Posted on December 5, 2015
If you were wondering what I have been doing the past few months, the title of this post covers a lot of ground towards the answer. In addition to visiting a slew of mostly newly-opened, but also older, donut shops in Los Angeles, I’ve also moved jobs twice which has compromised my commitment to blogging.
Donuts have a special place in my heart, even though I am not a true sweet tooth, but more of a savory tooth. When I was a child, on Saturdays my mom used to drive a mile or so down Montana Avenue in Santa Monica to Carl’s Bakery, a small bakery that carried very basic donuts. My donut of choice was the glazed twist. Occasionally I would get a chocolate glazed, raised donut instead. We were not cake donut eaters, we stuck with the yeasted, raised donuts. So donuts signaled a departure from the normal daily breakfast which usually, at our house, involved either pancakes, french toast, waffles, date bread, biscuits, sometimes some bacon, and occasionally cold cereal with milk. Fruit may have been offered, but I don’t remember much beyond orange juice. Clearly, not bad, but still donuts were better!
As I got older I developed a fondness for Trader Joe’s bran muffins and into my later teens I was drinking smoothies and shakes for breakfast, with some fruit. I spent one summer trying very hard to slim down before college by drinking Herbalife shakes (my mom tried them too) until my father, after watching a late night exposé on the company that revealed in his opinion some nefarious practices and possibly quackery, purged our cupboards of all the shakes and supplements and that was the end of that adventure. But back to donuts.
These days our donut tradition is on Christmas Day. Nearly everything is closed, but Stan’s Donuts in Westwood, CA, home to the UCLA campus, is not. And so we go. Some years my beautiful (and . . . vegan!) neice Katy is in town and she accompanies us. Stan has been making donuts for forever, and he’s 86 and still shows up to work every day. What’s neat about Stan’s is he’s named various donuts after local icons, for example, the late Huell Howser donut is a VERY thickly peanut butter stuffed chocolate bar and the Bruin is glazed cake donut covered in blue and yellow sprinkles.
First let’s take a look at Stan’s and some other classic, iconic Los Angeles donut shops and their creations:
Now on to some newer donut emporiums:
The best new donut shop in LA in my opinion is Blue Star Donuts. They use brioche dough and fry in rice bran oil. Yum.
We met the “Duke of Donuts” on opening day at Sidecar Donuts in Santa Monica. He explained that his mission in life is to eat and report on donuts. I said, “what about biscuits,” and he said, ” . . . eh, peasant food.”
I’d love to hear from you and your donut opinions. Are you a cake donut gal? Raised? Apple fritter? What are some of your favorite donut shops where you live? Have you ever made donuts at home? Any tips or cautions?
Have a very happy holiday season, y’all!!
Posted on August 15, 2014
Hello friends from the woods deep in Oregon, can you hear the echo? Read More
Posted on May 27, 2014
My apologies for being a day tardy with the donut recipe I promised. I was busy cleaning up my mess. Yes, donuts are messy, but they are worth it because they are special, making them teaches you patience and precision, and they are delicious. In the weeks ahead I will be exploring the adaptability of this recipe using non-dairy milks; using gluten-free flours, baking instead of frying donuts, wildly decreasing the sugar in the glazes, and even making savory donuts (that means cheese, people). Stay tuned!
1 1/2 cups milk
2 1/2 ounces vegetable shortening or lard, approximately 1/3 cup
*Note: I don’t believe properly sourced natural lard is bad for you, so I’m not wincing, but if you are, read this and this).
2 packages instant yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/3 cup warm water (95 to 105 degrees F)
2 egg yolks, broken with a fork
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup sugar or honey
*Note: You can use down to as little as a teaspoon of sugar or honey, as I did, and still achieve excellent results, but the yeast benefits from some sugar so don’t leave it out
1 teaspoon freshly ground mace, cinnamon or nutmeg
23 ounces BREAD FLOUR (not all purpose), plus more for dusting surface
Peanut or vegetable oil, for frying (1 to 1/2 gallons, depending on fryer; I used a dutch oven with excellent results)
Place the milk in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat to 110 degrees. Place the shortening or lard in a bowl and pour warmed milk over. Set aside.
In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the warm water and let dissolve for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, add 1 cup of flour and let sit for 30 minutes in a warm spot. Pour the yeast mixture into the large bowl of a stand mixer and add the milk and shortening mixture, first making sure the milk and shortening mixture (making sure it’s lukewarm and not hot). Add the eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and half of the flour. Using the paddle attachment, combine the ingredients on low speed until flour is incorporated and then turn the speed up to medium and beat until well combined. Add the remaining flour, combining on low speed at first, and then increase the speed to medium and beat well. Change to the dough hook attachment of the mixer and beat on medium speed until the dough pulls away from the bowl and becomes smooth, approximately 3 to 4 minutes.
Of course you can do the mixing by hand if you’re up for an arm workout.
Transfer to a well-oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Alternatively, you can place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight, then take out to let rise for an hour in the morning. That’s what I did.
On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to roughly ½ inch thick. Cut out dough using donuts cutters, a jar lid, or anything circular that is roughly the size of the donuts you want. Set on floured baking sheet, cover lightly with a tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oil in a deep fryer or Dutch oven to 365 degrees F. Gently place the doughnuts into the oil, 3 to 4 at a time. Cook for 1 minute per side. Transfer to a cooling rack placed in baking pan. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes prior to glazing, if desired.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup pureed nectarine
1 tablespoon light corn syrup or brown rice syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Posted on May 25, 2014
Posted on May 23, 2014
If you’d asked me a year ago whether I’d be making homemade yeasted donuts, with a homemade glaze, I’d have said you were very mistaken. But life sometimes has plans that run parallel or even perpendicular to our own (conscious) plans, and one minute you could be a baker, the next a braiser.
