Sunday, August 28, 2005

IMBB#18: A Doughnut By Any Other Name


W is not the easiest person to please when it comes to food. By this, I do not mean it has to be fancy. It just has to be good. Whether it's spending hours on the road in search of the best bowl of pho in Orange County, cramming in three of his favourite sushi bars before his flight leaves Tokyo, or timing soft-boiled eggs down to the last second with the countdown function of his PanoRetroGraph, W is prepared to go to extremes in the name of eating well. His particular standards apply equally to fast food - having lived Stateside many years, he's in fact quite the expert on the subject. What makes the cut? Perfection comes in the form of an In-N-Out burger. A hotdog from Pink's ranks up there too. And when it comes to doughnuts, the choice is clear - Krispy Kreme, not Dunkin' Donuts.

This month's IMBB is hosted by Linda of the wonderful At Our Table, and the theme is Summer's Flying, Let's Get Frying! Here was the perfect excuse to try my hand at making doughnuts, one of W's favourite foods. While looking through my cookbooks, I naturally got sidetracked by other fried dough sweets in the extended doughnut family as well. With the exception of the churros (which do not use any leavening), the other doughs are all yeast-raised. As much as I appreciate a good buttermilk or cake doughnut , I much prefer the airy texture and rounded taste of the yeast-raised variety. With a long slow overnight rise, the egg and butter enriched dough - which is not unlike brioche in construction - develops a nuanced flavour profile that the chemically leavened (typically baking powder) cake doughnut lacks. I also think of them as being spiritually closer to their ancestors, the oliekoecken, fastnachts and beignet viennois brought by Dutch, German and French settlers.

When deep-frying dough, a couple of things are critical. The choice of fat - as leaf lard is virtually impossible to find here, I use canola oil, which is neutral in taste and has a high smoke-point. The deep-frying vessel - heavy, tall rather than wide, and in a material with excellent heat-retention properties, say cast iron. And most vital of all, the temperature of the fat - too low and your doughnuts will emerge sodden with grease, too high and you'll wind up with a burnt exterior and raw interior, so 365 degrees Fahrenheit to be precise (a thermometer clipped to the side of the pan lets you monitor the temperature throughout and adjust your heat accordingly). Hence the need for a great enough body of fat (3 to 4 inches deep is good) so the temperature remains fairly stable, the need to avoid overcrowding the pan (which causes too drastic a drop in temperature) so each doughnut has the luxury of floating freely without jostling for space, and the need to wait for the temperature to recover between batches. Taking a little care ensures a result that's not in the least heavy, beautifully crisp outside and tender within.

"Coffee & Doughnuts", or Cappuccino Semifreddo with Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts

I have a real weakness for recipes that are, for lack of a better description, classics-with-a-twist. From the moment I first set eyes on this heavenly dessert pairing in The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller, I knew I had to make it. The doughnuts are good old-fashioned deep-fried treats dredged in cinnamon-scented sugar, while the "Coffee" element is a frozen mousse topped with frothy steamed milk. I used some softly whipped Gippsland double cream - lovely stuff, incidentally - instead of steamed milk. I like the charming ring-and-jauntily-perched-hole presentation. As if rendered in spare Modigliani-esque lines, it resembles a top-knotted brioche a tete.

Chocolate Truffle Ravioli and Confiture de Lait

The Chocolate Truffle Ravioli recipe alone in Gordon Ramsay's Secrets is worth the price of the book, which is not to say it isn't an all-round fantastic book. Thinly worked brioche dough encloses a luscious bittersweet ganache. The unctuous chocolate cream oozes out languorously as you sink your teeth into the puff. Messy? Yes. But so very, very wicked. Just to ensure things are teeth-vibratingly sweet, I served them with a tiny bit of confiture de lait, the divine milk jam also known as dulce de leche, simply made by cooking milk with sugar together slowly until the mixture is a lovely caramel blond and almost taffy-like in consistency.


Jelly Beignets and Deep Chocolate Cream with Raspberry Coulis

This New Orleans-style beignet recipe comes from Sherry Yard's The Secrets of Baking. The yeasted dough is filled with raspberry jam. Once deep-fried, the little golden pillows are doused in icing sugar. Alongside, the silken Deep Chocolate Cream with Raspberry Coulis from Desserts by Pierre Herme. As with all his recipes that call for chocolate, Herme specifies the exact chocolate to use. In this case, some Valrhona Grand Cru Manjari 64%. Its aromatic fruitiness and soft, rounded flavour makes it the ideal candidate for fruit-and-chocolate desserts.

