Sunday, April 24, 2016

Time To Make The Doughnuts

Growing up, My Wonderful Mom would make doughnuts.  I don't mean doughnuts.  I mean doughnuts.  These deep fried delicacies were the stuff of legend amongst friends and family.  Quoting from a recent exchange on the Social Media site that everybody loves to hate:
  • I said auntie used to make the best doughnuts and mom agreed.
  • I loved those donuts!
  • I brag about how good they were!
Efforts by said family to get her to come out of retirement were not successful:
  • Would it work if I told you what I told my darling daughter.  Go to Tim's, that is what I do!  Can't believe those donuts are coming back to haunt me, there were pretty darn good.
But I am one not easily dissuaded.  She was coming to visit for a weekend, and I would not be denied.  Through a clever combination of begging and pleading, I was successful in getting her to agree that Doughnuts. Would. Be. Made.  It was like a dream come true.
What follows is part recipe, part adventure.  You see, My Wonderful Mom isn't too hung up on that whole recipe thing.  Her original recipe called for "flour", but with no indication as to how much.
This Is A Recipe?
Maybe if you've made them a couple hundred times before, "flour" is sufficient.  But if you are a doughnut newbie like me, you're screwed.  So she basically went by a few scribbles for a recipe and followed her nose while I frantically made notes, weighed bags of flour before and after, etc.  My Lovely Wife served as Official Photographer.

In the thousands of words that follow, you are going to see strange things like "199 grams of Apple Sauce", but I'm just recording what it was.  I haven't made any effort here to round things up or down to make even numbers anywhere, but you should feel free to do so.  You're also going to see a lot of steps, but I've broken this down into excruciating detail so you aren't left guessing.  And the work of the Official Photographer makes things that much easier.

This recipe makes a hell of a lot of stuff.  And by a hell of a lot of stuff, I mean:
  • Twenty-five Doughnuts
  • Twenty-two Doughnut Holes
  • A dozen Bismarks
  • Eighteen Cinnamon Buns
  • Two pizza-sized Kolache
We used almost a full five pound bag of flour that afternoon.  You might want to consider cutting the recipe in half or something like that if you want to make some of one thing but not another.  Or don't and make the whole damn batch.  Live large, and have fun.

Now if we're going to make some doughnuts, we're going to knead a dough (Get it?  "knead" ... "dough".  Ahem, that's OK.  I'll see myself out).  Making this dough is a three part process: getting the yeast going, mixing some eggs and sugar together, and then getting all of that into the main dough mixture.  Ready?  Set!  Go!!!

Make the Yeast Mixture

  • 16 grams Active Dry Yeast (16 grams = 2 pouches)
  • 237 grams Lukewarm Water (110ºF) (237 grams water = 1 cup)
  • 8 grams Sugar (8 grams = 2 tsp)
  • Warm water in a small bowl. Dissolve sugar into water. Sprinkle yeast on top of the water (no need to stir it in). Leave sit for 10 minutes so yeast can activate. While waiting, proceed with the steps below.

Make the Egg / Sugar Mixture

  • 4 Extra Large Eggs
  • 142 grams Sugar (142 grams = 3/4 cup minus 2 tsp in the yeast mixture)
  • In a medium sized bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add in sugar and stir to combine. You are probably still waiting for the yeast at this point so get started on the dough in the steps below.

