Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Top Pot's Glazed Doughnuts

Finding a decent doughnut recipe can be one of the most challenging adventures any home baker can undertake. You might be surprised at the number of doughnut recipes that have been tried in my kitchen that never made the cut for the blog. You'd probably be shocked at the number that never made it into the fryer at all but were dumped because of texture or rising problems. But, a little book has helped me find not only a great recipe for a basic glazed doughnut but dozens of inspiring ideas for other types from cake doughnuts to devil's food to old fashioned doughnuts.

Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts: Secrets and Recipes for the Home Baker provides excellent recipes and wonderful tips for creating incredible doughnuts at home. From how to create a moist proofing box in your oven to the best techniques for transferring doughnuts into the oil, the book will help you achieve success with doughnuts in your own kitchen.

For my test I chose the simple glazed doughnut. My intention with this recipe was to see if it actually was easy to follow and turned out an edible product. It scored high on both accounts. I also wanted to get a baseline for a good basic doughnut recipe to compare against one sent to me by my friend Sue Summer back in Newberry, SC. Sue managed to unearth the original recipe for a long closed local doughnut shop in my hometown. With the help of some baking enthusiasts and a food scientist the recipe was pared down for home use. That recipe will be coming up in the next few weeks.

With our basic, successful doughnut recipe in hand, it will be possible to compare and contrast a "modern" artisan shop recipe with one some 50 years old. But right now, let's take a look at Top Pot Doughnuts' excellent glazed doughnut recipe.

Top Pot's Glazed Doughnuts

Recipe by Top Pot Doughnuts
A wonderful recipe for yeast raised doughnuts.

  • 3 Tbsp. Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (105° to 110°)
  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground mace
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 4 to 4 1/2 cups bread flour (plus extra for rolling and flouring)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 to 6 cups canola oil, for frying
Vanilla Glaze 
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 tsp. light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp. hot water
Cooking Directions
  1. Whisk the yeast, water, and 1 Tbsp. of the sugar together in the work bowl of a stand mixer and let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, mace, salt, and 4 cups of the bread flour. Set aside.
  3. Add the shortening, egg yolks, and vanilla to the foaming yeast mixture. Mix with paddle attachment on low speed for 1 minute to break up the shortening. Add about a third of the dry ingredients and mix until blended on low speed. Repeat with the second third of the dry ingredients.
  4. Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining dry ingredients, mixing on low speed until no white spots remain. Add more flour as necessary until the dough is dry enough to clear the bottom of the bowl. Increase speed to medium and knead for 2 more minutes. The dough should be smooth like bread dough but still slightly tacky to the touch.
  5. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet sprinkled with 1 to 2 Tbsp. of flour. Shape into a flat disk about 6 inches in diameter. Dust lightly with flour, cover with a tea towel and set aside.
  6. To create a proofing box in the oven: Bring a large kettle of water to a boil. Pour 8 cups of the boiling water into a 9x13 pan set on the floor of the oven. Place the baking sheet with the covered dough on the middle rack of the oven, close the door and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  7. Transfer the risen dough to a lightly floured surface and roll into a roughly 12 inch circle. Cut into 12 doughnuts, flouring the doughnut cutter before each cut. (Reroll the dough for additional doughnuts if desired.) Gently transfer the doughnuts and holes to two baking sheets sprinkled with 2 Tbsp. of flour each, arranging them at least 2 inches apart. Let rise in the oven (with new boiling water) uncovered, for 30 to 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
  8. While the doughnuts are rising prepare the glaze: Place the confectioner's sugar, corn syrup, salt, vanilla, and hot water in a large mixing bowl or the work bowl of a standing mixer. Using a whisk or with the machine's whisk on low speed, blend until the mixture is smooth and sugar has been fully incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl. If the glaze seems too thick add more hot water a teaspoon at a time.
  9. Using a candy thermometer to measure the temperature, heat oil (at least 2 inches deep) in a deep fryer or large pot over medium heat to 350°. When the doughnuts have doubled in size, carefully place a few in the oil taking care not to overcrowd them. Fry for about 30 seconds. Carefully turn the doughnuts using chopsticks or skewers and fry for another 20 seconds on the second side. Transfer to a cooling rack set over paper towels to cool rounded side up.
  10. While the doughnuts are still very warm, dip the rounded side in the glaze. Let dry on cooling rack, glazed side up, for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. 
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 70 minutes
Yield: 12 doughnuts
 Print This Recipe

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Puppy Buddies Buns

I love making treats for my dogs. With the seemingly endless recalls of treats due to contamination by everything from salmonella to melamine, it's nice to know what your best friend is consuming. These little "cinnamon buns" are easy and quick to make and our guys just love them.

