Before I go into a recap of my weekend spent spreading the donut gospel to eager culinary students, just a couple fun announcements:
Remember the Driscoll’s berry dessert contest that I won? Part of my prize was the opportunity to have one of my recipes featured on Driscoll’s website. That recipe, Swirled Strawberry Cupcakes, is now up, in time for your Valentine’s Day baking. Go take a look!
Also, I was flattered to be interviewed by Poor Taste magazine, an irreverent online food periodical. If you’re curious, pop on over for a read and take a look at some of the other great articles.
Back to donuts: If you were following my Instagram the last couple weeks, you might have been wondering why I was going on a donut bender. The truth was that I was testing out donut recipes for a class I would be teaching at Tante Marie’s Cooking School, my pastry alma mater. Tante Marie’s offers weekend cooking courses alongside its professional culinary programs, and I agreed to teach a one-day class on donuts and muffins. Hence the sweet smell of deep fried sugar pervading my home. Above, some freshly made yeasted donuts (As I told my students, once you’ve eaten fresh donuts at home, you will forever turn your nose up at those horrible, stale, leaden specimens from inferior stores).
Rows of cinnamon-and-cardamon-sugar dusted cake donuts. My preference for yeasted or cake donuts varies per my mood at the moment, and I feel like certain flavors lend themselves better to each style (crumb-topped yeast donuts FTW), but I like how cake donuts are so easy to make. Almost too easy…the way the donuts came out of the frying pot and tumbled conveyor-belt like onto the cooling racks was a little scary. We rid ourselves of them as quickly as we could as they were too tempting to keep in the house.
Piped pâte à choux for French crullers, which turned out to be my favorite recipe. Although I’ve made cream puffs and profiteroles many times before, why had I never thought to deep fry the dough? Piped batter in a swirly circle means crullers, but you can pipe out straight lines for churros, or simply drop batter in heaping dollops that will puff up gloriously into beignets. This is the donut recipe I included at the end of the post because seriously, if you make one donut at home, this should be it.
Day of class! The students couldn’t wait to start making and frying donuts. I noticed that one of the bigger challenges they faced was keeping the oil at a consistent temperature. I like to fry my donuts around 350 degrees F – about a minute and half per side of a regular-sized donut seems to produce optimal results. If the oil is too hot, the donuts will of course burn. If the oil is not hot enough, it will take too long for the donuts to finish cooking, and they’ll absorb too much oil in the process and turn greasy and soggy. Once your oil reaches 350, remember to turn the heat down but not off – as you add donuts to the oil, they will cool the oil down. Periodically check the temperature to make sure it the oil hasn’t cooled down or overheated – sometimes in the excitement of frying it’s easy to forget.
Some beautifully fried ricotta fritters. I’d say they were a big hit. Fried cheese = yes.
We also made muffins in class to contrast leavening methods. The students learned about baking soda and baking powder, and how lumpy batter is better than overmixed batter. Among the successful muffin-making results: some adorable mini corn muffins.
I’m always impressed with how creative students can be. A couple of students took some leftover pate a choux dough and piped out some eclairs that got drizzled with chocolate sauces. Some other students glazed their yeasted donuts with a chocolate ganache and then did some fancy marbling with melted white chocolate. Pretty!
I have to give a special mention to the youngest student in the class – this young lady who is already planning on becoming a pastry chef. She helped me demo the French crullers and did a beautiful job. Margo, you have a very bright future ahead of you and I look forward to trying out your pastries!
It’s always gratifying at the end to see all the students’ hard work on display – they usually can’t believe they’ve accomplished so much! At the beginning of the class, when everyone is hungry and raring to start cooking, it’s hard to convince them that by the end of the day there will be more food than they know what to do with. After the initial mad sampling of the first few donuts, people start slowing down. By the end we’re reminding people to take some more treats home to share with family and friends.
And there’s still leftovers – breakfast for the professional culinary class next morning!
I’ll be teaching another class on Cookies Around the World in March at Tante Marie’s. See the class calendar for other classes – hope to see you at the school!
Pâte à choux Dough
- 1/2 cup (115 g) whole milk
- 1/2 cup (115 g) water
- 8 tablespoons (113 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (21 g) sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (140 g) all purpose flour
- 3 large egg yolks, room temperature
- 1 large egg white, room temperature
- vegetable oil for frying
Bourbon sugar glaze
- 1 cup (110 g) powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 teaspoon bourbon (Maker's Mark preferred)
For the crullers:
- Combine milk, water, butter, sugar and salt in a heavy bottomed medium saucepan and heat on medium high.
- Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough should come together into a ball. Continue stirring for another 3-4 minutes until it is completely smooth and soft.
- Transfer the dough into a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat to cool it down slightly. Add in the eggs and egg white one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough. The dough should be very thick and shiny but not liquidy.
- Cut a sheet of parchment paper into 4 in x 4 in squares. Fill a piping bag fitted with a ½ inch star tip half full with the batter. Pipe rings of batter onto each square.
- Heat at least 2 inches of oil in a heavy bottomed pot to 350 F. Carefully place a few doughnuts in a time, parchment side up. After about 30 seconds, use tongs to pull the parchment paper off. Fry until cooked through and crispy, about 1 – 2 minutes, flipping them over about halfway through the cooking time. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on paper towel-covered wire rack to drain and cool slightly before dipping in glaze.
For the glaze:
- In a wide bowl, mix together powdered sugar, milk, and bourbon, and whisk until smooth. Add more milk as necessary to make a liquid glaze. Dip crullers in glaze and set on wire rack to dry.
- You can also use this batter to make a yeast-free version of beignets. Simply drop half-tablespoonfuls of the batter into the oil (heated per above) and fry per instructions above until puffed up and golden brown. Let cool slightly and toss in powdered sugar.
- You can also use this batter to make churros. Pipe out straight lines on parchment paper and fry per instructions above until puffed up and golden. Roll in a mixture of 1/2 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Serve with hot chocolate.