By Chef Judi Gallagher –
Last year I predicated the demise of the cupcake trend and the fizzle of the whoppie pie. Their moment in the culinary spotlight has come and gone. At the time I spoke about the renaissance of doughnuts. Not just any doughnuts — these were going to be both sweet and, yes, savory. In fact I even predicted the Food Network Show, Cupcake Wars would be switching over to doughnut wars and indeed, these fried old-fashioned treats are fast becoming the new old-fashioned sweet treat. It’s happened. Doughnuts are one of the foods of the year. And with so many good recipes out there, this is your year to make them at home.
Doughnuts can be fried or baked. Some recipes call for yeast as an essential part of the recipe; other recipes don’t use yeast at all. The word doughnut can also be acceptably spelled as donut. The first is traditional, the second a more modern arrival based on advertising. Either way is fine in today’s food world.
Who doesn’t have a childhood memory of a favorite doughnut? Call them beignets, call them doughnut holes, call them fried crullers, they all conjure up this memory of Saturday morning treats that now aren’t just for breakfast anymore.
Recently at the South Beach food and wine festival in Miami I had the good fortune of attending Andrew Zimmer’s “best munchies” party. One nominee stood out for his doughnuts. I mean really stood out. As in the best doughnuts we ever tasted! “Dandee Donuts” out of Hollywood, Florida, just plain melt in your mouth. Light and pillowy, this doughnut is rolled in doughnut crumbs while still warm. The first bite you gasp with joy, by the third bite you are reaching for another.
If you are making doughnuts at home here are a few tips to remember:
Make the glaze before you fry the donuts so its ready for dipping them right out of the fryer. Sift the powdered sugar for smooth and silky glaze
Dip the doughnut cutters in flour before cutting each doughnut so the dough does not stick to the cutter. Flip doughnuts in the fryer with skewers or chopsticks at the surface of the oil to prevent breaking.
It won’t be long before you start noticing doughnuts moving up in status in your town. Consider an architecture of glamorously decorated doughnuts replacing a traditional wedding cake. Or savory doughnuts being used in chicken and beef recipes. How about savory doughnut holes stuffed with bacon or pancetta? Bake them, fry them stuff them, make them sweet or salty. Whatever you do, you can’t go wrong with doughnuts on your menu this year. And, of course, a simple plain or glazed doughnut is still one of the best things you can have with a cup of coffee in the morning.
Basic Yeast Doughnuts
(from Alton Brown)
1 1/2 cups milk
2 1/2 ounces vegetable shortening (approximately 1/3 cup)
2 packages instant yeast
1/3 cup warm water
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 oil 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 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.
Easy Orange-Sugar Fried Doughnut Holes
( From Sunny Anderson. Makes 20).
1 orange zested
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 container (8 large) store-bought buttermilk biscuit dough
vegetable oil for frying
Place zest, sugar and cinnamon in a paper bag and shake to combine.
Place oil in a deep pan until it comes about halfway up the side of the pan. Heat oil to 350 degrees. Slice biscuit dough in quarters and roll into balls to form 24 doughnut holes. Working in batches, place doughnut holes in hot oil and fry until golden, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the hot doughnuts to the paper bag and shake to coat with orange sugar. Serve immediately.
Savory Cream Cheese & Herb Doughnuts
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 ½ tablespoon cream cheese, melted
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash seasoning blend
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
1/4 cup shredded cheese of choice
6 tablespoon buttermilk (and maybe 2 tablespoons more, depending upon consistency.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and lightly grease or cooking-spray the doughnut pan (or muffin tin). In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt/soften 1.5 tbsp butter and 1.5 tbsp cream cheese. No more than about 15 seconds.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, spices and seasonings, egg, cheese, and add the melted butter & cream cheese mixture to it all. Stir by hand to combine. Then, slowly add the buttermilk. You may need as little as 1/4 c or more like 1/2 cup, or even a splash more. The amount of milk needed is going to depend on the type of cheese and cream cheese used. You are looking for a fairly thick batter, thicker than cake or brownie batter – more like cookie dough consistency.
Use a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip (or a plastic bag with a corner cut off) to pipe the batter into a 6-doughnut pan. Or, do this with a spoon. Bake at 325 degrees for about 15 – 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Doughnuts will not be golden brown, but should be springy. Allow to cool slightly before removing from pan, about 5 minutes. Serve on a plater with the cream cheese spread on the side in a ramekin.
Herbed Buttery Cream Cheese Spread
While doughnuts are baking or cooling, make the spread by combining and whipping by hand:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons cream cheese
Pinch finely chopped rosemary