Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Daring Bakers - Cake and Yeast Donuts

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.

Donuts are one of those dangerous foods that are suppposed to taste better when you make them at home. I really don't need for them to taste better than they already do, but I missed last month's Daring Bakers challenge and I didn't want to miss another one.

My plan was to only make one recipe. My coworkers were almost evenly divided between yeast donut lovers and cake donut lovers. I did a poll and the yeast donut lovers won out, but I decided to make both kinds because, well, I'm insane. I made the dough for the yeast donuts the night before and stuck it in the fridge, planning to roll it out and cut out the donuts the next morning. But a peek in the fridge confirmed the dough was staging a coup and the middle shelf would soon be history. So at 11:00 PM, I rolled out the dough for the yeast donuts, cut them out and froze them on sheet pans. At 5:20 the next morning, after I staggered out to turn on the coffee maker, I pulled the donuts out of the freezer and and put the sheet pans on the counter to defrost. Meanwhile, I made the dough for the cake donuts.

Following Alton Brown's suggestion to use chop sticks when retrieving the fried donuts from the hot oil, I used them to transfer the donuts into the hot oil saving me from getting too many burns. It was hard to know when they were done, so some were very brown and some weren't, but they seemed to benefit from carryover cooking, which I should have taken into consideration.

The donut holes were tough little devils to fry. They didn't want their pale undersides to flip in the oil, and they wriggled every which way to avoid it. It took me twice as long to fry the donut holes as the donuts. Next time I'd skip making donut holes entirely.

When I said "staggered" and "coffee," my regular readers probably registered a silent "Uh oh." I don't do well on not enough sleep combined with before-dawn baking, and this was no exception. After I finished frying the donuts, I found this lurking in the mayhem I used to call my kitchen:

No wonder the cake donuts were hard to roll into a cohesive mass. Eggs would have helped.

I wanted glazed donuts and had settled on Alton Brown's plain and chocolate glazes. I didn't have time to strain the powdered sugar, and my glazes did have a few lumps.

The normal reaction when I take baked goods to work is quite a few emails praising the brownie, tart, etc. People will stop me in the hall and say how much they liked it, ask me where I find the time (when normal people are sleeping or working out), or request the recipe.

This time, silence.

I must admit I was perplexed. I tasted the donuts at home and the yeast donuts were truly amazing.  Light, with an imperceptible hint of flavor from the nutmeg, I finally understood why people were willing to make their kitchen look like this

to make them at home. I expected a lot more reaction from my coworkers. So I stopped by the break room to sample one for myself. What a difference two hours made. It was leaden, dense and not as flavorful as the one I sampled at home. The only thing that saved it was the chocolate glaze.

After this experience, there are a few things I learned:
  • Pick one kind of donuts to make. Don't make both. At least not at 5 AM.
  • Golden brown means...GOLDEN. BROWN.  Not dark brown, not chocolate brown, not medium brown. I was so worried about raw middles that I completely overcooked them.
  • 86 the donut holes. They aren't worth the precious time they consume.
  • Serve the donuts immediately. If it means handing them out car to car at all the lights on the way to work, send them out into the world while they're still appealing.
  • Have the glaze made before frying your donuts. It holds well, unlike donuts.

Maybe it doesn't sound like it, but I was so excited to make this recipe. I tripped myself up, and I hope I learned a valuable lesson. In trying to please everyone, it's possible to please no one. Next time, I'll make a small batch of these for us to enjoy at home.

Egg-free cake donuts


Clivia said...

All great insights. After reading a few posts this morning, I'm thinking about trying my hand at donuts. I'll wait until I have a completely free half day and print out your blog post along with the recipe.
Nonetheless, you chocolate glazed looks wonderful!
I wanted to see a photo of whatever was going on in your fridge too.

Cristine said...

Your donuts look great! I made both kinds, too. I made them the day before, refrigerated overnight, and fried in the morning. Your pictures make me want more!

Torviewtoronto said...

I have been wanting to make doughnuts for a while these look delicious

shelley c. said...

What a great post - I loved reading about your experience! I am sorry that the finished donuts didn't get the desired response from your work folks (seriously, they should have put them in the microwave for a couple of seconds... makes a difference!), but I think it is amazing that you went through all of that effort for them. Really great job.

Audax said...

You did so much work on this challenge and it is a slight pity that they went stale so quickly. I love all the information you included in your posting. Well done on this challenge. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

Anonymous said...

Making doughnuts at 5am - I would be staggering and in need of serious coffee too!!

In spite of what you said, the doughnuts look absolutely fabulous, the chocolate glaze looks just perfect!

Valerie said...

Leslie, depsite everything, your doughnuts all look delicious. But I know exactly what you mean about eating these as soon as they're cool enough to bite into. The few that made it to the second day were inedible.

By the way, you have a gorgeous kitchen! I'm jealous of all that counter space. :-)

Mary said...

Leslie, you have completely spoiled your colleagues! Your doughnuts look gorgeous! I noticed me yeast doughnuts didn't taste nearly as nice a few hours later (when I was nibbling on them to take pictures), and the crullers were gross 6 hours later. So, fire up the coffee and make these for those you love, and then you can eat them in your bathrobe too!
Thanks for the kitchen pic--mine is tiny, and gets cluttered very quickly.

TeaLady said...

Bummer that these turned out this way after all your early morning sacrifice!!! Your baking always turns out so well. I haven't made doughnuts in ages. May have to try with AB's recipe.

Kris Ngoei said...

Bravo for taking the effort to bake both cake and yeast doughtnuts.... And just love how both of them turned out in the pictures...... adore the chocolate glaze so much :-)

Sawadee from Bangkok,

Renata said...

I had the same mess in a much smaller kitchen!! Can you picture that? But your doughnuts were certainly worth it! They look fabulous!

Seattle Pastry Girl said...

Leslie they came out beautifully ,even without the eggs!! I was laughing so hard since I have been there too ! Nice job,

margot said...

Leslie, the donuts look great, despite all the trouble. I have been wanting to make donuts for months, but have hesitated because I don't do well with deep-frying and fear the mess. If I got up that early (seriously, I'm amazed you can bake that early) to make donuts and bring them to work, I would definitely be anticipating a reaction besides silence.

Lisa said...

LOVED your entry..especially the 'Things I've learned'. I always bake on a whim, and 5am is nothing, but I'm a strange sleeper lol LOL@ the 86 holes too. Despite your trials and tribs, they look amazing! You always rock these challenges..TWD too :)

Anonymous said...

Oh Leslie, you made me so sad! The donuts look wonderful. I thought that your coworkers would be having a parade in your honor! Thanks for the lessons learned though.

Mimi said...

Kudos to you for making both donuts and getting up early to make these fresh for your co workers. Such a bummer that they were stale before they could eat them. I wonder what the donut shop secret is to keeping them fresh tasting for a few hours.

Apu said...

Doughnuts look wonderful!!

Tracey said...

I am so impressed that you get up early enough to bake before work! That's dedication :) I've only made donuts once, and while I loved them, I just hate frying too much to do it very often.

Me! said...

wow you got up early and made these before going to work??? that's nuts. i made them on sunday and brought them in on monday. mine also turned into hard heavy bricks the next day. slightly better if you microwave them for a few seconds but definitely not as good as fresh made. i also did a medium brown so that probably didn't help matters. the first batch came out doughy in the middle so i cooked the rest a bit longer.... oh well. lesson learned


i love donuts ;)