Churros con Chocolate

Churrerias are ubiquitous in Spain, where you can buy lines or coils of dough fritters to dip into cafe con leche (milky coffee) or rich, velvety hot chocolate. Typically eaten for breakfast, sometimes as an afternoon snack, churros are irresistible when freshly fried, piping hot from the bubbling vat of oil. Madrilenos, however, don't just start the day with churros. It is customary to end an evening of juerga, or all-night revelry, at a churreria, many of which open at the crack of dawn or keep similar nightbird hours. On a trip to Madrid some years back, I met up with friends at Chocolateria San Gines in the wee hours. They had just stumbled out of a club, I had woken up extra early to visit this institution in existence for over a century, which serves an incredible pudding-thick hot chocolate - just the consistency for dunking churros into.

This recipe is from Penelope Casas' excellent book, La Cocina de Mama, which takes you into the home kitchens of Spain's finest cooks (including the three Michelin-starred likes of Ferran Adria and Juan Mari Arzak) and pays homage to their greatest culinary influence - mama's cooking. The recipe is inspired by Rufino Lopez of Solera in New York, who is Galician by birth. By ingeniously concentrating the hot chocolate into a potent sauce, churros con chocolate becomes appropriate even for postre.

46 Comments:

Blogger boo_licious said...

*Gulp!* Everything looks great and the write up is superb. Yum, yum - now I'm hankering for a churros early in the morning.

4:29 am, August 28, 2005  
Blogger Ruth said...

When it doesn't seem possible anymore - you go and outdo yourself!!!

Beautiful photos, wonderful post. Thanks for sharing and making us all hungry.

6:19 am, August 28, 2005  
Anonymous Jeanne said...

MMMM. Doughnuts. Great post and as always great images that have me wanting one of everything...and by the way DD is waaay better than KK! Mind I grew up on the East Coast.

Jeanne

6:38 am, August 28, 2005  
Blogger soycap said...

Lovely and delicious! Thank you for sharing your incredibly tempting pictures and account of fried desserts...beyond words right now...so YAY! I'm never bored or disappointed when I visit your blog :)

6:40 am, August 28, 2005  
Blogger eatzycath said...

Having just gotten out of bed on a Sunday morning, your lovely pics and incredibly educational post is pushing me out of the house in search of good donuts and a cup of coffee.... there goes the diet...

9:48 am, August 28, 2005  
Blogger Steffles said...

Good thing I was having my own cuppa and freshly baked carrot cake while I was reading your blog. If not, I would be salivating all over the keyboard. Loved the way you got creative with your sweet fried dough recipes!

9:56 am, August 28, 2005  
Anonymous Cherdoc said...

Hi J, Extraordinary work as always. I think you have equaled Thomas Keller's amazing attention to detail.

10:05 am, August 28, 2005  
Blogger debbs said...

ooh i've always got a soft spot for churros.. that's one i'll definitely have to try!

10:13 am, August 28, 2005  
Blogger Clare Eats said...

J
Wow!!!!!!!! I don't think there is anything else I can say.. Wow, Wow, Wow

(It might go on for abit.... so I might say bye)
Wow wow wow wow...............

10:23 am, August 28, 2005  
Blogger Nic said...

Everything looks prefect, as usual. I am a big churro fan, but I have to say that those gorgeous, yeasted donuts really caught my attention. Always my donut of choice when I was growing up.

1:03 pm, August 28, 2005  
Anonymous ChubbyCat said...

Yummy, yummy treats all round, but I especially like the chocolate truffle ravioli and the jelly beignets. Luciously crispy on the outside and oozing goodness inside.

If you ever open a cafe/restaurant, I'm so there.

7:05 pm, August 28, 2005  
Anonymous S said...

You've picked out two of my favourite recipes from French Laundry and Just Desserts! As always, everything looks stunning.

Damn, and my copy of Penelope Casas' book is still in the mail. Can't wait to read it.

7:21 pm, August 28, 2005  
Anonymous augustusgloop said...

Oh. My. God. Need donuts. No. Need ticket. To. Singapore. Pronto!

=) Fantastic job as always!

