And onto the doughnut; the deep-fried drop of bread-ish excess.
This is the doughnut in it's spherical, jammy guise, not the sickeningly glazed, holey format. Although the ring doughnut has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years, it is the ball-like version which is taking 2013 by storm.
They've already been established as a dessert on Michelin menus across the land; a cutesy nod to childhood (who out there doesn't have at least one childhood memory of biting into a hot, sugary doughnut? I have at least a dozen). Even in my local, excellent restaurant The Red Lion at East Haddon doughnuts are served with jam and custard dipping sauces, splendidly nostalgic in their paper bags. Although it's not looked upon too fondly by serving staff if you play the 'don't lick your lips' game whilst dining on them.
Again tapping into the junk food trend which will be a recurrent theme for the next couple of years at least, the doughnut has always had the reputation of being quite lowly; probably all those years of them being served out the back of mobile carts. So their transition from that to Michelin kitchens gives me a nice cosy feeling inside, although seasoned with a dash of cynicism for the time when they'll be 'out of favour' again.
Doughnuts are made from a yeasty dough so they do take a bit of time, what with proving and all, to do but they're perfect as a naughty snack or for impressing your friends with your Michelin credentials at a dinner party. My recipe is adapted from the excellent Word of Mouth blog by Felicity Cloake in the Guardian; read it, you'll not regret it. I find that raspberry jam works best because it's tartness cuts through the richness of the dough, but you can use any other flavour of jam (or custard) as you'd like. And of course you can either fill the doughnuts, as I have, or serve the jam on the side a'la The Red Lion.
Ingredients to make 8 doughnuts:
160g of strong white bread flour
7g (1 sachet) of dried yeast
1/2 tsp of salt
15g of caster sugar, plus extra for dusting afterwards
20g of unsalted butter
65ml of whole milk
45ml of water
1 egg, beaten
Vegetable oil, for frying
Raspberry jam (unseeded)
To start with put the butter, milk, and water into a small saucepan and heat gently until the butter is melted and the liquid is warm; not hot. Then mix the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar into a large bowl and mix together. Pour the warm liquid mixture into the dry ingredients, add the beaten egg, and stir together with a spoon until the mixture binds and becomes a soft dough.
Lift the dough out of the bowl and press it together firmly into a ball in your hands then put it onto a clean, lightly floured surface and begin to knead. You can use the same kneading method that I explained here as the dough is a very similar texture. You will need to keep flouring the surface for the first couple of minutes of kneading as the dough will be a bit sticky, but soon it will become smooth and silky and it'll be OK without. Keep kneading for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic; a good test is to press the dough lightly with your fingertip, if it bounces back it's ready.
Lightly grease a large (and I mean large, the dough is going to grow...) glass bowl with a little butter. Form the dough into a ball and place in the bowl, covering with a damp teatowel. Place the bowl in a warm place to prove for about an hour until it's doubled in size. If you lack an airing cupboard do what I do and place the bowl under a warm radiator.
When the dough is ready remove it from the bowl and divide up into 8 equal portions; the easiest way to do this is to divide the dough into 2 parts, then divide each part into 2, then each of those parts into 2. Roll each portion into a ball and place on a lightly floured baking tray or wooden board, spacing well apart, covering again with a damp teatowel. Put the tray or board back into a warm place and leave for about 45 minutes for the portions to double in size.
Heat the vegetable oil in a deep fat fryer (this is the safest way to fry the doughnuts; if you don't have one you can use a medium saucepan) to 160c. This may seem low but you need to cook the doughnuts all the way through before they brown too much on the outside. When the portions have risen again remove them from the board and cook them in batches of 4 until the outsides are golden brown (about 5-6 minutes). Remember to carefully turn the doughnuts over halfway through cooking using a metal spoon or tongs so that they brown evenly, otherwise it looks as if they have tan-lines.
Take a deep baking tin and sprinkle with a layer of caster sugar. When the doughnuts are cooked remove them from the fryer, spread them out on kitchen paper to blot the excess oil for about a minute, then transfer them to the sugary tin while they're still hot. Roll the doughnuts around in the sugar by shaking the tin, making sure they're fully coated, then remove them onto another tray or large plate.
You can now leave the doughnuts to cool for a few minutes before filling them with jam as it's easier when they're not molten-hot. It's easiest to fill them using a piping bag, but you can use a teaspoon if you're deft. Take the doughnut in one hand and make a small cut (about 1cm) with a sharp knife into the base (they will naturally gain a bit of a flat bottom). Prepare a piping bag with a small round nozzle (big enough for the jam to pass through and to fit in the hole you've cut in the doughnut) and spoon in a couple of tablespoons of cold jam. Squeeze the doughnut gently so that the cut you made opens up into a small hole and press the piping nozzle into it. When the nozzle is inside you can start squeezing the jam (hello there, sexy euphemism), stopping when the jam begins to leak out.
When you've filled all the doughnuts you can serve them warm or cold, and in a paper bag if you're feeling fancy.