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Monday, February 22, 2010

Let them eat doughnuts

Remember scrunch socks? Parachute pants? Tons of hair spray? So 80’s! As Coco Chanel once said, “Fashion is made to become unfashionable.” And unfortunately, we are slowly seeing cupcakes becoming démodé. But not to worry! The latest fad on the street is doughnuts.
Doughnut can be a fried ring or a balloon of sweet dough that is either yeast leavened or chemically leavened. The dough is mixed and shaped, dropped into hot oil and fried; next, it is either glazed or filled with jam.
Chemically-raised doughnuts are made with baking powder and are generally rather dense and cake-like. These are the typical kind we eat at a franchise doughnut shop. They are easy and quick to make.
Yeast-raised doughnuts, on the other hand, need a bit more work. But the end result is worth it. They are leavened by the creation of carbon dioxide resulting from fermentation of yeast. Their texture is lighter than chemically-raised doughnuts; however, they require several hours to produce.

The preferred method of preparation is entirely up to you.
So let us get rid of our cargo pants, Doc Martens, fanny packs, and our cupcakes … Doughnuts seem to be here to stay at least until something else comes to take its place. . So until then, enjoy the sweet high a warm doughnut offers you, and remember, if nothing else, doughnuts are comforting for the soul.
Yeast Doughnuts
For the sponge:
4.2 ounces all-purpose flour

0.5 teaspoons instant yeast

3.5 ounces lukewarm water

1 large egg
For the doughnuts:
5.8 ounces all-purpose flour

2.5 teaspoons instant yeast

0.6 ounces dry milk 

1/4 teaspoon salt 

0.5 ounces sugar 

1 large egg, cold

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 ounces butter at room temperature
Canola oil for frying

Extra fine sugar for rolling

The Procedure
Combine the sponge ingredients in a small bowl and stir them with a fork until smooth. Let the sponge ferment for half an hour at room temperature, then refrigerate overnight.
The next day, put the sponge in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add all the remaining ingredients except the butter. Knead it for 10 minutes on medium speed, scraping down as needed. After 10 minutes, start adding the butter a tablespoon at a time, kneading until each is well incorporated.
Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and leave it in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and shape it into a rough rectangle. Put it on a towel-lined baking sheet and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a thickness of 3/8 inches. Using a 3 1/2-inch circular cookie cutter, cut out the doughnuts, re-rolling the scraps until the dough is completely used. If making jelly doughnuts, leave the dough circles intact. Otherwise, use a small 3/4" circular cutter to punch out holes in the center. Return the doughnuts to the towel-lined baking sheet, covered with a sheet of lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let them rise until puffy, about an hour.
Fry in 375-degree oil for roughly 45 seconds per side. Drain on a wire rack. Ice and decorate as desired.
For jelly doughnuts, roll the fried rounds in superfine sugar while the doughnuts are still warm. Attach a pastry tip, (just about any good-size tip will do) to the corner of quart-sized zip-lock bag and fill with about a cup of jam. Using a cake tester, gently poke a hole in the side (or bottom) of each doughnut. Fill with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of jam. Eat!
Makes 12-14 doughnuts.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Classic Crème Brûlée

As Valentine’s Day slowly sneaks up on you, your mind begins to formulate an exhausting variety of questions. How will you allure your significant other? Which combination of dinner and dessert will guarantee an irresistibly romantic evening? What do I wear, a feminine Diane Von Furstenberg dress, or a Marc Jacob cool, calm, and collective ensemble? Do I serve a trust-worthy fillet or a stuffed birdie?

My dear reader, although I cannot ascertain the answer that will make you and your sweetheart shoot Aphrodite's love rays at each other before, during, and after dinner, I can offer a delectable, and in my opinion, taste bud-affirmed suggestion for a culinary-classic dessert that will offer a note-worthy contribution for your carefully-planned evening.
As with most of life’s uncertainties, the answer for us ladies would be, hands-down, chocolate. But for this Valentine's, I will suggest something more luscious, and although classified under the same timeline as "Old Yeller," it's irresistible quality of creamy, hiding beneath a seared top layer of candy delight, will blend and result in a standing ovation for the good 'ole' taste of vanilla- and thus, an honest attempt to win over your sweet's heart.
Voil̀à: Crème Brûlée! (obnoxious clapping from my end!) Enjoy!

Classic Crème Brûlée

2 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar, plus more for topping
Heat the oven to 325°F.
Heat the cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat until scalded (you'll see small bubbles on the sides of the pan). Split the vanilla bean in half, if using, and scrape the seeds into the cream. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, slowly whisk the sugar into the egg yolks. Slowly whisk the hot cream/milk into the sugar/yolk mixture. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a pitcher or measuring cup. Stir in the salt and vanilla extract, if using.
Arrange eight 6-oz. ramekins in a baking dish with deep sides. Pour the custard into the ramekins, fill the baking dish with water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins and cover the dish with foil. Bake until just set, 30 to 50 min. Be sure to start checking early; baking time will depend on the thickness and depth of your ramekins and baking dish.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Heavenly flan cake

As an avid and lifelong aficionado of custard, I wanted to share this creamy, silky delicate flan cake, topped with an almost- burnt caramel sauce.

This is classic dish with a twist. A creamy baked custard in a caramel sauce that has a soft silky meringue like cake base. The custard is infused with a hint of cinnamon and the unadorned classic, vanilla. As you cut through it, the caramel sauce trickles down and gets absorbed by the meringue like cake, to make it even more heavenly. One spoonful of this concoction and an unimaginable experience will take place in your mouth. Literally a melt in your mouth, no chewing required experience that will have you coming back for more…

For a 6 inch flan pan or ramakin

4.5 oz sugar

2 tbs water

2 eggs

3 yolks
5.5 oz sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup + 3 tbs cream

Cinnamon stick
1 tbs vanilla extract
3 egg whites

1.6 oz butter, softened

1.6 oz self-raising flour

3.3 oz sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF.
In a heavy bottomed pan combine the water and the sugar.
Bring to boil until sugar caramelizes.
Do not stir. Remove from heat and pour the caramel into the flan pan, making sure to coat the bottom of the pan.
Set aside.
Bring the milk and cream with the cinnamon stick, to boil.
Let it boil for a few minutes and sieve.
Beat the eggs with the sugar.
Pour the milk and cream into the egg mixture.
Add the vanilla. Beat until smooth.
Pour this mixture on top of the caramel layer.

Sifted flour. Beat the butter and sugar until creamy.
Whisk the egg whites until firm peaks. Fold in the sifted flour and the egg whites alternatively into the butter mixture.
Gently pour the batter over the flan mixture making sure the surface is even. (Yes most of it will sink to the bottom of the pan. But at the end the custard should be covered with this cake batter) Place the flan pan in a big enough baking pan. Place in oven and pour hot water till it come half way up the flan pan
Bake for 50-60 minutes.
Unmold at room temperature. Place in refrigerator for at least 6 hours or until serving.

* A special thanks to Flagrante delícia for her wonderful recipe and inspiration. I did change it up a bit to make it more creamy.