Make The Dough

  • 948 grams Barely Warm Water (80ºF) (948 grams = 4 cups)
  • 11 grams Salt (11 grams = scant 3/4 tablespoon)
  • 2101 grams All Purpose Flour (Divided into batches) (1 cup flour = 120 - 140 grams).  I used Roger's All Purpose Unbleached Flour and used the batch sizes below (actually, my mom just dumped in flour and I weighed it as she went).  You don't need to be exact here per batch but the final flour total is going to be pretty close.
    • Batch 1: 900 grams
    • Batch 2: 750 grams
    • Batch 3: 200 grams
    • Batch 4: 160 grams
    • Batch 5: 50 grams
    • Batch 6: 41 grams
  • 226 grams Unsalted, Softened Butter (226 grams butter = 2 sticks)
  • All Yeast Mixture From Above
  • All Egg/Sugar Mixture From Above
  • Pour the 80ºF water into a very large bowl (we use a big ceramic dough bowl). A full batch of this dough will take almost five pounds of flour, so plan accordingly! Add the salt and Batch 1 of the flour and mix the flour into the water just a bit.
  • Cut the softened butter (not melted, softened) into small chunks. Add the butter, the egg / sugar mixture, and the (by now) frothy yeast mixture into the large bowl with the flour and water. Stir everything together to make a loose batter.
  • Add Batch 2 of the flour and keep stirring together. Batter will thicken.
  • Add Batch 3 of the flour. At around this point, a sticky dough begins to form. Start using your hand at this point to mix the dough by slipping your hand to the bottom of the bowl, grabbing a handful of dough, and pulling it up and over the top of the mixture. Give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat again and again.
  • After each batch of flour is incorporated and worked in a bit, add in the next one. The consistency is correct when the dough is pulling away from the bowl and not sticking to your fingers. Use this as the guide for the final amount of flour to add. Note also that it is this slow incorporation of the flour that kneads the dough along the way. The dough is worked entirely within the bowl and never placed on the counter for further kneading.
My Wonderful Mom Mixing The Dough - LIKE A BOSS
  • Once the dough has been mixed, shape into a ball. Sprinkle flour all around its surface and place into a VERY LARGE mixing bowl (we used our monster steel mixing bowl that we keep downstairs). A full batch of dough took 12g of flour for the dusting. This flour is to help prevent the dough from sticking to the bowl. DON'T USE OIL for this, as most recipes will advise. I don't know why for sure, but Mom just says DON'T and I listen. Good enough for me.
  • Cover the dough bowl with Saran Wrap to prevent the dough from drying out. Then place a dish towel over the dough bowl to help keep it warm. Place the bowl into a warm spot to rise until doubled. We had it in the spring day sun with the house around 22ºC and it took 2h 15m to double, and we rotated the bowl every now and then to help warm it evenly. The dough pressed right up against the Saran Wrap stretched across the top of our monster metal bowl.
After (!)
  • While the rise is underway, prepare your work area. You need two spaces: one being a good sized chunk of counter space that can be dusted with flour and the dough rolled out on. The second space is for laying down a large, cotton tea towel on which the doughnuts will sit for their second rise. This will take up a lot of space if you are making a bunch of doughnuts, so plan accordingly once again.
  • While the rise is underway, make sure you have your other ingredients ready. For the doughnuts, get together any sugar, sprinkles, icing, or what have you (I do not sully my doughnuts with such things). For the Bismarks, figure out what jams or jellies you are going to want as filling and have it ready. For the cinnamon buns, you'll need softened butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, and anything else you might like in the filling (Bits of chopped apple are great. Raisins are OK in a pinch). For the Kolache, you'll need a filling of some kind: I love homemade applesauce topped with a crumble of butter, flour, and sugar. My Grandma would also use cottage cheese with raisins sprinkled on top. Some cooked up poppy seeds are another classic.
  • While the rise is underway, get your tools together. You are going to need a rolling pin, and a couple of very large, non-fuzzy cotton tea towels to place the doughnuts on for their second rise.  More importantly, you are going to need something to cut the doughnuts and something to make the doughnut holes. Our doughnut maker was a jar lid used with canning jars that is 3.25" in diameter and 3/4" high. Our doughnut holer was an old cap from a container of baby oil with its little lid cut off. It was 1 1/8" in diameter. What made this holer work so well was that the little hole from which the baby oil would come out from also worked well to let air out as the doughnut holes were being cut.
Donut Cutter
Donut Holer
  • While the rise is underway, strategize! Are you going to make all doughnuts? What are you going to do with the bits cut away during the doughnut making process? We found that 1500 grams of dough makes around 20 doughnuts with about 350 grams of cut away dough bits left over. A full batch of dough is around 3840 grams, so that is a lot of doughnuts! What we did with our full batch was to make two batches of doughnuts using about 72% of the dough and two pans of cinnamon buns with the remainder. The scrap bits from making the doughnuts went to making two Kolaches. This was a good use for Kolaches because they don't need to rise up as puffy as doughnuts or cinnamon buns.
  • And while the rise is underway, get the stuff together that you'll need for cooking. For cooking the doughnuts, we used a KitchenAid Dutch Oven, around 1 liter of oil for cooking (we used a Becel canola / sunflower mix, but any neutral tasting vegetable oil would do), a thermometer to ensure the oil is at the right temperature, chopsticks / tongs / forks to flip and remove the doughnuts from the oil, paper towels and a plate to get excess oil off the doughnuts, and lots of cooling racks to place the doughnuts on after cooking. For the Kolache, we used one pizza pan and one cookie sheet that were greased with butter. For the cinnamon buns, we use two 9"x13" Pyrex baking pans greased with butter.

