Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Breakfast of champions

I know we're supposed to start our day on the right foot, with a balanced mix of fruits and grains, proteins and carbohydrates. But once in a while you just want something bad for you--full of fat and sugar and not even remotely healthy. All of the recipes below fit that bill and more.

Classic Cake Doughnuts
I got this recipe from my grandmother, who was nice enough to help me make my first batch. I prefer these to the glazed, yeast-raised variety--especially if they're covered in chocolate--but don't tell that to my husband or sister-in-law! Make a batch of both and everyone will be happy.

1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup canned evaporated milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1 teaspoon fine salt
Vegetable oil for frying

Melt the shortening in a small saucepan over medium heat. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and shortening together on medium speed, until just combined. Add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Add the milk and vanilla, and continue beating until the mixture is light and somewhat fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Pour the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, mace and salt into a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

Reduce the mixer's speed to low and add the flour mixture until just combined. The dough will be very liquid and "loose" at this point--don't worry, that's how it's supposed to look at this stage. Transfer the dough to a large piece of plastic wrap and wrap it well. Refrigerate the dough for 4 hours or overnight.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll the chilled dough out into a rectangle about 1/2-inch thick. Dip the edges of a 2 1/2-inch-round doughnut cutter in flour and cut the dough into doughnuts. Place the doughnuts and holes on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Put enough vegetable oil into a tall, heavy-bottomed pot to fill it about a third of the way up. Heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer inserted in the oil registers 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.

Working in batches, fry the doughnuts and holes, turning once, until they are golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the doughnuts to the paper towels to drain and cool. Repeat until all the doughnuts and holes are fried. (Make sure the oil returns to 375 degrees F. between batches.)

For sugar-coated doughnuts: Roll them in sugar or cinnamon sugar while they are still warm. Or, let them cool completely before rolling in confectioners' sugar.

For glazed doughnuts: Combine 1 cup confectioner's sugar with 4 teaspoons hot milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Drizzle over cooled doughnuts.

For chocolate-glazed doughnuts: Melt 1/3 cup unsalted butter and 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate in a saucepan until melted, remove from heat. Whisk in 2 cups confectioners' sugar until smooth. Gradually stir in ¼ cup warm water until the mixture reaches the desired consistency. Dip the tops of the doughnuts in the glaze.

Chocolate variation: Combine the melted shortening with 3 ounces of melted chocolate before adding to batter.

Makes about 2 dozen doughnuts and holes.

Yeast-Raised Doughnuts
Here's another recipe given to me by my "granny." Although these are fine covered in sugar and cinnamon, they're downright deadly (in a good way) dipped in a sugar glaze. If you prefer jelly-filled doughnuts, simply cut the dough into rounds (without holes) before frying and fill with jelly (using a pastry bag and tip) once they've cooled.

2 envelopes active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup shortening
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 quart vegetable oil for frying

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water, and let stand for 5 minutes (mixture should be foamy).
In a large bowl, mix together the yeast mixture, milk, sugar, salt, eggs, shortening, and 2 cups of the flour. Mix for a few minutes at low speed (if using a stand mixer) or stir with a wooden spoon. Beat in remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl.

Knead for about 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Place the dough into a greased bowl and cover with a thin towel or plastic wrap. Set in a warm place to rise until doubled in volume. You'll know the dough is ready when you poke it with two fingers and the indentation remains.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently roll out to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with a floured doughnut cutter. Cover doughnuts loosely with a cloth and let sit out to rise until doubled in size.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in confectioners' sugar and vanilla until smooth. Remove from heat, and stir in hot water one tablespoon at a time until the icing is somewhat thin, but not watery. Set aside.

Heat oil in a deep-fryer or large heavy skillet to 350 degrees F. Slide doughnuts into the hot oil using a wide spatula. Turn doughnuts over as they rise to the surface. Fry doughnuts on each side until golden brown. Remove from hot oil and place them on a wire rack to drain.

While doughnuts are warm, roll in mixture of sugar (1/2 cups) and cinnamon (1 teaspoon). Or, dip them in a glaze made of 1/3 cup butter, 2 cups confectioners' sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and about 4 tablespoons hot water.

Overnight Sticky Buns
I have to say these are one of my favorite things to make. They're easy to whip up (and practically foolproof, really) and they never fail to impress me (or others) with their appearance and flavor.

1 envelope active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ cup warm water
¼ cup honey, maple syrup or corn syrup
¼ vegetable oil
¼ cup orange juice
3 ¾ to 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 tablespoons grated orange peel (optional)

½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup butter or margarine
¼ cup corn syrup
1/8 cup water
1 cup chopped pecans

In the bowl of an electric mixer, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix honey, oil, orange juice and ½ cup water. Add to the yeast mixture.
With the mixer set on low speed, gradually add the flour, about 1 cup at a time, to the yeast/sugar mixture. Continue adding until a solid ball of dough has formed and has pulled away from the sides of the mixer bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes total).
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.

Take the dough (in bowl) out of the refrigerator the next morning and let sit out for about 40 minutes. While the dough is coming to room temperature, combine topping ingredients and spread on the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish (or spoon into the bottoms of 1-cup muffin tins).

After dough has reached room temperature, punch it down and turn out onto lightly floured surface. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough into a rectangle approximately 9x14 inches. Spread butter/margarine over dough, leaving a ½-inch border on all sides. Sprinkle sugar, cinnamon and orange peel over butter.

Starting with long edge, roll dough into a spiral, jelly-roll style. Pinch edges together to seal. Cut roll into 12 pieces. Place slices in baking dish. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until rolls are almost doubled in size (about 30 minutes).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Uncover rolls and bake until light golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove pan from oven and let cool slightly. Invert rolls onto a cookie sheet and serve.

Makes 12 rolls

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