Monday, September 12, 2011

"Coffee and Donuts"

Ah, donuts.  Let me tell you about my love affair with donuts.  When I was pregnant, I ate donuts at least once a week - the only time i've let myself go that much - and never tired of them.  Once when I was left alone at home for the whole weekend, I bought a dozen donuts and ate them all.  Actually, I think that was all I ate.  Didn't get sick of them.  It would possibly be accurate to say donuts are my favorite food in the whole wide world.

So, imagine my excitement when I actually made them for the first time!  (actually, trepidation is more accurate, but it turned into excitement)

But first, the "coffee" - a cappuccino semifreddo.  You know how I just waxed poetic about my love affair with donuts?  I feel the exact opposite way about coffee-flavored anything.  I despise coffee.  I can't even stand the Starbucks candyland versions (things like caramel mocha something or the others) - too bitter.  I once sent a piece of chocolate cake back at Spago when the waiter swore up and down there was no espresso in it.  There was.  I could taste it.

So, yeah.  Love/hate relationship expected with this dessert.  But at least making the semifreddo was easy.

First, a quick custard base - eggs, sugar, vanilla bean, whipped together.

Man, I love my mixer. 

I added some coffee extract, then put to chill on ice.

Next I whipped some cream and sugar, and folded that in, followed by whipping egg whites and sugar, and folding that in. 

Into a coffee cup and the freezer they went!

I tasted it as a custard (while it was cold, but not frozen).  It was... not bad.  But not something I was in love with.

Donuts, on the other hand... well, I was looking forward to this.  Especially once I realized how EASY it was. 

Just knowing how amazing a warm donut is, I decided to make a double batch so I could freeze them.  It was a good call, since it gave me an "excuse" to experiment with cooking them prior to the dinner.

First, lets talk about compressed yeast.  I didn't know what on earth it was, but I figured it wouldn't be hard to find.  I didn't know where to look for it.  I asked people in various stores (Vons, Whole Foods, Henrys), no one knew what I was talking about.  The day before I was supposed to be preparing the donuts, I turned to the internet.  Someone on some chowhound board posted about Stan at NY Bakers - a mail order place that is conveniently located in San Diego.  I shot him an email, explained my predicament (namely: I needed it asap, and I knew he only shipped it on such and such days... but could I please pretty please come to his warehouse and get some?).  Much to my surprise, he responded quickly, with a 'Sure, how much do you want?'  Thanks to Stan, for helping my donut dreams come true.

I carefully weighed the compressed yeast...

Then mixed it in the mixer with some water, then flour, and combined for a while.  I sat the spongy mixture to proof (crossing my fingers, since I kill every yeast-based dough)... and came back in a couple of hours to this:

Appropriately-risen dough.  I was in business!  So, I mixed some more compressed yeast, some other stuff (milk, flour, sugar, salt, egg yolks, butter - basically everything associated with baking), and eventually turned the sponge base into the dough forming in the mixer.  It was really bubblicious and sticky and exactly what good yeast should look like.

I set this out to proof for another hour.  It, too, rose in its bowl.

When the dough was appropriately proofed, I (heavily) floured my counter and went about rolling and cutting.  (technical issue: I didn't have cutters that were the correct size, so I just scaled up)  And rolling and cutting.  Until I had TONS of donuts (some of which went into the freezer, others stayed out for cooking that night). 

I had read accounts from numerous people that had issues with the non-stick spray and saran wrap thing for proofing.  I read accounts where people had no issue at all.  So I decided to try it both ways.

No saran wrap proofing:

Saran wrap proofing:

As you can (kinda) see, the saran wrap ones proofed a lot better.  And the wrap came off without any type of issues.  Success!

Into the deep fryer they went.  My house smelled like fried bread... heavenly.

After cooking, I tossed in cinnamon and sugar.

Don't they look amazing?  They were.

The day of the dinner party, I realized that I didn't know how to froth milk in my coffee/espresso maker.  In my defense, its not exactly something i've ever done (except the one day in college I worked as a barista at a local coffee shop, then decided it was a terrible idea for someone who HATES coffee to try and make it).  Steamed milk.... took a lot of experimenting.  But I did it!

As for the pretty donut hole sitting the donut... I don't think that the donuts made it that long.  I had a guest meet me in the walk way to get one.  Others were gone before I got to the table.  They were amazing.  And, like I said, really easy.  Like easy enough that i'm inspired to go make some (although I need more compressed yeast - I threw mine out in the move).  The semifreddo?  Eh... it was ok.  I took a bite, decided it wasn't for me, gave it to the hubbs.  That was ok though... I had more room for donuts!

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