Make The Doughnuts

  • When rise is complete, take somewhere between a 1200g - 1500g chunk of the dough and place it on the counter dusted with flour. Punch the dough down and roll it out into a circle until it is a little more than 1/4" thick. Throw a little skiff of flour underneath the dough as it is being rolled out so the dough doesn't stick to the counter. First time we made this, Batch 1 was 1491 grams of dough.
  • Use the jar ring to cut the doughnut shapes, shifting the rolled out dough a bit this way and that to minimize the amount of "scrap" dough.
  • Next, use the doughnut holer to cut the hole in the center of each doughnut. The hole will usually get stuck in the cutter, so use either your finger or a toothpick to work them out.
  • Place the holes onto a non-fuzzy cotton tea towel in a little group of their own. Alternatively, skip cutting a hole into some of the doughnuts and make Bismarks instead. After the Bismark is cooked and cooled, you can cut a hole in the Bismark to make a home for your favorite jam or jelly.
  • The doughnuts and Bismarks are pulled off of the floured counter and placed onto the tea towel to rise as they are cut. Floured side goes down. Give them a bit of space to rise.  Do not put any extra flour on to the tea towel: the dough shouldn't be so sticky that you'll need to do this.
  • Once a batch of doughnuts has been cut, gather all of the dough scraps together and form them into a ball. Place them back in the bowl under Saran Wrap in a warm spot for a second rise to make something else like Kolache.
  • As doughnuts are placed onto the tea towel, cover them with a second towel to keep them warm and prevent them from drying out. Let them rise a second time for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until puffy looking. NOTE: About 15 minutes before the doughnuts finish their rise, heat about 1 liter of a neutral flavored oil to 375ºF in a deep fryer or Dutch Oven. Again, we used our KitchenAid Dutch oven and a thermometer to verify the temperature. Too cold and the doughnuts will be greasy. Too hot and the doughnuts won't cook properly on the inside.
  • By the way, here is how things broke down between the doughnuts, the cinnamon buns, and the Kolache.
    • Doughnut Batch 1: Started with 1491g of dough. Made 20 doughnuts, 18 holes, and had 349 grams dough left over for Kolache.
    • Doughnut Batch 2: Started with 1277g of dough. Made 5 doughnuts, 5 holes, 12 Bismarks, 2 odd shapes, and had 296 grams dough left over for Kolache.
    • Kolache: Made two with 645 grams of "scrap" dough from the doughnuts one on a pizza pan and another on a cookie sheet.
    • Cinnamon Buns: Made two 9x13 pans with the leftover 1071 grams of "virgin" dough.
The end result of the two doughnut batches we cut up looked a little something like this.
Actually, It Looked Exactly Like This
While the doughnuts rose, we got the cinnamon buns and the Kolache ready.

Make The Cinnamon Buns

Everybody knows what cinnamon buns are, and everybody has their cinnamon bun ideal.  To many, this ideal is a cinnamon bun dripping in brown sugar and topped with a heavy layer of cream cheese icing.  These people are wrong.  More is not always better.  More is sometimes just more.

This is a cinnamon bun that harkens back to a simpler time.  It is not horrifically sweet, and you won't need an insulin shot immediately after consumption.  It is a simple recipe where each element gets a chance to shine.  Try it.  You'll like it.

