We have a wonderful Thanksgiving tradition in Do's extended family (which naturally includes Neen and myself). Actually, we have several wonderful traditions. We spend the weekend on a tree farm 2-3 hours from the city, laugh watching his brother-in-law shove his entire arm into the turkey, indulge in Do's fine wines... I could go on and on.
The tradition I'm referring to now, though, is the day after T-day. One massive dinner simply isn't enough for our family. Oh no. After having all the usual foods, we then make a second dinner -- this one comprised of fancy non-standard dishes. Usually an effort between the three of us, it's an opportunity to let loose with our most extravagant hosting/cooking tendencies. Pairing drinks to dishes, sides to main plates, and decorating every bite artistically, we strive to make one continued culinary masterpiece.
The actual menu (as far as I gathered) is below. Maybe Do will enlighten me as to what wines we was serving at the time.
- Harissa soup (Do) // Meatballs stuffed with goat cheese (Me)
- Korean fish medley (Do's invention) // Bacon-wrapped dates (Me)
- Lemon-olive chicken on couscous (Do)
- Lime-yogurt mousse (Do) // Tuscan doughnuts (Me)
I've already blogged about most of the dishes I contributed, with the exception of the doughnuts. This wasn't the first time I've made doughnuts, but the last batch were a bit of a letdown: the jelly filling made the dough messy and hard to handle and the dough itself didn't rise as much as I'd hoped. I'm told they were good, but eh, I wasn't satisfied.
That's when I picked up this recipe. It's another one from the Urban Italian cookbook. Success! The resulting product had the right density: the dough was light & fluffy from its multiple risings, and the cream filling didn't weigh it down too much. The choice of toppings is nice too: rolling the fried doughnuts around in a bowl of sugar gives them a light coating, and then you can offer your guests a bowl of chocolate dipping sauce on the side.
Don't be fooled, though: this is a serious endeavor. To give you an idea, the cookbook lists it as: "Timing: Major project." The dough needs to proof to a combined three and a half hours. During this time, you'll be jumping back and forth between the filling, the dipping sauce, and the main course[s] (because no, you can't eat doughnuts alone). And let us not even talk about the actual frying! The dangers/fun should be self-evident when standing next to a half-gallon of boiling oil, dipping things in and out of it, and then handling them while they're still sizzling.
And so, without further ado, I give you:
For the dough:
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 Tbs plus 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 vanilla bean
- 4, 3/4 cups bread flour // all purpose is fine
- 1/2 cup plus 3 Tbs sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 9 egg yolks
- juice of 1 melon, strained through a sieve to remove all the pulp
- 1/3 cup brandy or rum
- 1 Tbs orange-blossom water (or zest of 2 oranges mixed with 1 Tbs brandy)
- 1 stick butter, cubed and kept cold
- Bring 1/2 cup of the milk to room temperature in a medium-sized bowl. Add all the yeast to the milk and stir until it dissolves. Allow it to activate until the yeast begins to foam, about 5min.
- Cut the ends off the vanilla bean, split it lengthwise, and scrape out the meat. Combine the vanilla-bean meat, flour, sugar, and salt in the large bowl of a mixer or KitchenAid.
- Add the activated yeast (in its milk), the remaining 1/2 cup of milk, and the egg yolks, lemon juice, brandy or rum, orange-blossom water, and butter to the bowl.
- Mix all the ingredients at low speed (speed 1 on a KitchenAid) with the hook attachment. When everything begins to combine (just a few seconds), increase the speed to medium-low (speed 2 on a KitchenAid) and continue mixing until all the ingredients are well combined and there are no chunks of butter. The dough should have some play to it: it will be a little bit sticky and stretchy, and will not tear easily.
- Remove the dough to a large bowl or container (at least twice as large as the dough), coated with an unflavored nonstick spray or a thin coating of canola oil (or some other neutral oil that won't flavor the dough -- do not use butter). If the container is square or rectangular, be sure to spread the dough out a bit to fit. Cover the container with plastic wrap, being sure to keep the wrap from touching the dough, place it in a warm area (about 70 degrees), and allow the dough to proof until it has doubled in size and become very soft and almost silky to the touch, about 2 to 3 hours.
- Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface. Beat some of the air out with flat palms, pushing down on all areas of the dough with the heel of you hand. Then form the dough into a large, tight ball, folding and rolling it to make it smooth.
- Reflour the work surface and lightly flour the dough. Rool out the dough with a rolling pin, rolling in every direction, until the dough is a more or less circular shale, 1.5 feet or so across and about 1/2 inch thick. There will be air bubbles in the dough; they're important for the consistency of the doughnuts. Continue to flour the dough and the surface as you work to prevent sticking.