9:00 pm, August 28, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi boo, thanks...churros are indeed the breakfast of champions...

hi ruth, thanks for being always so encouraging...

hi jeanne, thanks...w did say the kk vs. dd debate was provocative content ;)

hi soycap, thanks...i am always blown away by your artistry (the laminated dough series, especially)

hi cath, oh...but what worthwhile calories doughnuts are...

hi steffles, thanks...carrot cake to start the day sounds pretty darn indulgent too...

hi chefdoc, coming from the master of meticulous attention to detail himself, i blush! thank you

hi deb, thanks for dropping by. churros are totally addictive aren't they?

hi clare, thank you, thank you, thank you :)

hi nic, thanks...i am a big fan of the good old fashioned yeasted doughnut too adorned with nothing but sparkling white sugar. once in a blue moon, i crave a glazed number

hi chubbycat, thanks...chocolate ravioli is a terrific ramsay recipe - truly chocoholic treat

hi s, thanks. i must say keller's doughnuts are pretty killer...casas book is terrific...includes ferran adria's mum's rabbit paella recipe...now, to hunt down a bunny...

hi ag, thanks, you are always so kind :)

9:23 pm, August 28, 2005  
Blogger Reid said...

Hi J,

I love the various takes on doughnuts that you did this time. Each is different, but tied together in someway. The write up is superb and as always, the photography is top notched.

BTW...my favorites have got to be the cinnamon sugar ones. I normally don't go for filled doughnuts.

9:26 pm, August 28, 2005  
Anonymous gwenda said...

lordy lord! arhh i want to reach into the pictures and get me some of these lucious looking things!

10:15 pm, August 28, 2005  
Anonymous joey said...

A beautiful and enticing post as always! I always know I will get something great when I visit your blog :-) I love fried desserts and my entry is also one such variation on the theme...but your's are total stunners!

12:46 am, August 29, 2005  
Blogger deborah said...

Wow. I am a massive fan of doughnuts - and well your post has won by fried~dough~loving
~heart!

I espeically love your take on the French Laundry's 'Coffee & Doughnuts' - fantastic!!

One question I do have is (and I am sure you have been asked many a time) - where do you find the time to do so much in one week? You must share your food-blogger time management skills with the rest of us - LOL

8:35 am, August 29, 2005  
Blogger Ana said...

Beautiful doughnuts. The pictures are superb, as usual.

9:38 am, August 29, 2005  
Blogger Santos said...

madame, you know i deeply respect your taste and am in awe of you mad skills and energy. now all i want to know is how big is your china and linens cabinet, woman?! we may have rivalling collections :D

11:49 am, August 29, 2005  
Blogger Santos said...

edit: i missed an 'r' in there somewhere. add as necessary.

11:51 am, August 29, 2005  
Blogger babe_kl said...

wow J, thanks for being right down to the technical side of frying doughnuts

12:11 pm, August 29, 2005  
Blogger Skrat said...

Hey J,

OoOoOohh.....doughnuts looks goooodd! I love doughnuts just with sugar with no filling at all, bit of a purist! Great job yet again! I'm impressed!

12:34 pm, August 29, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi reid, thanks...me too, most of the time anyway. had very much wanted to make a bear claw a la krispy kreme but couldn't find the right cutters!

hi gwenda, :)

hi joey, thanks...i really enjoyed your deep-fried entry too

hi saffron, thanks...having bouts of insomnia helps ;) so does having an obsessive streak...

hi ana, thanks :)

hi santos, thanks...storage issues aside, i have amassed a large - and largely mismatched - collection of odds and ends, 1 of this, 3 of that, which seem to have no other purpose in life than my amusement ;)

hi babekl, thanks...lessons paid for in frying my fair share of grease-laden horrors ;p

hi skrat, thanks for dropping by, and your kind words - when in the mood, nothing but a plain sugared doughnut will do...

3:03 pm, August 29, 2005  
Anonymous ST said...

I can never resist fried dough in any form. My dear J, how do u stay slim and pretty eating all these delicious food?

4:48 pm, August 29, 2005  
Blogger Pille said...

Never happy with just one of a kind, are you:) Impressive! Your pictures make me hungry, and the post was very interesting to read and educational.
The lovely picture of confiture de lait reminded me that I have a half-empty bottle of Merchant Gourmet's dulce de leche lurking in my cupboard. Should go and check if it's still alright:))

6:11 pm, August 29, 2005  
Anonymous Julia said...

No wonder they say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. W sure is a lucky man!

Gorgeous pictures as usual, J! I'm getting a sugar high just drooling over your lovely doughnuts.

12:57 am, August 30, 2005  
Anonymous Alice said...

WOW!! Those ALL look awesome!!