  • 1071 grams Virgin Dough not used in doughnut making
  • 17 grams Melted Butter + more for brushing on top of shaped buns
  • 119 grams Brown Sugar
  • Cinnamon To Taste
  • Raisins / Diced Apple / Etc To Taste
  • Roll out the dough for the cinnamon buns similar to how the dough for the doughnuts was rolled out. Place the dough on the counter dusted with flour. Punch the dough down and roll it out into a roughly square shape until it is a little more than 1/4" thick. Throw a little skiff of flour underneath the dough as it is being rolled out to minimize the dough sticking to the counter.
  • Brush the melted butter evenly across the top surface of the dough using a pastry brush. Here we used softened butter and a knife to spread it.  Same difference.
  • Sprinkle a healthy dose of cinnamon across the surface of the dough.
  • Then sprinkle the brown sugar evenly across the top.
  • Roll up the dough loosely but evenly along the long edge.
  • Use a knife to cut the roll into even slices to the desired thickness (we got 18 buns for the full batch above using a thickness of around 3/4", but thicker probably would have been better). As each slice is cut, lay it into a greased 9x13" pan. Don't crowd the buns so that they have room to grow outward a bit. Brush top of each cinnamon bun with melted butter.
  • Let the cinnamon buns rise for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until puffy looking (this in a relatively warm kitchen). About 20 minutes before the first batch is due for the oven, preheat the oven to 350ºF with the oven rack in the middle position.
  • Bake the cinnamon buns one pan at a time at 350ºF, rotating the pan 180º halfway through the bake. When we made these the first time, they were done after 26 minutes and a turn halfway through at 13 minutes. When done, the buns were a light brown on the top and a fairly deep brown on the bottom. Be careful not to bake them off to hard or the brown sugar will burn on the bottom of the pan.
  • Take the buns out of the oven when done and get the next batch baking. After each pan is cooked, leave the buns to cool in the pan for just a minute or two. Then flip the buns out onto a cooling rack. Otherwise they'll get soggy sitting in the pan. The syrupy bottom will also harden up and you'll never get them out if you wait too long.

Make The Kolache

Everybody has heard of Doughnuts.  Everybody has heard of Cinnamon Buns.  Almost nobody has ever heard of Kolache unless you had an awesome Czech Grandmother like I did.  My Grandma always had Kolache at her house.  Always.  And they were fantastic.  And you never ate just one, no matter how much lunch you'd had.  Never.  Because if all you ate was one, her face would grow sad and she'd say...
What?  You don't like Grandma's Cooking?

And I guaran-damned-tee that you'd find room for another.
My Lovely Wife's First Attempt - A Bit Puffy, But Absolutely Delicious
As I noted above and as shown in the picture, these are going to be made with applesauce and a crumb mixture made from butter, flour, and sugar.  Cottage cheese and raisins were another of Grandma's go-to's, as were some cooked up poppy seeds.  Me?  I always had this version.  Always.

Kolache can be made two ways: as a single serving size or kinda pizza size.  We're going pizza size here, because we've got a lot of other irons in the fire.  I'll have to go into Kolache more at some point, but that'll have to be another blog post.  In the meantime, do a little research if you're interested.

  • 645 grams Scrap Dough left over from making doughnuts
  • 199 grams Apple Sauce (Homemade, if at all possible)
  • 24 grams Softened Butter
  • 63 grams All Purpose Flour
  • 55 grams Sugar
  • While you were frantically making doughnuts and cinnamon buns, the scrap dough from the doughnuts should have been balled up and left to rise in a nice warm spot. Get going on these once the cinnamon buns are done.
  • Place dough onto a pizza pan or cookie sheet greased with a bit of butter. The 645g of dough we had here was enough to make two Kolache, and the dough was split more or less evenly between the two. Flatten the dough out into the shape of the pan. Again, the dough should be about 1/4" thick or so, about the thickness it was for the doughnuts and the cinnamon buns.
  • Combine the flour and sugar into a small bowl. Cut the butter into chunks and work it into this mixture with a fork, spoon, or pastry cutter. You're looking to make small and medium sized chunks of goodness here. Set the mixture aside.
  • Spread the apple sauce over the Kolache as if you were spreading sauce on a pizza. Leave a bit of bare crust at the very edge. Homemade apple sauce is amazingly superior to the store bought stuff, BTW, and it makes a huge difference to the final result.
  • Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the Kolache as if you were sprinkling cheese on top of a pizza.
Note Crumb Mixture on Kolache At Left
  • Set the Kolache aside to rise for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until puffy looking.  The Kolache were made from scrap dough during the doughnut making, so they might need a little more rise time than the doughnuts and the cinnamon buns.  Like the cinnamon buns, they are cooked at 350ºF with the oven rack in the middle position. If you aren't making the buns, remember to preheat the oven about 20 minutes before the Kolache finish their rise.
  • Once the Kolache are finished their rise, place the pans in the oven to bake at 350ºF for 20 minutes. We were able to fit both pans into the oven at the same time. Rotate the pans 180º after about 10 minutes to help them bake evenly. The Kolache are done when they are a medium brown on the bottom. Don't let them get too brown and crispy.
  • Remove Kolache from oven when done and slide them out onto a cooling rack to cool.