- Place a piece of parchment paper over a backing sheet and transfer the dough to the sheet by placing the rolling pin (like rolling a skein of wool). Cover the sheet with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer until the dough has cooled and firmed, about 30min. (If you have a really small, Manhattan-apartment-style freezer, and a sheet tray won't fit, cut the dough in half and place it in the freezer on 2 smaller trays.)
- Flour the dough on both sides and place it on a lightly floured work surface. roll the rolling pun across the dough to make sure that it's even in thickness (sometimes the dough continues proofing in the freezer). Then, using a round 2-inch cutter, cut out rounds: place the cutter over the dough, press down evenly with the heels of both hands, and then twist the cutter back and forth quickly to release the edges. Remove each round as it is cut. (The rounds will look exactly like dough-colored macaroons.) Save a little bit of the cutout leftover dough for testing the oil later -- and remember you'll need to proof these leftover bits along the rounds.
- Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet and lightly spray with an unflavored nonstick spray or brush with canola or another neutral oil. Place the rounds (and you bits of leftover dough) on the baking sheet, leaving enough room between each on (about 1/2 inch all around) to allow them to proof without touching on another. Spray or brush the tops very lightly with more oil, so that the rounds glisten; this will stop them from drying out, and from sticking if they touch. Place the baking sheet in a warm area and allow the rounds to proof until they have doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. When you poke the top of a proofed doughnut, the dough will indent and then spring back; the rounds will be light but firm, Be sure the doughnuts are fully proofed: otherwise, they'll stay raw on the inside when you finish them.
For the pastry cream:
- 2 cups milk
- meat of 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp of vanilla extract)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 Tbs all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbs cornstarch
- 3 egg yolks
- Combine the milk and the vanilla-bean meat (or vanilla extract) in a medium-sized saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Combine the sugar, flour, and cornstarch in a small bowl.
- Place the egg yolks in a medium-sized bowl and slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the yolks, so that you have a thick mixture.
- Pour about 1/3 of the hot milk into the egg-yolk mixture and whisk unil all the ingredients are combined. Whisk in the rest of the hot milk and pour the combined liquid back into the saucepan.
- Cook the liquid over medium heat until the mixture starts to thicken and coats the back of a spoon, about 3min. Remove the cream mixture from the heat and strain it through a chinois or fine strainer into another bowl, so that any lumps are removed.
- Immediately cover the cream with plastic wrap, placing the plastic directly on the surface of the cream so that a skin does not form. Refrigerate the pastry cream for at least 2 hours, until it's completely cold. The cream will hold in the fridge for up to 1 day.
For the chocolate sauce:
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder
- 2 Tbs butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 cup roughly chopped 64% dark chocolate
- Combine 3/4 cup of water and the corn syrup in a small pot and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.
- Combine the sugar with the cocoa powder in a small bowl.
- Add the sugar-cocoa mixture to the corn-syrup-and-water mixture and bring it back up to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.
- Add the butter, heavy cream, and dark chocolate, whisking well until everything dissolves. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture back up to a simmer, whisking continuously until the mixture becomes a shiny sauce, about 2-3 minutes.
- Strain the sauce through a chinois or fine strainer and reserve. The sauce will hold in the fridge for up to 5 days.
For frying the doughnuts and finishing the dish:
- 1/2 gallon canola oil
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- If the chocolate sauce is in the fridge, set it out so that it comes to room temperature by the time you're ready to serve the doughnuts.
- Pour the canola oil into a large stockpot (about 1 foot deep) and over medium heat until the temperature reaches 350 degrees. (If you don't have a thermometer, you can test the oil by throwing a little bit of the leftover dough into the pot. If the oil bubbles when the dough hits it and the dough fries up, you're good to go.)
- Remove the chilled pastry cream from the refrigerator and place it in a pastry bag with a pastry tip, being sure to tie the end of the bag.
- Fry 4 or 5 of the doughnuts at a time, turning them when they are brown on the bottoms (about 30 seconds), and pressing them down to submerge them in the oil. Lift the doughnuts out with a slotted spoon or spider and transfer them to a paper towel. The finished doughnuts will be very light and yeasty inside and well browned outside, and should pull apart easily.
- While they're still warm, fill each doughnut with pastry cream until it starts to feel a little heavy (about 2 Tbs' worth).
- Pour the sugar into a large bowl. Roll each doughnut in the sugar so it's lightly coated.
- Serve the doughnuts immediately, piled on a serving platter with a bowl of the chocolate sauce on the side for dipping.
ps. thanks to Neen & DR for the gorgeous photos.