The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.
When was the last time you looked through an old stash of recipe cards for a recipe? Can you remember? I certainly can’t. Long gone are the days when we open a recipe box and leaf through recipe cards to find the recipe we want to follow.
I initially went old school for this challenge, with a recipe from my grandmother for her cakey doughnuts. As you can tell from the photo, my grandmother wrote up this recipe years ago on a recipe card, like most of her other recipes. My mom estimates that the recipe is at least 70 years old. Almost all her recipe cards are contained in her metal recipe box that my mom has kept pretty much intact, perhaps with a few additions to the contents.
My mom has never made these doughnuts, and sadly, my grandmother is not here to coach me at my first attempt at making her doughnuts. Her recipe card only has ingredients and amounts; no instructions or order of addition of the ingredients as you can see in the photo below. That’s okay. I take this as her way of challenging me in the kitchen, and also teaching me the importance of writing detailed instructions.
For my grandmother’s recipe, I used the order of ingredients listed on the card as the order of addition. I beat the eggs and the sugar for a couple minutes, then I added shortening that was half melted (Is this what my grandmother would call “not too hot”? Not sure.). Then I added the vanilla (this is a deviation from the order listed, but it seemed like a logical time to add the vanilla). I alternated between adding the dry ingredients (which I whisked together in advance— I used 3 cups of flour, in case you are wondering) and the milk, ending with the dry ingredients. I refrigerated the dough for 1 hour, just because I had read that doughnut doughs should be left to settle before rolling them out.
The dough was pretty sticky, but I ignored that fact and kept doughnut making. With a little flour, the dough rolled out nicely, and I cut out lots of doughnuts with both “vintage” doughnut cutters that were my grandmother’s and new cutters from Ares.
I fried them between 350° and 375°F on my electric stove, in a large saucepan that was about half-filled (maybe less) with oil. From my first frying experience, I knew that maintaining the temperature of the oil was difficult. To avoid that the oil get too hot, I alternated between having the saucepan on the burner and off the burner. I found this worked better than lower the stove setting, which I set to 4 once the oil was heated to the right temperature.
My other issue with frying was turning the doughnut holes in the hot oil so that they would brown evenly. Have you ever tried to “flip” a half cooked doughnut hole? It’s rough. Every time you roll them ever, they roll back! Frustrating.
To dust them with powdered sugar, I used a metal tea infuser half filled with powdered sugar. I tapped the tea infuser over a plate of doughnuts to dust them.
My creative way of sugaring them worked out pretty well!
The doughnuts were very light, not so cakey.
My mom’s verdict on them was that, although they were delicious, they were not what she remembered. Sadness. I am sure that the quantities of ingredients called for are correct, but I think my mixing method/order of addition of the ingredients was not correct. I guess I will just have to keep making them until I get it just right! As soon as I’ve figured this recipe out, I’ll post an official recipe with instructions on how to make them. This way the information will never be lost.
I continued this doughnut challenge with a recipe available on Food Network that I can access on the internet from my laptop. This is the usual way that I look up recipes, far from going through a recipe box. Although this method of recipe finding does not have the same nostalgic appeal as sifting through my grandmother’s kitchen history, the web is still a great research tool. During my internet searching, I came across this song. It’s “The Doughnut Song,” performed by Burl Ives. Gotta love the interweb!
After my Burl Ives interlude, I opted to try a recipe from Alton Brown for yeast doughnuts.
The dough was quite sticky, as was my grandmother’s dough, but I chose to ignore the fact again, and I continued forth with the recipe.
It rose beautifully on my counter. Within 30 minutes, it had almost doubled. After an hour it was more than doubled.
With a little flour, it rolled out really easily. The dough was a cinch to work with!
I fried them at the same temperature as the cakey doughnuts. Once again, the doughnut holes were a pain to “flip.” Figures!
When the doughnuts had cooled to room temperature, I glazed them with a maple glaze made of 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1 cup icing sugar, plus a little milk for diluting the glaze. I filled some with a pumpkin pastry cream, which I accidentally prepared in an industrial quantity (I wasn’t thinking at the time about how much I’d actually need). My recipe was adapted from here, except I added much more pumpkin than the recipe called for. I also changed the method of cooking: I used the cooking method for pastry cream from Warren Brown’s Cake Love book (which is a favorite of mine for buttercreams and fillings).
I loved these doughnuts. The recipe worked out perfectly. They were nice and light as yeast doughnuts should be. My only complaint is the amount of nutmeg called for. I felt it was a little strong, although others were not bothered by this.