Cooking The Doughnuts

  • At this point, the doughnuts should have risen for about an hour and at least one liter of some neutral flavored oil like vegetable oil should be pre-heated in a Dutch Oven or deep fryer to 375ºF. Obviously, if your cooking vessel is larger, you'll need more oil to get sufficient depth. I'll stress that if the oil is too cold, the doughnuts will take too long to cook and be greasy. Too hot and the inside won't be cooked by the time the outside is done. Monitor the temperature of the oil closely while the doughnuts are cooking as the temperature tends to drop as you put in the colder dough.
  • Start by cooking one or two of the holes as a test run. Take a few off the tea towel and drop them in the hot oil. They only take a minute or so to brown on one side, and they will grow in size as they are cooked. Try to flip them around in the oil using tongs, chopsticks, or a fork (my Wonderful Mom's weapon of choice) so they brown evenly on all sides. The holes are tricky because they have a mind of their own. Don't stress it if the holes don't brown evenly on all sides. They are small and will still cook through OK.
  • Remove the holes from the oil once they are a rich brown and put them on a plate lined with a few paper towels. Immediately cover with another paper towel and lightly press / roll them around to sop up any excess oil. Transfer the holes to a cooking rack after a few seconds.
Or To A Plate For Immediate Consumption
  • Cook the rest of the holes, in batches if necessary so the holes aren't too crowded in the oil while cooking. They will poof up and take more space as they cook.
  • Now start cooking the doughnuts, starting with the first ones that were cut. Pull the doughnuts gently from the tea towel by hand and gently drop into the hot oil top side down. Again, don't crowd the doughnuts because they will puff up. We were able to cook four at a time in the KitchenAid Dutch Oven.
  • Once the underside has a rich brown side (after a minute or so), use a couple forks or whatever to gently flip the doughnuts over to the other side.
  • Remove from the oil once they are browned on both sides to the paper-towel lined plate, dab the excess oil off of them as you did with the holes, and transfer to a cooling rack after a few seconds. Use fresh paper towels as required if the old ones start getting greasy. It helps a lot to have two people doing this: one person cooking and the other dabbing the oil off.
  • Repeat until all the doughnuts are cooked, and keep an eye on the oil temperature all the way along. Don't let it stray too far one way or the other from 375ºF.
On the subject of topping the doughnuts...  Me, I like 'em just plain, so you are on your own if you want to add toppings to these deep-fried treasures. I'd think that sugar or sprinkles should go on while the doughnuts are still very hot. Bismarks should be filled with jelly or jam after they have cooled so the jam doesn't melt in and make the center of the Bismark all soggy. Topping with some kind of icing is probably best done once they have cooled as well.

Right after this baking extravaganza, it was time for supper.  We whipped up a delicious supper for My Wonderful Mom featuring Ricotta Gnocchi and Chicken Breast With Tomatoes and Capers.  Dessert was, of course, doughnuts.  I grabbed one off the counter and took a bite walking back to the table.  BOOM.  I was instantly transported back to my teenage years.  The doughnuts tasted exactly as I remembered them.  And in that second, all of that effort was worth it.

But you, dear reader, let's not forget about you.  All you have seen to this point are isolated pictures of this and that.  But I'm a big picture guy, so let's look at the big picture.  What came out of that afternoon?
Like Looking Into The Face Of God
One hell of a lot of awesomeness, that is what came out of that afternoon.  But there is more that is not shown here.  I had a great day with Mom.  And I mean, a great day.  She hadn't made these doughnuts for decades!  We had a lot of laughs and relived a lot of memories while recreating a classic memory from my youth.  If something terrible were to happen tomorrow, I'd look back fondly to this day and think that I made the most of it.  Even if I hadn't gotten to taste a single bite of any of what we'd made, it would have been worth every second spending that time with her.

I don't want to be that person that says "I only wish I had learned to make X from my Granda / Mom / Aunt.  It was so good, but I never got the recipe."  To Hell with that.  Don't be that person either.  Go see your Grandma / Mom / Aunt and tell them how much you enjoyed that whatever when you were a kid.  Then spend the day making it together, and have a blast while doing it.

Days after My Wonderful Mom left, I opened the cutlery drawer.
The Donut Holer
She'd deliberately left her Donut Holer behind, her way of passing the baton.  And here I sit with a freezer full of baked goods, and a lump in my throat.

Go cook something, go do it now, and go do it with someone you love.  And tell 'em the guy from Mad Scientist Labs sent you.