Speaking of "our guys," we have become what is termed in the foster community a "foster failure." That's someone who is fostering a dog (or cat) and decides they just can't part with them. In our case it has been our latest foster, Tuffy. He's a Cocker Spaniel who was in peril at the local shelter due to his age and a few health problems. The rescue group we work with asked us to get him out and foster him. Long story short, he stole our hearts (and Snow's), so we've decided to adopt him permanently. He's a sweetheart and keeps us laughing because he enjoys playing "tough guy" (hence the name).

Recently, I've started dog sitting for some extra income and I think these may become a nice little perq for clients. Maybe a small bag for the owners to give to their dogs upon their return. Maybe even for the owners to share themselves. After all, these are made with things that people like to eat too. While they aren't as sweet as a "real" cinnamon bun they are pretty good in their own right.

Puppy Buddies Buns

A great cinnamon roll treat for your best buddy!

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. molasses
  • 1 -2 tsp. cinnamon
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or non-stick foil.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a 2-cup or larger measuring cup combine the oil, eggs and water and whisk together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until combined and a soft dough forms.
  3. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into a 8x14-inch rectangle. Lightly brush the honey and molasses over the dough, leaving about a 1/2-inch border on the sides. Sprinkle the cinnamon evenly over the honey and molasses.
  4. Working form the long side, roll up the dough tightly like a jelly roll and pinch the edges to seal. Cut the dough into half-inch slices and place cut side down on the prepared baking sheets.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the buns are browned and spring back when lightly touched. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on wire racks.
  6. Treats should be stored in an airtight container.
Note: I prefer to use Ceylon Cinnamon (available at Penzeys) for this recipe. You want to avoid particularly strong or pungent cinnamon. Ceylon Cinnamon is milder and less pungent.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Yield: 24 buns
Print This Recipe

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Alexandra's Double Brownies

Sometimes more is better. That's especially true of brownies. If you've ever pondered whether you really want some nice chewy chocolate brownies or maybe some luscious vanilla flavored blondies, we have your solution - make both!

This recipe makes a double brownie. The bottom consists of a chewy chocolate layer topped with a wonderful vanilla and brown sugar blondie layer. If that isn't enough for you then top the whole thing off with a white chocolate icing. Yum!

I actually had trouble getting a photo for the blog post because Michael was gobbling them down so quickly. When he starts taking them to share with other people I know I'm onto something good!

In case you're wondering about the name. I decided to name my adaptation of this recipe in honor of my new Great-Niece, Alexandra Harmon. Her parents are my nephew Andy and his lovely wife Cameron. It just so happened that I got news of her much anticipated arrival as I was putting the finishing touches on these great brownies.

Alexandra's Double Brownies

The best of both worlds. A chewy chocolate brownie layer topped with a vanilla blondie layer!

Brownie Layer 
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup dutch process cocoa
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs. water
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Blondie Layer 
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted (optional)
White Chocolate Icing 
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable shortening
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9x13 pan with nonstick foil.
  2. For Brownie Layer: In large microwave safe bowl melt the butter on high for 30 seconds. Repeat if necessary until melted. With a handheld mixer, beat in the sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and eggs. When fully mixed beat in the flour. Spread the batter on the bottom of the prepared pan.
  3. For the Blondie Layer: Rinse out bowl and mixer beaters. Melt the butter on high for 30 seconds. Repeat if necessary until melted. With a handheld mixer beat in the brown sugar, vanilla and egg. When completely mixed add the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gradually beat in the flour and nuts (if using). Drop the blondie batter onto the brownie batter and carefully spread into one layer.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs adhering. Let cool in the pan. When cool remove from pan using edges of foil sling and ice.
  5. For the White Chocolate Icing: In a pyrex mixing bowl melt the vegetable shortening and white chocolate chips in the microwave on high speed for 1 minute. Stir and repeat until the mixture is smooth. Pour over cooled brownies and spread evenly with icing spatula or knife. Allow to set up before serving. 
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes

Print This Recipe

Friday, November 2, 2012

Spicy Chocolate Ginger Guys and Book Review

What would you do if you could have a new cookie recipe every day of the year? Would you bake a batch each day? Would you wait for a special holiday?

With The Daily Cookie: 365 Tempting Treats for the Sweetest Year of Your Life by Anna Ginsberg (Andrews McNeel Publishing), you could do both. Of course, the holiday option might be a challenge since Ginsberg's book includes holidays, remembrances, and special events for every day of the year! These holiday range from quirky to classic: Day of the Ninja (Chocolate "Ninjabread" Cookies), Squirrel Appreciation Day (Caramel Nut Bars), Christmas (Almond Ginger Toasts), and Valentine's Day (Mocha Chocolate Brownies). Each recipe includes a full color photograph as well as anecdotes, fun facts, tips, and tricks for creating incredible treats.

