This months Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Since I missed last months Baker’s Challenge I had no intention of missing another month.Every month brings an unexpected treat, and this month is no different – Doughnuts. Now, I must say, I have never made doughnuts before. They seemed like too much trouble, but, living in a world where so much food is filled with preservatives and artificial flavors, don’t we deserve to take the time and treat ourselves? And as it turns out ,they are really quite easy to make, it just takes a little patience.
There are two main types of doughnuts, yeast and cake. Obviously yeast doughnuts take longer to make but produce a lighter, fluffier result though cake doughnuts are just as tasty. Seriously, is there anything about a doughnut not to like? If anything, I never eat them because I cannot stop at just one! My choice for this challenge is Paczki (pronounced punch-key). It a fruit filled doughnut. In Poland they are made for Fat Thursday, the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. In the States, they are made the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, known as Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras. Traditionally, this was a way to use up perishable items (eggs/cream/butter) right before Lent. Don’t you just love the story behind food? I don’t know about you, but I find it so interesting to know what I am eating.
This recipe comes from A Baker’s Odessey by Greg Patent. It is made with a sponge, then enriched with egg yolks, sugar, sour cream and a bit of brandy, which helps retard the gluten development slightly. The filling must be thick enough to hold its shape. The book recommends Krakus Multifruit Powidla, but after going to a Polish deli, a Hungarian deli, and a German deli, I could not find it so I am using a plum butter (powidla sliwkowe) in half of the recipe and some thick homemade cherry preserves in the other half.
“These are best eaten within a few hours of being made”. Well, I guess they will be dessert as opposed to breakfast, unless I get up at 3am. I hear you can freeze doughnuts and reheat them with success. We’ll see….
Okay- here is an update since writing that. I have made a ton of doughnuts in the past 2 weeks and yes, I have frozen all of the leftovers and just thawed them on the counter for about an hour. They tasted great and the texture was still light and airy. So, bake away my friends….
1 C (8oz) whole milk
1 1/2 C (6.61 oz, 187.5 g)unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 Tablespoons instant yeast (or 2 Tbls active dry yeast)
1 large egg, at room temperature
Scald the milk in a heavy saucepan oer medium heat (or carefully in a microwave). Remove from the heat and let the milk cool until it is between 120-130F.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast, milk and egg to make a thick batter. Bang any remaining batter off the whisk, scrape down the sides of the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temp until it is very bubbly and has more than doubled in volume and collapsed back on itself, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
6 Tbls (3 oz, 85 g) unsalted butter
1/2 C granulated sugar
8 large egg yolks
finely grated zest of 1 large orange
3 Tbls brandy or rum (I am using Calvados, a french apple brandy)
1/2 C sour cream
1 tsp salt
3 1/4 C unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
About 1/4 c to 1/2 c thick fruit preserves
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
confectioners sugar for dusting
Put the butter and sugar into your mixing bowl, attach the flat beater, and beat on low-speed, then medium speed until it is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Scrape the bowl and the beater. Beat in the egg yolks, 2 at a time, beating for about 1 minute in between each addition. Beat in the orange zest. Add the sponge, brandy, sour cream, and salt and beat on low-speed until smooth. Beat in 2 cups flour, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl and the beater, and switch to the dough hook. Add 1 cup more flour and knead it in on low-speed, then increase the speed to medium and knead for 3 more minutes. The dough will be soft, sticky, and wet.
Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 c flour on your work surface and scrape the dough onto it. Knead the dough until all the flour has been incorporated. The dough should feel fairly soft and be a bit tacky. If it is too sticky, knead in up to 1/4 c more flour- but just a little at a time- the softer the dough, the lighter the doughnut.
Lightly oil or spray a bowl and place the dough in the bowl, turning it to coat all sides. Cover tightly and let it rest at room temp until doubled in size (about an hour). Mine took almost 1 1/2 hours since it is cool in my house.
Turn the dough out onto a unfloured work surface and pat it into a rectangle about 15 x 12 inches (I just did mine by eye).Fold it in thirds, like a business letter, then pat it gently to extend it the long way to about 15 inches (mine was already that since I did it by eye- I guess my eyes aren’t so good). Fold it again in thirds to make a package (remember making puff pastry?) Place it back in the bowl, seam side down and let rise at room temp until doubled, about 1 hour.
To shape the Paczki, line 2 large baking sheets with parchment and lightly sift a small amount of flour over them.Roll the dough out on a unfloured surface to a thickness of about 1/2 inch. With a sharp 2 3/4 or 3 inch cutter, stamp out circles of dough. Gather any scraps and set them aside, covered with a kitchen towel.
Make a shallow depression in the center with your finger and put in 1/2 to 1 tsp of the jam in the depression. Pick up the circle of dough and pull the edges up and around the filling, pinching them together firmly to seal in the filling. Place them seam side down on the prepared baking sheets. Reroll any scraps and make some more as above. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let rise for about 45 minutes. They will be puffy and almost doubled in size.
Meanwhile, pour 3 inches of oil into a large heavy pot and attach a deep fry thermometer to the side of the pot(if you have one- I don’t). Heat the oil oer medium heat until it reaches 365-370 F. Line two large baking sheets with several layers of paper towels. Since I don’t have a deep fry thermometer I just use a cube of bread to test the temp. If it browns in about 60 seconds then it’s ready. If your oil is too hot, it will brown the outside too quickly and not cook the inside, but, if it’s not hot enough it will make your doughnuts greasy. So, in other words, keep on eye on your oil temperature.
To fry your Paczki, slip them one at a time into the oil, adding only 3 or 4 paczki at a time. Cook for about 90 seconds then flip them over and cook for about another 90 seconds, or they are a beautiful mahogany brown. Left them out of the oil with a slotted spoon and place on the paper towels. Repeat until all of the paczki are cooked. While they are still hot, strain some confectioners sugar oer them. They are best served within a few hours, but you can freeze any leftovers with good results.