to follow her passion and began this locally-sourced pop-up pedaling flavors like Lemon Curd and Cardamom Graham Crumb, Thai Peanut, Butterscotch and Smoked Sea Salt and--of course--The Buckeye.

Unfortunately Morris' schedule didn't bring her to Columbus' North Market while I was in town, but I was able to track down her wares at the newly opened location of The Hills Market on Grant Avenue. This small grocery is stocked almost exclusively with Ohio-produced wares and is a great foodie stop if you're passing through. We arrived early on a Friday morning and were lucky to sample Blood Orange and Lemon Blueberry out of the few remaining doughnuts. While I loved the strong flavor of the glazes, I have to say the doughnut texture was a bit dense for my taste, though still delicious.

While I'm sure it's only a matter of time before the next dessert trend sweeps through town, I'm content to continue sampling my way through the sea of unique doughnut flavors in the meantime.

If you go:
The North Market
59 Spruce Street
Columbus, OH 43235

The Hills Market
95 North Grant Avenue
Columbus, OH 43235