Anna Ginsberg is a self-taught cook and grand-prize winner of the 41st Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest as well as numerous other local and national contests. She has appeared on the Today show and has cooked onstage with Oprah Winfrey.

The book also doesn't just rehash the same old cookie recipes we've all made a million times. While you will find some old standbys like Oatmeal Cookies, you'll also find they have taken on a whole new life in this book. Other treats are simply one of a kind. As I flipped through the book my eye fell on Halloween (of course) and delectable brownies made with a splash of Absinthe! Yes, Absinthe in brownies. How unique is that? Maybe you're an Elvis fan and would like to try the Peanut Browned Butter Banana Bacon Cookies on the King's birthday (January 8th). No matter what you're craving there's a holiday and a cookie in this book for you!

Unlike so many cookbooks these days, the book is printed in a style that makes it easy to read while in the kitchen. The typeface is sufficient that you won't be squinting to figure out if it's supposed to 1/4 or 1/2 a teaspoon of something.

Of course, I had to try a sample recipe to test just how well crafted these recipes were. I chose the Spicy Chocolate Ginger Guys which are presented for Guy Fawke's Day on November 5th.  Fans of "V for Vendetta" might have some inkling of that name, but probably have misconstrued the history. Guy Fawke's Day commemorates the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 when Guy Fawkes and his Catholic co-conspirators tried to blow up Parliament in London. Their goal was to place a Catholic monarch on the British throne and turn the country from Protestantism to Catholicism. The plot failed. Since then, each November 5th Guy Fawkes' Day is celebrated with bonfires and effigies of Guy Fawkes (the "Guys").

The "Guy" ready to be burned in
effigy at a Guy Fawkes' Day
in Great Britain.
Many years ago when I did Revolutionary War living history Guy Fawkes' Day always fell around the time of our largest gathering at Historic Camden, SC. It was the largest event of the year, bringing in people from around the United States and marked the end of the Fall season. As a British soldier (and later a Loyalist Civilian) I always gravitated toward the British camp where Guy Fawkes' festivities were on display. During the day the kids in camp would make their effigies called "Guys" and sit them in chairs in front of their tents. Then when visitors would pass they would ask for a "Penny for the Guy" - an old tradition in England. All during the day you would hear the 400 year old rhyme repeated: "Remember, remember the fifth of November. Gunpowder, treason and plot. We see no reason that gunpowder treason should e'er be forgot!" That night large bonfires would be lit and the kids would present the "Guys" to be burned in effigy. Muskets would be fired into the air and fireworks set off. Following that would be a big dance. So, I couldn't resist making some of these wonderful gingerbread cookies for Guy Fawkes' Day. (By the way, to take a look at a celebration here in America check out these folks in Rhode Island who hold a Guy Fawkes' Bonfire Night each November.)

You'll be amazed at the addictive flavor of these cookies. I was intrigued by the combination of cocoa and spices normally found in "hot" gingerbread. Of course, here in the southwest, chocolate and spices go hand in hand. Cocoa can be found in many spice combinations used in savory cooking here. I adored the cocoa flavor with the heat of the ginger and the complexity of several traditional spices.

I found when making these that my dough was a bit loose at first. I remedied this by placing it in the refrigerator for about an hour and then heavily flouring my work surface and hands. I gave the dough a few quick kneads and then rolled it out. The cookies turned out beautifully and were thick and chewy with a flavor that is unique and oh, so interesting. This is one cookie you'll want in your repertoire to impress folks who will be expecting plain old gingerbread around holiday time!

Give these a try and be sure to pick up a copy of Anna Ginsberg's The Daily Cookie: 365 Tempting Treats for the Sweetest Year of Your Life and get set for a year's worth of trivia and baking!

Spicy Chocolate Ginger Guys

Recipe by Anna Ginsberg
Spicy chocolate makes this gingerbread unique!

  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/4 cup hot coffee
  • 8 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup mild molasses
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center. Line two baking sheets with nonstick foil or parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Dissolve the baking soda in the coffee and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until creamy. Beat in the salt, egg, molasses and vanilla. Add the cocoa powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and stir until mixed. Using the lowest speed of the mixer, stir in the flour alternately with the coffee mixture.
  4. Roll out the dough about 3/8 inch thick on a floured surface. Cut out gingerbread men and arrange them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the guys appear set. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. 
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
Yield: 2 1/2 dozen
Print This Recipe

An advance copy of the book was received from the publisher for review.

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