18 May 2010

Dirty Dozen

Look at that tight, little star-shaped hole, glazed with sticky icky goodness.

Amateur  money shot
We're talking about doughnuts, of course. When we first started this site full of horrible double-entendres in early 2009, we did it to show off a bit of homespun food porn, starting with our attempt to make doughnuts.

In nearly a year and a half, we've come full circle. We've gotten better at finding ingredients. We've gotten better at working on techniques. And we still haven't been able to bust a decent frickin' 'nut in Paris. Sure, dozens of American (or American-style) "coffee shops" sell doughnuts, but good luck getting anything other than a hockey puck that's been sitting in a refrigerated case for days on end.

We gave up ages ago. We didn't even really eat doughnuts back in the States anyway. Then, the other night on a lark (or rather because of discounted tickets), we figured we'd go see Iron Man 2 at the shitty chain theatre nearby. Those fantasies you have of Paris being intellectual and artsy? We tossed 'em ages ago.

Anyway, there's this scene in IM2 where Robert Downey Jr. is sitting in the hole of the famous Randy's Donuts in LA, eating a doughnut. At that moment, I turned to Alannah and said, "I want a doughnut." She turned to me and said, "Me too!"

This isn't slang for a dirty act in public, but what married people actually say to each other.

The trouble is, for all the craptacular chains we've got surrounding us, not one of them makes doughnuts. The UK has imported Krispy Kreme. Spain has been invaded by Dunkin. We, on the other hand, got nothin'. So we went to bed, as we're wont to do.

At some point the next day, I looked in the fridge and saw a mixing bowl of some kind of dough.  "You didn't..." I started to say to Alannah. "Yes I did," she replied.  She'd used the dough part of some sour cream doughnut recipe on Epicurious and modified it to use yogurt instead, and much less orange zest. And it was beautiful.  She rolled out the dough and cut it into shapes.

Doughnuts and stars. Much more organized this time around.
The last time we made doughnuts, we got better results on the holes, and it took a lot of experimenting with oil temperatures and frying times. This time I bowed down to Thomas Keller's French Laundry Cookbook and used the temp and times for his "Coffee and Doughnuts": 30 seconds on one side, 1 minute on the other, and back to 30 seconds on the first at 160ºC/325ºF.

While TK's formula is for raised (yeast) doughnuts, it worked perfectly for Alannah's adaptation of the Epicurious cake (old-fashioned) doughnuts. In fact, the crumb is damn near perfection.

Exhibit A: Cross section of cake doughnut
with perfect crumb.
We made a few experimental doughnuts, as well as a bunch of holes and coated them with cinnamon-sugar for a round of overindulgent taste-testing.

A-holes and O-holes:
An Alannah and Omid production.
Having successfully completed our test round, it was time to go whole hog and make a dozen proper doughnuts. After all, American food deserves American quantities.

Nice (cooling) rack!
As much as I love all things naked, I don't care much for an undressed doughnut. I told Alannah I'd make her a nice, gooey glaze, and after she was done rolling her eyes, I actually got to the business of making some out of powdered sugar and liquid. (You need about an 8:1 ratio.)  Powdered sugar and milk with a touch of vanilla for standard glaze. Powdered sugar and maple syrup and a touch of butter for maple glaze. And powdered sugar and melted milk chocolate for chocolate glaze.

Keep your glazes warm in a bowl, dip your 'nuts in, then rack 'em for at least five minutes 'til it's all firm.  Then it's ready to shove in your mouth.

A threesome of each:
Glazed, cinnamon-sugar, maple and chocolate.
We've had several doughnuts since making the batch, and I'm already kind of sick of 'em. They're damn good, but like I said, we never really ate doughnuts that much in the US to begin with. It's just that once in a while you get a craving for something you can't have, so you just have to go out and grab it for yourself. After all, the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it, right?

That's what we've been doing much of the time since that first post. And we've since discovered that almost anything can be made better at home. When you do it yourself, it's more fun, more involved, and more personal. The same applies to cooking.

In fact, despite the fact that we probably won't make them again for another year and a half (and when we do, it'll be raised doughnuts!), we found that doughnuts give us the perfect synergy in the kitchen.

As the anal type (as in, she's the baker, sheesh!) Alannah's great with measurements and feeling out the proofing of a dough. As the sloppy bastard who eschews recipes, I'm better suited for the other part: Operating a deep fryer.


  1. Well for heaven's sake, if you're sick of them already, couldn't you have brought some in to work? I bet you did and just didn't tell the poor backwards Southern girl on the 3rd floor. Sigh.

  2. Please send your doughnuts back to the US, Fedex overnight. They will probably be better than anything here.