There’s a lot of ways to get frustrated (believe me, I’ve tried most of them). But being a connoisseur of things that tend to make you want to shout/throw appliances out of multiple-story windows, I think I’ve managed to settle on the king; the single most irritating and bone-shakingly frustrating thing I can conceive:
Fucking up at baking.
And there’s a reason why I chose baking specifically, and not just “anything you happen to be flailing about at in the kitchen”. Sure, spending a few hours on a roast and watching it come out dry as an African desert and taste…well, also like an African desert is pretty damn discouraging. But fucking up a cake or a pastry is its own special level of hell.
That’s because unless you’re making something offensively easy like bread pudding, baking is a fine art, and a craft that comes down to the millimeter. If you’re making something ambitious (and really, why would you be a baker if you weren’t?) it’s going to take hours of proofing, frosting, mixing, and eyebrow-furrowing to get it right.
So when all that work deflates in the oven or explodes in your face, your measly little cupcake artist-cum-Martha Stewart wannabe aspirations go right along with it. Being a normal, average frustrated person is plenty enough to make you want to put your first through the nearest non-fist-supporting object. Being a frustrated baker is like meticulously building a house of cards, and then trying to fill that house of cards with frosting and praying it all doesn’t fall down in the process. It’s maddening.
Which is all to say that this week I (metaphorically) tried to do just that, and met with predictable results. Turns out yeast doesn’t like to do the whole rising thing when it’s cold out, so I ended up with the world’s flattest donuts on my hands. Luckily, the cream filling and the glaze turned out just fine, so if you’re not an idiot like me and actually check your damn thermometer, this should go well. If not, then you’re gonna have the world’s worst game of 52-pickup on your hands…along with a shit-ton of frosting.
Here’s what you need:
- 3/4 cup warm milk
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 packet active dry yeast
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 egg yolks
- Vegetable Oil
- ¾ stick of unsalted butter (room temp)
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons bourbon (I ended up adding another tablespoon, if you want it more bourbon-y, go for it)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons strongly brewed coffee or espresso
Here’s how you do it:
First, warm up the milk and sugar in a small pot over medium heat until it reaches about 110 degrees. Make sure you stir the sugar the whole time it’s heating, that way it’ll dissolve instead of forming clumpy piles of sugar garbage.
Take the milk off heat, stir in the yeast until it dissolves, then let it foam up for 10 minutes. If you don’t see the foam; you fucked up. Do it again, or get a new batch of yeast.
Whisk together the flour and salt in your stand mixer bowl. Make a well in the center and add the egg yolks, yeasty stuff, and butter.
If you’re lucky enough to have a stand mixer, put on the dough hook and mix it on medium for about 4 minutes. If you’re not…guess you’re gonna be kneading for a while. Either way, you want to mix until it forms a ball, then cover the top with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place to rise for an hour.
Once the dough’s had a chance to rise, put it on a floured flat surface and roll it out to about 3/8 of an inch thick. Use your preferred cookie cutter to cut them into circles, and don’t cut out the holes in the middle. Yes, I know you’re used to downing entire crates of donut holes on the way to your cubicle hell-hole in the morning, but we’re filling these with cream, so you’re gonna have to make do.
Put the soon-to-be-doughnuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spray the tops of the doughnuts with non-stick spray, then cover with plastic wrap and stick in a warm place for another 30 minutes.
The dough should be doubled by now (key word: should). Once it is, pour enough vegetable oil in a large pot for the doughnuts to float in it. Heat it to 350 degrees, then fry the doughnuts for about a minute on each side, until they’re golden brown.
Let the doughnuts cool on a wire rack (and put some paper towels underneath so you don’t go medieval on your kitchen counter with that boiling hot oil). When they’re completely cool, start in on the cream and glaze.
To make the filling, cream the butter in a stand mixer at medium speed for 2-3 minutes, then mix in the powdered sugar on low until it’s combined.
Next, add the cream and bourbon and mix on high for 3 minutes. Like I said up there, if you like bourbon (as every living, breathing human being should), give the filling a taste and add more if you want. Or just put it in a glass and drink it; I don’t give a shit.
The glaze is easy: just stir together the coffee and powdered sugar in a small bowl until it magically becomes glaze. You want it to just barely be thin enough to still drip off of your fork, so just add more coffee if it’s too thick, and more sugar if it’s too thin, until you get the right consistency.
Next, with as little sexual innuendo as you can manage, use a pastry bag to fill the insides of the doughnuts with the cream filling. Make sure you watch the doughnuts while you do it: if they start to crack, that’s when you wanna stop pushing the cream in there.
Cover the doughnuts in glaze, check to make sure the kitchen’s empty, then lick it off your fingers like the disgusting human being I am you are.
After that, all that’s left is to let the glaze set, and then pop a few in your mouth with a cup of coffee.
Pop this week’s song in your ears too; it’s Crush! by Soil & Pimp Sessions:
As you can see from the pictures, and as you heard from my ever-endless kvetching in the intro, my doughnuts ended up a little flat. But that’s part of the risk; that’s what makes this shit worth it. If any soccer mom or dad or person could just fart some croissants onto a plate in under half an hour, why would you give a damn about the true masters? It’s because you know that the good stuff takes time, practice, and a whole lot of fucking up to get right. So get in there, slap some dough around, get all huffy when it doesn’t rise or bake or whatever…and then do it again. And again. And again. Until it comes out right.
Or just throw some appliances out of the window when it doesn’t.
See you next time, readers.
Recipe inspired by this one: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/glazed-doughnuts.html