This week’s obsession: Baked Doughnuts
I'M EATING MY FEELINGS YOU GUYS!!!
I’m sure that things are getting stressful for all of you, too, and with the shifting end dates of the shelter in place orders, it seems like there’s no end in sight. By this point I’m sure you’re all familiar with stress eating and that most of us are participating in that practice by now (that and/or boredom eating).
So when it came time to choose my blog topic for this week (let’s be honest, that advance planning I had been doing for a while went out the window along with my freedom - these days I choose pastries based on what is available at the stores), I yearned for a comfort food from my past.
Take a trip down memory lane with me wayyy wayyyy back to the 90’s (which, as I had to remind one of my darling friends last week, was 30+ years ago). My grandmother was an excellent cook, but always had little morsels of store bought deliciousness tucked away for my sister and me whenever we would sleep over at her house. One particular delight of mine were those little fun sized doughnuts covered in powdered sugar #DROOLING Even when I was a kid in possession of a child sized stomach, I still could eat an entire bag of these little babies.
It was something that I always looked forward to (I guess I was just destined to be in the food biz) when sleeping over at Grandma's, and I can still remember fondly chowing down on them with gusto. These tiny doughnuts eventually became a breakfast staple at all of my elementary school sleepovers and were one of my little indulgences when I went off to college (along with cosmic brownies. Hellloooooo foods entirely responsible for my Freshman 15!)
Once I went off to pastry school, it became harder and harder for me to justify buying things that I could easily make AND do better than whatever was at the store. Bread, cookies, and of course, doughnuts were simply no longer items that appeared on my grocery list. I was ecstatic for the day we made French beignets - the closest thing in French baking to an American doughnut. A French beignet (pronounced: bin-YAY, because you’re excited!) is dough cut in a round shape that fries up nicely into a round ball. When you take it out of the fryer, it is rolled in cinnamon sugar and served immediately.
These are not to be confused with New Orleans style beignets which are cut into rectangles and covered in heaps of powdered sugar and are a staple to every visit to the city. PRO-TIP: do not wear black when you eat them. Everyone in the state will know you’re a tourist.
Speaking of New Orleans, once I moved back there after graduating from pastry school, I found myself working at the hottest new restaurant/doughnut shop in the city. For the most part it was pretty cool because I got to be inventive with my flavors and do some pretty cool creations, like a Frozen themed birthday party. There were several other awesome flavors, too, like Vietnamese Iced Coffee, Peanut Butter Cup, Salted Caramel, and Brown Butter Pistachio.
But my all time absolute favorite doughnut that we made was the humble cinnamon and sugar doughnut (but you all know how I feel about cinnamon by now, so that shouldn’t be a surprise). I ate one of these almost every day in the name of “Quality Control”. It was magnificent, especially right when it came out the fryer. #HEAVENLY
However, after almost a year of eating one of these per day, I grew tired of doughnuts and moved on to other things. But when I recently started craving them (again with the comfort food thing) I decided that I should try my hand at making my own. At first I was all gung ho about using a yeast dough and letting it rise and all that jazz that I used to do in the restaurant, but then I realized that I would have to deep fry these little babies... And that’s when my progress came to a screeching halt. I spent more than my fair share of time leaning over an industrial sized fryer, letting my hair and skin absorb all of the fry oil scent and heat.
Plus I definitely dragged my fingers through the hot grease more times than I'd like to remember (OUCH!), and I certainly don’t care to have that experience ever again. And I’ve noticed in my “old age” that fried food and I just don’t get along as famously as we used to (which is a shame because right now I’m dying for some fried chicken and a fried shrimp poboy) so I wanted an alternative to fried dough.
Baked doughnuts have been all the rage in the pastry world lately, so I bought myself a doughnut pan and set out to find some recipes to make some tasty treats. I guess I didn’t adjust my expectations well enough because I was still expecting the fluffiness of fried brioche dough and the taste of a sweetened yeast roll, but that is quite different from what an actual baked doughnut really is. It’s basically just cake in ring form, and once I started looking at it that way, I really didn’t mind.
I tried three different recipes for this experiment of mine: vanilla, coffee cake, and chocolate. I made the vanilla first and right away realized that there was something missing. Typically, fried doughnuts have just a hint of nutmeg in the dough which makes a world of difference for the depth of the flavor. So for the next recipe that I made - the coffee cake doughnuts - I put nutmeg AND cinnamon in the doughnut batter. It was a definite flavor improvement and I may or may not have shoved an entire one of these into my face. (HINT: I did #NoRagrets)
But my favorite is the chocolate cake doughnut (duh!). I tasted the chocolate batter as I was mixing it and realized that the flavor could use a little boost. So here’s my tip of the week: when working with chocolate batter or dough - cake, doughnuts, cookies, etc. - it can always be enhanced by adding a bit of coffee. I practice this often, and therefore have a jar of espresso powder nestled amongst all of my baking ingredients. I recommend that you do the same if you like to bake at all. Before I whisked in the milk, I added some espresso powder to it and heated it for a few seconds to “brew” it, then stirred it into the batter. The chocolate flavor was immediately enhanced and it easily became my favorite!
Now as you can see, these three recipes made a TON of doughnuts (and these are just the ones I could fit into the picture and/or didn’t eat before I photographed them) and of course I can’t eat ALL of them by myself, so I put together a little treat bag for some of my neighbors, masked up, and walked these goody bags over to them while waving at them through the windows. They seemed to like it, so I’m very glad I was able to bring some socially distant sunshine to my neighbors today. I hope you’re able to do the same!
Happy eating, y’all!
If you tried this dessert, or any other desserts in my blog, please share my Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram posts about them and let people know what you think! Mahalo!
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