What a fantastic challenge this has been! It's probably one of my most favorite DB challenge to date. But it wasn't without difficulties.....
I've had this fear. A fear of deep frying. Not a fear of eating fried foods, but of actually, physically frying them. I was going to attempt to conquer this fear last November with the Daring Baker's Cannoli Challenge, but I chickened out.... and ran out of time.
I was concerned about all the hot oil and it's ability to seriously burn people. Seeing as I don't a have roommates, what would I do if I seriously burned/hurt myself? Who could take me to the ER? I'm really good at over-analyzing things, if you couldn't already tell. Yes, I am the person who if you don't call me when I expect to hear from you, I suddenly worry that you're dead in a ditch somewhere. I'm trying to get over this.
Plus, it just seemed really inconvenient. What do do with the oil after I was done frying... Having my apartment smell like a fast food restaurant... Standing over a hot, oily stove frying doughnuts for hours.... And the list goes on.
But, I decided to conquer the fear. I decided to challenge myself, after all, that is part of what the Daring Bakers is all about. So, I got a jug of vegetable oil. I set aside a Saturday afternoon after teaching Advanced Bakeshop. I dusted off my trusty candy thermometer. I kept my phone (and a bowl of ice water) at arms length, just in case of any mishaps. I bought & lit a lovely scented candle and opened my patio door to try to keep the oil smell from inundating my apartment. And I began heating the oil.
I carefully monitored the temperature of the oil. And when it finally reached the correct temperature range (350 F to 375F) I reached for my first doughnut hole to test. But, when I looked down into the oil, I saw these funny red blobs. That is when I realized that my candy thermometer must have somehow developed a crack. My perfectly heated vegetable oil was contaminated with mercury (and really I feel we have enough mercury in our diets as it is). So sad. Especially sad, since I had used all my oil in attempt #1. So though I was tired from teaching and really had just planned on staying in the rest of the day, I grabbed my keys and wallet and drove to the grocery store to get more oil.
I found a second pot, though not as ideal as the first, and my second candy thermometer and went to work heating a second batch of oil for "deep frying attempt #2." Just as I was, once again, getting ready to test the first doughnut hole, I gazed into the bottom of the second batch of oil. What did I see? MORE MERCURY BUBBLES! ARGH! Thankfully, I had bought a larger jug of oil the second time around "just in case." I decided that if "deep frying attempt #3" was not successful, then I clearly wasn't meant to deep fry anything. Ever. Period.
However, "deep frying attempt #3" was successful! Though, by that point both my candy thermometer were broken and I had to settle for testing every few minutes with my instant read thermometer instead.
Originally, I had planned to make yeast raised doughnuts. Specifically, I wanted to make spiced pumpkin yeast raised doughnuts. After much searching of the internet with no results for yeasted pumpkin doughnuts, I settled on making cake doughnuts. I like yeast doughnuts better (Krispy Kreme trumps Dunkin Doughnuts anyday, in my book) and I do have enough yeast product knowledge to develope a recipe on my own. But alas, I only had the few precious Saturday hours and I figured it would not be enough time to be a successful venture. Perhaps in the future I'll develop a yeasted pumpkin doughnut?
I've been seeing a pleathora of doughnut recipes in the blogosphere lately, partially due to the recent release of Lara Ferroni's Doughnut cookbook (she's a blogger whose blog I follow via my Google Reader accound). I guess that if there's now a doughnut cookbook, it means that the "low-carb" "Atkins" movement is finally over. Hurray!
I decided that if I was going to conquer the fear of deepfrying, I might as well really conquer it and make two kinds of doughnuts: Pumpkin Doughnuts (to which I added a maple glaze or cinnamon sugar after frying), and then one of Lara's recipes I found on another fantastic blog (use real butter) for Apple Cider Doughnuts (to which I added an Apple Cider Glaze to bring out the "apple-y-ness" or cinnamon sugar after frying).
The results from "deep frying attempt #3" were fantastic! I've never ever tasted cake doughnuts as good as these ones were. Seriously. I may be a convert, both to deep frying at home (now that my fear has been conquered) and to the cake doughnut (though only if made at home).
I can see many more doughnut adventures in my future. Plus, the looks on peoples' faces when you offer them a freshly fried homemade doughnut is an amazingly satisfying experience. People are in such shock and awe that you've actually made them yourself. I try to give away most of the product of my baking adventures (usually to people at church).... I find it's better for my waistline to do so, plus I really enjoy making peoples' day a little brighter by giving them a homemade item. It just gives me warm fuzzies inside.
I encourage everyone to try making doughnuts. They're SO WORTH IT! Thanks to Lori for such a great challenge!
Note: a couple changes I made (or would make in the future)
- Like Jen of "use real butter" , I reduced my apple cider slightly to try to concentrate the flavor. But in the end, after frying, I still didn't detect a huge "apple" flavor. So I added the apple glaze (just apple cider and powdered sugar). But in the future when I make these again, I think I'd add some actual apple pieces to the dough... perhaps just dicing them small or even grating them into the dough. I think it would make a lovely addition.
- I think the pumpkin doughnuts could use some extra spice. Maybe it's just because I've grown up eating pumpkin products with lots of spice... but I think in the future, I would double the amount of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. I didn't add the cloves because I didn't have any. I also found that the pumpkin doughnuts seemed to develop better flavor by sitting a little while. I made mine on a Saturday, but didn't serve them until the following morning. And, unusually, they tasted better with a little melding time (unusual because fried things usually taste best while they're still warm from the frying process).
- I also made a maple glaze for the pumpkin doughnuts. I just added pure maple syrup (none of the immitation crap) to my confectioners sugar and then added enough cream to make the consistancy I wanted.