Sunday, 30 October 2011

Buy a Doughnut [/Donut] Today... or Make One Yourself!

Today we celebrate "Buy a Doughnut Day," but as the folks at CDKitchen suggest, why not modify this day to be "Make a Doughnut [/Donut] Day"? In honour of the donut, I finally got around to making Chinese-style donuts which fed perfectly as a dessert to a dinner I had last night with four Denison students who live in my residence hall. Just as these recipes suggest (links 1, 2, and 3), the easiest way to make homemade donuts is to shape them out of the pre-made buttermilk biscuit canisters you can find in the grocery store. But with successive failed attempts at working with yeast, I was determined to finally master its use in creating homemade, from-scratch, donuts fit for celebrating. By combining these recipes (here and here) along with the brilliant recipe found at the Pioneer Woman's blogsite, I got around to making light donuts that were warm with doughy goodness. I have made donuts before using the pre-made stuff, but with a little patience, the from-scratch variety is much more meaningful. Along with my Chinese-style donuts with spiced chocolate sauce and whipped cream, the rest of the dinner menu included a Vienna pizza bread on my part, and by Joy (one of the students), soy sauce chicken and mushrooms, spicy sliced pork and cabbage, and "real" rice(!).

The first step at making donuts from scratch à la M.A. is to heat up in a small pot 1.25 c milk and 1/2 c granulated sugar just until you can see strands of smoke coming from the sugary milk mix. Take the pot off the heat and sprinkle one packet (.25 oz) fast rise yeast over the milk. Leave the pot alone to let the yeast have a party until the liquid starts to thicken (approximately 10 min).

Meanwhile, microwave one cut-up stick unsalted butter 30 sec. Take the butter out of the microwave and stir the butter, letting the residual heat finish melting any leftover butter chunks. In a small bowl, beat very well two large eggs until smooth. When the butter has cooled (but not resolidified), mix this into the eggs.

When the yeast on the surface of the milk looks like it's thickened, mix the butter-and-eggs mix into the milk-sugar-and-yeast mix, and whisk together until smooth. Transfer this new mix into a larger bowl.

Into the bowl, add 2.5 c all-purpose flour and whisk the ingredients together between every half cup. Add another half cup of flour; the (now forming) dough should start to pull away from the bowl. Add another half cup and after the dough has formed into one mass (though not necessarily cleanly), turn this out and onto a kneading surface with another half cup of flour on it. Knead the dough for about 3-5 minutes by hand, and finish the dough by kneading up to 1/4 c flour into it, or until the dough no longer stick your hands. Transfer this dough into a clean bowl and allow the dough to rise (covered) in a warm environment.

While the dough is in the process of rising, heat up the oven to 375 °F and work on putting together the Vienna pizza bread. Split a Vienna loaf in half lengthwise, even out the inner mis and spread about 1/2 c jarred pasta sauce on each half. Top this off with about 1/2 c shredded Monterey Jack cheese on each half and then add some pepperoni. To finish off the flavour, lightly sprinkle some garlic powder. Get these into the oven to bake for about 7 min to melt the cheese. Set the oven to broil for a few minutes to brown and slightly crisp the cheese and bring the heat to low to keep the bread warm until ready to serve.

Very quick and easy to make, the total cost of these ingredients is about $5 for the entire loaf.

After about an hour or so of allowing the dough to rise (though you don't necessarily need to wait this long... it'll just turn out airier if you can wait), divide and reshape the dough into rounded mounds of about 2 tbsp each if you're going with the Chinese-style donuts; I got 38 dough mounds out of this batch. You could of course roll out this dough and cut out traditional donut shapes. (ps/ The dough is ready when the dough acts like memory foam and keeps an indentation.) When you've got the dough ready to go, transfer them to a plate and cover them to allow them to rise a second time. This second rise was actually easy to do because we ate while the dough rose; I simply had the dough ready for frying after the main courses were finished. (I wouldn't recommend frying these too far in advance.) As a side note, actual Chinese donuts are set up to be divided in half, or you can go so far as to shape the dough into animal shapes as this guy does.

So, as I just mentioned, before I got to frying the donuts for dessert, we enjoyed the main courses, including the Vienna pizza bread...

...and the soy sauce chicken and mushrooms (above left; reminded me of adobo) and spicy pork and cabbage (above right) dishes that Joy made, along with real rice (as defined nostalgically by the fact it was cooked in a rice cooker).

I then got to work on the donuts. For the sauce, I made a ganache of heated 1/4 c heavy cream to which a bar of Lindt's Chili Dark Chocolate was melted. In a separate bowl, I mixed about 1 c granulated sugar, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, and the zest of half an orange, to serve as the exterior coating of the donuts. To fry the donuts, I heated in a small fry pan about half an inch or so of canola oil. When hot (on medium heat; and please do be careful!), I fried the donuts in batches, flipping them with the aid of chopsticks. Somehow, the shape of the donuts took on a pyramid form so I made sure each side was browned evenly. Do not get the dough too hot; if so, the exterior will look fried but the interior will not have had enough heat to actually cook thoroughly. As you take the donuts out of the pan, get them into the bowl with the sugar mix and carefully roll them to get a sugary, crunchy coat.

Plate the finished donuts on a quick brush of spice chocolate ganache and serve with some shaved orange zest and a dollop or two of freshly whipped cream.

This was certainly a great dinner and, outside of the (retrospectively) random Vienna pizza bread, worked out to be quite thematic. If nothing else, though, this particular dinner was an example of eastern and western cooking and plating technique, the fusion of which is a great topic further food adventures. For the entire album, click here.

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