I’ve always loved to cook, to read food magazines and cookbooks, and to play around with food, but I only really cooked for special occasions and sporadically. It’s weird to me to recognize that just two years ago my only regular cooking habits were making smoothies in the morning and toasting bread and spreading it with almond butter for dinner. Today I cook almost all of our meals and use a minimum of processed foods. How did that happen? I guess that’s another post, but I will say that inspiration and a “muse,” and blogging, totally transformed my culinary habits.
We have a tradition in our family of taking my vegan niece when she is in town to the Los Angeles (nearly historical!) landmark, Stan’s Donuts, a stone’s throw from the UCLA Campus in Westwood. We also go there on Christmas morning with my son, Mom and Dad. Stan has been making donuts since 1965 and they are fresh, scrumptious and unique. Many of the specialty donuts are named after local personalities. For example, my personal favorite, the “Huell” (named after the TV personality Huell Howser) is a buttermilk bar stuffed with a big fat meaty slab of peanut butter and coated in chocolate. Here is a fun video from Huell’s show on Stan’s.
One of my favorite food blogs is Joy the Baker, and recently I keep stopping and oogling the donut creations she’s featured over the years. They are so pretty to look at! The next thing I knew I was scribbling down donut creation ideas/flavor combinations as they came across my mind based on what I was seeing at the Farmer’s Market and in restaurants and coffee shops. I also bought a donut cookbook, kindle version, by Seattle’s famous donut guys at Top Pot. After a couple of weeks of flirting with the donut, I came up with a recipe last week that I thought would be a nice addition to the Fiesta Friday party and May’s challenge: Pluot Donuts with candied herbs and fresh fruit glaze. We have a funny and charismatic stone fruit farmer at the Wednesday Farmer’s Market, Fitz, and he likes to make up his own vampy and flirtatious names for his fruit.
I’m going to split this post into two chapters because the first time I made donuts, I lacked a couple of specified ingredients and tools, namely “bread flour” and a digital thermometer. I wing things all the time and sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Tell me if you think Chapter 1 worked . . . I used Bob’s Mill whole wheat “Bread Mix” for “Bread Machines,” and I did not have a thermometer. Interestingly, also, I noticed that 99% of the recipes I found online and in books used scalded milk for yeast raised donuts, and yet the Top Shop classic raised donut recipe did not list milk as an ingredient. Even more maddening, the Top Shop guys published a recipe for classic yeast raised donuts in Food & Wine Magazine that did use scalded milk. Bottom line: in Chapter 1, no milk.
If I had to review this donut for a restaurant review, I would say: (1) It was delicious, but the dough was dark which meant the donut, glazed, and glazed with fresh pureed pluots, was almost midnight blue (a little strange for a donut); (2) It tasted and must have been healthier due to the presence of whole grain flour, flax seeds and sunflower seeds; and, (3) The dough didn’t rise that well so the donuts were a little flatter and more dense than I would have preferred. Stay tuned for next week when I use a thermometer, milk and actual bread flour.
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon solid vegetable shortening
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 extra-large yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
About 5 cups sifted bread flour, plus more sifted flour for dusting
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
Pluot Glaze: 3 Pluots, 1/2 cup water, 3 cups powdered sugar
Candied Herbs: A handful of basil and mint, 2 egg whites, and 4 Tbsp sugar
The night before you want to eat the donuts, make the candied herbs and, if you want to proof the dough overnight in the refrigerator, make the dough.
Make candied herbs by dipping herb leafs into egg white, setting on a wire rack, and sprinkling with sugar. Allow to dry for 6 hours.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir the yeast into the warm water, sprinkle with a pinch of sugar and let stand until foamy, about 3 minutes. Melt shortening. Stir the warm shortening into the yeast and mix on low for 2 minutes. Gradually add the 1/2 cup of sugar and the sour cream, the whole eggs, egg yolk, salt and vanilla. Mix on low for another minute. Gradually stir in 4 3/4 cups of the flour, mixing on low, until all flour is incorporated, then mix on medium speed for 3 minutes until a soft, sticky dough forms. Scrape the dough out onto a floured surface and use a pastry scraper to knead the dough until smooth, adding as much of the remaining flour as necessary. The dough should be soft and slightly sticky, but smooth and elastic.
Gather the dough into a ball, transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a sheet of oiled plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot for 2 hours. Punch down the dough and turn it over in the bowl. Cover and refrigerate the dough for 2 hours or overnight.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the chilled dough 1/3 inch thick. Using a 3 1/2-inch doughnut cutter dipped in flour, cut out as many doughnuts as possible and transfer them to a sheet of floured wax paper. The scraps can be rerolled once to cut out more doughnuts. Loosely cover the doughnuts with wax paper and let rise until soft and billowy, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile Make the Pluot Glaze by heating 3 chopped pluots and 1/2 cup water until boiling. Transfer to blender and blend until smooth but with some very small pieces of fruit an peel still visible. Transfer to stand mixer, add powdered sugar and, using whisk attachment, mix for 2 minutes on high.
In a large, heavy skillet, heat 4 inches of vegetable oil to 365°. Line a rack with several paper towels. Working in batches, fry the doughnuts until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Check the temperature of the frying oil to make sure it doesn’t get too hot or cool. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the doughnuts to the paper towel-lined rack to drain.
When donuts are cool enough to touch with hands, dip one side of each into glaze and place on a rack. Eat immediately!