I am not a person who typically has dessert and I can easily avoid sweets without feeling I am depriving myself. But, every now and then, the craving begins, most often for just one perfect piece of chocolate, and right now Fran's Chocolates from Seattle are my addiction. The caramels dipped in dark chocolate with a touch of sea salt on top ... they totally have my number. Less often but with the same intensity of that chocolate craving, there is that rare occasion I crave a doughnut.
What inspired me to try my hand at doughnuts again began earlier this summer when I was walking toward Central Park from our apartment in New York. I happened on this charming shop named for an amazing Italian filled doughnut, "Bomboloni." The stylish storefront alone could draw you in, but when I spotted the pastry case filled with the most colorful array of these perfectly shaped round filled doughnuts, what really pulled me in even more than the perfectly fried yeast dough balls were the fillings. They were the kind of fillings I would put in doughnuts (if I had ever had success with them): chestnut, raspberry, Sicilian pistachio, apple, and peanut butter, or the amazing crème brulee, filled with a perfect creamed custard with drizzled caramelized sugar on top.
With this discovery, I decided to get back on the horse one more time. Most of the Southern men in my life believe Krispy Kreme still is the treasure of all doughnuts. I know Bomboloni is fast becoming a New York treasure. In Natchez we have a treasure—the Donut Shop. It is a landmark that I point out every time I give directions to Twin Oaks—whether you are coming from the Highway 61 South or across the Mississippi River Bridge, you turn at the blue doughnut shop. Alton Brown even visited it and featured it on his show "Feasting on Asphalt." My goal was to be able to make a doughnut just close to any of those. Knowing how to duplicate is nearly impossible when you do not have the same ingredients and equipment.
I started to study and analyze and use all my baking knowledge to produce something edible. What all of these doughnut shops have in common is the light yeasty dough that defines their doughnuts as perfect doughnuts. The glazes and fillings can perfect them each in another way, but like most things in cooking you have to have the perfect vehicle to carry the sauces. Through much trial and error today, I was content with my recipe for the dough and glaze.
The key ingredient is patience—it takes time to make the dough. It needs to rise for the first time at least an hour, but 80 to 90 minutes is better. After you roll and cut out the doughnuts or bomboloni they need to rise another 45 minutes. My trip to the grocery for ingredients was $16. For me (and most likely you) to have a window of time to mix, rise, roll, and let the dough rise again before frying and glazing, I had to set my alarm for 5:15 a.m. The good news is I produced a doughnut that passed the test with all my critics—my son Martin, my coffee mate Jerry, and my painter Cathy. I will be honest—the next dozen doughnuts to be served at Twin Oaks will be purchased from the Donut Shop for six dollars. A dozen. I may make them again for a special occasion ... maybe.
Here is my recipe. Good luck.
Recipe: Homemade Doughnuts
1325 1st Ave.
Seattle, WA 98101
187 Columbus Avenue (68th Street)
New York, NY 10023
The Donut Shop
501 John R Junkin Drive
Natchez, MS 39120