5:41 am, August 30, 2005  
Blogger Linda said...

Truly amazing! Thanks so much for participating in this edition of IMBB. Your entries are superb!!

6:42 am, August 30, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi st, thanks, you're awfully sweet ...actually, i should be asking you that question ;)

hi pille, too much is not enough ;) re:merchant gourmet dulce de leche...that's yummy stuff - i like it as much over ice cream as spread on toast..

hi julia, thanks for dropping by, and your kind encouragement...really relished your fried beehoon entry too...

hi alice, thanks :) you are very kind

hi linda, thanks for your kind words...and for coming up with such a fun theme....looking forward to the round-up...

8:43 am, August 30, 2005  
Blogger pseudo chef said...

All these are so tempting! The jelly beignets look the best.

8:17 pm, August 30, 2005  
Blogger JellyGirl said...

I'm wishing Willy Wonka's technique of sending chocolate by TV actually works, because then I'd get to eat everything I see on your site! :)

I think this post on doughnuts and the previous ones on peaches are quite possibly my favourites!

12:18 pm, August 31, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah. Krispy Kreme originals, hot off the line--those are the BEST. But I think I could give them up for that chocolate truffle ravioli. :)

12:59 pm, August 31, 2005  
Blogger the baker said...

AMAZING stuff you got there. anyway i got to try Krispy Kreme for the first time cos a friend brought some back from sydney and boy are you do darn right! KK over DD anytime.. =)

by the way, good job on your great effort with those donuts. how i wished i was your room-mate... and seriously, i too will be the first one to turn up at your restaurant, should you ever open one (please do... you'll be doing mankind a favour! =p

2:06 pm, August 31, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi pseudo chef, thanks :) think other jams, in particular cherry, strawberry or blueberry, would probably work in the beignets as well.

hi jellygirl, thanks; really glad you enjoyed the posts...i had fun pottering in the kitchen too

hiya baker, kk rocks ;) thanks for your very kind words

2:14 pm, August 31, 2005  
Anonymous Melissa said...

I love to come here and see how many people go crazy for your creations. You never cease to amaze me with your talents! Every yummy fried creation looks good enough to eat off the screen - and the photos are sensational. Tell me, did the 'churros con chocolate' that you made live up to the ones you had in Madrid?

10:21 pm, August 31, 2005  
Blogger Rachael said...

Now tell the truth, you work in a doughnut factory, right? These are just too incredible looking!

As always, with awe,
Rachael

11:48 pm, August 31, 2005  
Anonymous keiko said...

Hi Joycelyn - I was thinking about making doughnuts too, but I'm just happy to enjoy looking at your lovely creations :) I especially like the churros, how pretty! I love Penelope Casas' books too ;) Thank you for sharing.

12:28 pm, September 01, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi melissa, thanks...the chocolate part of the equation, being super thick, lived up to my memory. as for the churros, they were good so long as they were hot from the pan - any longer than a wait of 20 minutes and they become dull and chewy. also, i suspect the "churro" taste i remember comes from adding lard to the oil...next time...

hi rachael, only in my dreams ;)

hi keiko, thanks...am sure if you had made doughnuts, they would have been out-of-this-world ;) reading penelope casas' books always make me want to hop on a plane headed for spain...

2:53 pm, September 01, 2005  
Blogger T said...

Reading your blog induces severe cravings. All of it is beautiful!

1:48 am, September 03, 2005  
Blogger Sam said...

you are amazing.
you could please me with any of that.
I might as well just get a dougnut and stick it straight on my thigh, huh!?

2:13 am, September 04, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi tanvi, thanks :)

hi sam, thanks for dropping by, and your kind words. i aim to please ;)

4:42 am, September 04, 2005  
Anonymous Cindy Fredericka said...

Gosh! Your doughnuts looks like to die for. YESSS!!!! Krispin Kreme they're so so so gd. I had to tell my fren to hand carry some back fm US when they come bck. Wish we had them here in S'pore.

9:29 am, September 05, 2005  
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4:11 pm, October 26, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been finding almost all of my sushi wabi here

5:25 pm, October 27, 2005  
Anonymous alicia said...

I think that you are amazing. That coffee and donuts recipe caught my eye when I first flipped through Keller's book so very pleasantly surprised that someone actually attempted it!:)

My mouth just gaped open when i saw the chocolate truffle ravioli. Wow! I can imagine spooning up every bit of the chocolate.

11:31 am, May 03, 2006  

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