When recipes don’t work out exactly as you’d hoped, it’s good to have a positive attitude. Or, if you’re like me, you could furiously throw the item that didn’t work out as hard as you can into the sink so that it makes a nice splatter everywhere. I wish I could say that this instance was the only time I’ve behaved in such a childish way. But there was the hard-boiled egg-peeling incident of 2010…
I’m typically even keel. I have seen a lot of hardship in my life and when chaos abounds, I’m usually the calm in the storm. However, when it comes to cooking, and I do everything right, cut absolutely zero corners (which is counter to my nature) and it STILL doesn’t work out, I want to destroy something. Usually the food in question. The term “perfectionist” doesn’t imply that you do everything perfect – it implies that you wish like the dickens you could. All the time. Especially when it comes to peeling a hard-boiled egg.
Thomas Keller is a perfectionist. I’m sure things have gone wrong for him with his recipes. I’m sure he’s tested this doughnut recipe dozens of times, and goodness knows he expects perfection. We own every cookbook he’s ever put out, starting with the first, truly intimidating set of recipes I’d ever seen in one place; The French Laundry Cookbook. In all the times we’ve tried his recipes, we’ve done our utmost to follow his instruction to the letter. We respect what he has worked so hard to achieve. We’ve eaten at his restaurants and our lives have been changed for the better because of it. We’ve become more disciplined in LIFE because we ate at Keller’s restaurant. How many meals can have that power?
So it’s with all this respect for Keller and all he’s done to pave the way for perfection in recipes that for these doughnuts, I:
1. measured eggs for this recipe by weight, so I ended up using 2.2 eggs
2. cursed at a piping bag full of jam
3. still felt really proud, even though they didn’t look like the pretty picture in his Bouchon Bakery Cookbook, they tasted amazing. The dough itself was astoundingly good in flavor.
You have to roll with things when they don’t go perfectly. I’m sure I kneaded the dough too long or my fry oil was too hot, or not hot enough, but the texture of these doughnuts wasn’t as airy as I’d hoped. They were dense like brioche, almost. So I had a hard time filling them – in that the jam wouldn’t even go into the doughnut one centimeter – and that’s what led to the cursing and the soul searching, etc. But my lovely, even-tempered, optimist husband told me that they could be saved and to just assemble them differently. So, I cut the doughnuts in half, spread the jam I’d made (which was really good) in copious amounts, and piped the vanilla bean-flecked cream on top of the jam and called it a day!
Cherry Cream Doughnuts*
For the dough:
(I’m putting all these ingredients in grams. Get a scale. They’re cheap and it’ll make you a better baker. If you don’t, then you’ll see conversions like this: 212 grams or 3/4 cup+1 1/2 tablespoons. Kill me now.)
518 grams AP flour
10 grams instant yeast
74 grams granulated sugar
9 grams kosher salt
212 grams whole milk (warmed in the microwave for 30 seconds)
2 large eggs or 3 small ones. I can’t bear to tell you 111 grams of eggs. But that’s how much he says to use.
9 grams vanilla paste – I also think weighing the vanilla is a little much. It’s about 1 1/2 teaspoons
5 grams unsalted butter (barely a tablespoon)
Canola oil for deep-frying
Dust a surface on your counter with flour and spray a large bowl with non stick spray.
Place the flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix for about 15 seconds to distribute the yeast evenly. Add all the remaining dough ingredients, except the butter and mix on low speed for 4 minutes to incorporate. Continue to mix on low speed for 20 minutes. Add the butter and fully incorporate. Stop and scrape down the sides and push the dough off the hook. Mix for 5 minutes more.
Run a bowl scraper around the sides and bottom of the bowl to release the dough and turn it out onto the work surface. Gently pat the dough into a rectangular shape. Stretch the left side of the dough out and fold it over two-thirds of the dough, then stretch and fold it from the right side to the opposite side, as if you were folding a letter. Repeat the process, working from the bottom and then the top. Turn the dough over and place it seam side down into your prepared bowl. Cover with a dish towel and let sit at room temp for 1 hour.
Return the dough to the work surface and gently but firmly pat the dough into a rectangle, pressing any large bubbles to the edges and then out of the dough. Repeat the stretching and folding process and return the dough to the bowl, seam side down, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Watch a recorded episode or two of Downton Abbey
Next day: roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface into an 11 inch circle. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly spray the parchment with non stick spray. Using a 3″ round cookie cutter, cut 8 rounds from the dough, brush off any excess flour and place on the prepared pan. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap or a towel and proof on the counter for 1-11/2 hours, until the doughnuts have doubled in size (they’re big boys) when the dough is pressed with a finger, the impression should remain.
Pour 3 inches of canola oil into a dutch oven or heavy stockpot, deep enough to allow the doughnuts to float freely. Heat the oil to 335-345 and try your best to keep it in that range. This is where I faltered. I think if you have a fry-daddy or something like that, you’ll be better off.
Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet. Gently lower three doughnuts into the oil and fry for 30 seconds without moving the doughnuts, to allow the dough to set. Flip the doughnuts over and fry for 5 minutes, flipping them every 30 seconds or so, until they are rich, golden brown. Transfer to the rack and cook remaining doughnuts in batches of 3. Let doughnuts cool completely before filling.
For the filling:
I made Keller’s cherry jam. Honestly, I don’t recommend doing this because the way he says to do it is to buy a cherry puree. Well. They don’t sell such things around here. So I made my own puree. And then I made jam out of it. And then when I couldn’t get the dadgum jam inside the doughnuts, I questioned my reason for living and thought, “WHY DIDN’T I JUST BUY JAM?!” So…my integrity will first tell you to make your own. Then, my logical mom-side that only has two days a week she has help with the kid says not to waste a few precious hours making jam. I’m torn. Here’s a quick recipe, in case you want to have FULL dedication. This is my own made-up recipe, not Keller’s. But it was very tangy and lovely, all the same.
Quick Cherry Jam:
1 bag of frozen dark cherries
1/2 cup sugar
squeeze of lemon
Cook all that down in a stainless steel sauce pan and let it bubble over medium-low heat for about 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a tall cup or deep bowl and blend with an immersion blender. Strain over a bowl through a fine mesh strainer with a spatula until you’re just left with the cherry skins in the strainer. Discard the skins and you have a pretty respectable jam in just a few minutes without messing with pectin.
For the whipped cream:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped.
Place the cream and sugar and vanilla seeds in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. If you don’t have vanilla bean, substitute 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract. Whisk at medium speed until the cream holds shape, or medium to stiff-peaks. Don’t over whip.
To assemble:(My way) Cut each donut in half, spread a generous amount of jam on each half and pipe a tall mountain of whipped cream. Drizzle more jam on top of the mountain and garnish with a cherry. Do assemble Keller’s way, assuming your doughnuts are light, fluffy and full of air pockets, put the jam in a piping bag, fitted with a round tip and stick in the side of the donut and fill slowly until the donut feels heavy. Top with whipped cream and a cherry.
*recipe adapted from the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook, which is amazing and beautiful in every way.
Not too shabby. Remember to have fun this weekend, indulge a bit, but make your indulgences worth every bite! Check back Monday for a healthy, hearty recipe to start your week off right!
*(recipe adapted from the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook)