Episode 8, GBBO 2014, Showstopper

Doughnuts

Some form of fried dough is found in almost every culture, from Native American fry bread and sopaipillas in the Americas, to youtiao in China and koeksisters in South Africa. One of the oldest is loukoumades, dating from 776 B.C. in Greece, when they were presented as prizes to the winners of the first Olympic games. (Hey, what could be better than a gold medal if not balls of dough fried in hot oil and soaked in honey?)

The doughnuts we know and love in America are descended from Dutch olykoeks, or “oily cakes,” which were brought to Manhattan (then known as New Amsterdam) in the early 17th century. While there is some dispute about how the name came to be doughnut, it is listed in an appendix of American recipes in an 1803 English cookbook, and just a few years later, the American author Washington Irving uses the term in his 1809 book A History of New York, from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, in which he describes a table laden with apple pies, preserved fruits and “an enormous dish of balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog’s fat, and called dough-nuts, or oly koeks: a delicious kind of cake, at present scarce known in this city, excepting in genuine Dutch families.”

There’s a lot of history and legend surrounding the humble doughnut, from how it achieved its iconic round shape with a hole in the middle (presumably to eliminate the problem of the dough not being thoroughly cooked in the middle) to how dunking was popularized.

Its name was shortened to the more vernacular donut — in America, at least — in the 1920s, for marketing reasons, either to save on the cost of advertising signage (Neon sign-makers charged by the letter.) or to simplify spelling and pronunciation for a growing market of immigrant entrepreneurs whom makers of newfangled donut-making machines hoped to attract.

Doughnuts gained in popularity in World War I, when two women, volunteer officers in The Salvation Army, were assigned to the front line in France with the mission of improving soldiers’ morale. They hit on the idea of making fresh doughnuts for the troops, and soon doughnut tents were set up all along the front with “Doughnut Lassies” delivering warm pastries and good cheer among the trenches. This proved so popular that when the next world war came along, the Red Cross took up the call with a hundred Red Cross Clubmobiles outfitted with vats for frying doughnuts and staffed (and driven) by “Donut Dollies.”

With the strong link doughnuts have to Americana, the flavors I chose to use in this challenge have their own link to a slice of America that I grew up with — I call these my State Fair Doughnuts. 

Having grown up in Iowa and lived most of my life in the Midwest, I have fond memories of attending state fairs and sampling the flavors of local produce and home-baked goods. Past the Midway fare of deep-fried everything-on-a-stick, you’ll find local farmers selling ears of roasted sweet corn dipped in melted butter, freshly smoked bacon smothered in maple syrup, and home-canned applesauce “put up” by women using recipes passed from generation to generation. These are the flavors I invoked when I created these doughnuts. 

For the maple-bacon doughnuts, I started with my own mother’s doughnut recipe, which uses mashed potatoes to create a moister, airier dough. I added maple extract, as well as cinnamon, nutmeg and mace to the dough, and kneaded in some candied bacon (which I also used in my Maple-Bacon Cinnamon Knots), reserving some of the bacon to sprinkle on top after dipping the fried doughnuts in a browned-butter maple glaze. 

My sweet corn doughnuts feature homemade creamed corn using cut-fresh-from-the-ear farm-stand sweet corn. I combined a traditional raised doughnut recipe I found here and a cream-style corn recipe from The Spruce Eats. After frying, they’re filled with a spiced applesauce filling (borrowed from Richard’s toffee apple doughnuts, which he made for this episode) and rolled in cinnamon and sugar. The corn and applesauce flavor combination reminds me of childhood summer suppers on the picnic table in our backyard with just-picked corn on the cob and a side of my mom’s freshly made applesauce.

Unlike the bakers in the Great White Tent, I made my dough and formed the doughnuts the night before, letting them prove in the refrigerator overnight so we could have fresh, warm doughnuts in the morning, so that’s how my recipes are written. (See my recipe notes for Paul Hollywood’s alternate method.)

While the maple-bacon doughnuts are shaped like traditional circle-with-a-hole-in-the-middle doughnuts, I tried making the corn-and-applesauce doughnuts more in the shape of an ear of corn. I actually used a carrot-shaped cookie cutter that I’ve used for cookies at Eastertime, except I cut off the “carrot-top.” After frying, rolling them in cinnamon and sugar, and filling them, I wrapped them in green tissue paper cut to look like corn husks. 

Deep-fat frying is not my favorite method of baking (or is it cooking?), but when it’s nice outside, I can set up the fryer on my screen porch so I don’t end up with the whole house smelling of fried foods. And I have to admit, there’s nothing quite like fresh, warm doughnuts with a cup of coffee in the morning. Both of these doughnuts were a treat to eat, and my friends and family gobbled them up!

State Fair Doughnut Duo

Recipe Notes: These recipes are written so you can make and form the dough the night before and let them prove in the refrigerator overnight, allowing you to fry them in the morning without a lot of prep work. Both of these doughs are rather sticky, so an alternate method, demonstrated by Paul Hollywood in the Masterclass episode of this challenge, makes them easier to work with. He mixes the dough and places it in a floured container in the fridge overnight (at least 8 hours). Then he forms the doughnuts the next morning and lets them prove for 20 minutes at room temperature before frying.

Maple-Bacon Doughnuts

  • Servings: Makes at least 24 doughnuts
  • Print
Candied bacon recipe adapted from AMindFullMom.com
Maple glaze recipe adapted from SallysBakingAddiction.com

For the candied bacon:

  • 12 oz. thick-cut hickory-smoked bacon
  • ¼ c. pure maple syrup
  • ¾ t. cinnamon
  • ½ t. cardamom
    • For the doughnuts:

      • 4 c. flour, divided, plus more for dusting
      • 1 pkg. (2¼ t.) active dry yeast
      • 1/3 c. powdered milk
      • ½ c. sugar
      • ¼ t. cinnamon
      • 1/8 t. nutmeg
      • 1/8 t. mace
      • 1½ t. salt
      • 4 T. butter, room temperature
      • ½ c. fresh mashed potatoes (cooled to less than 130°F)
      • 1 1/8 c. hot water from potatoes (120-130°F)
      • ½-¾ t. maple extract
      • 1 egg, beaten
      • Vegetable oil for frying

        For the glaze:

        • 3 T. browned butter*
        • ½ c. maple syrup
        • 1¾ c. sifted powdered sugar
        • 1/8 t. salt

          Directions

          1. First, make the candied bacon: Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a jelly roll pan or large roasting pan with aluminum foil. Lay a wire rack inside the pan on top of the foil. Lay out bacon slices on the rack. (It’s okay if they overlap a little, but not too much.)
          2. Mix the maple syrup and spices together. Brush half the mixture onto the bacon slices. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and use tongs to turn over each piece of bacon. Brush with remaining syrup mixture. Return to oven for 10-15 minutes, or until bacon is dark and crispy. Let cool on rack, then dice into ¼- to ½-inch pieces.
          3. To make the dough: Add 1 1/3 cups flour to yeast; mix together with stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Add powdered milk, sugar, salt and spices. Stir till well-blended. Add butter and potatoes to hot water. Add slowly to dry ingredients and beat for 2 minutes at medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in another ¾ cup flour (or enough to make a thick batter), then egg and maple extract. Beat at high speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in the rest of the flour to make a stiff batter, then beat at high speed until the dough comes together and begins to slap against the sides of the bowl (up to 8 minutes).
          4. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes, sprinkling flour over dough as needed to keep it from sticking. When dough is smooth and not as sticky, cover in plastic wrap and a damp dish towel and let rest for 20 minutes. Knock air out of dough and sprinkle half the candied bacon over the dough. Fold the edges of the dough over the bacon and knead a few times to incorporate the bacon throughout the dough. Then roll out the dough to about ¾ of an inch thick and, using a doughnut or biscuit cutter, cut out doughnuts.
          5. Place doughnuts on greased baking sheets, cover with a floured dish towel or plastic wrap sprayed with vegetable oil spray, and refrigerate for 2-24 hours. When ready to fry, remove from refrigerator, uncover and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.
          6. Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a small saucepan, brown the 3 tablespoons butter.* Then whisk in the maple syrup over low heat. Remove from heat and whisk in the powdered sugar and salt.
          7. Preheat oil in deep-fat fryer to 370°F. Drop doughnuts into deep hot oil, a few at a time, and turn when just browned. When both sides are brown (3-5 minutes total), carefully remove doughnuts with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper toweling, then transfer to wire rack.
          8. Dip warm doughnuts into glaze. The icing thickens quickly, so place it over low heat as you dip the doughnuts. Place dipped donuts back on cooling rack as excess icing drips down. Sprinkle candied bacon on top of each. Let set for 30 minutes (if you can resist for that long!).

          *To brown the butter, cut butter into small pieces and place in a light-colored heavy saucepan or skillet. Melt over medium heat, swirling or stirring occasionally to make sure it cooks evenly. As butter begins to foam, watch it closely. The color will turn from yellow to golden tan, then quickly turn deep golden brown. When it smells nutty, and dark brown solids appear at the bottom of the pan, remove from heat immediately.

          Sweet-Corn Doughnuts with Spiced Apple Filling

          • Servings: Makes at least 24 doughnuts
          • Print
          Doughnut recipe adapted from JustAPinch.com
          Creamed corn recipe adapted from TheSpruceEats.com
          Credit for filling recipe: BBC.co.uk

          For the doughnuts:

        • 3 small ears of sweet corn (to make 1½ cups of kernels)
        • 1/3 c. butter, divided
        • 1½ T. water
        • ¾ c. lukewarm milk (120-130°F)
        • 4 c. flour, sifted (divided), plus more for dusting
        • ¼ c. + ½ t. sugar, divided
        • 1 t. salt
        • 2 pkgs. (4½ t.) active dry yeast
        • 2 eggs
        • Vegetable oil for frying
          • For the filling:

            • 4½ granny smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
            • ¼ c. superfine (baker’s) sugar
            • 2¼ t. cornstarch
            • 1½ oz. butter
            • 3/8 t. ginger
            • 1½ t. cinnamon
            • 4 T. water

              For topping:

              • 3 T. cinnamon
              • ¾ c. sugar

                Directions

                1. To cream the corn: Remove the husks and silk from the ears of corn and rinse well. Stand an ear on its flat end on a wide plate and, with a sharp knife, cut downward through several rows at a time. (Don’t cut too close to the cob; cut the kernels about 3/4 of the way through.) Turn cob and repeat until all the kernels are cut from the cob, then scrape the corn with the back of the knife to get all of the “milk” and pulp. Measure out 1½ c. of kernels and pulp. (If you have extra corn kernels, don’t throw them out! Simply sauté or steam them for a few minutes and eat with a little butter and salt, or add them to a salad, stir fry, pasta or casserole. Yum!)
                2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the corn and juices, 1½ tablespoons water, and ½ teaspoon sugar. Cook, stirring, until the corn is tender, about 6 minutes. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly. Cook for about 2 more minutes; do not let the mixture boil.
                3. Using a slotted spoon or small strainer, remove ¾ cup of the corn kernels and set aside. Blend the remaining mixture in a food processor or with a hand-held blender until smooth. Combine the reserved corn and the rest of the butter with the creamed mixture and cool to 120-130°F.
                4. To make the dough: Mix 1 1/3 cups flour with ¼ cup sugar, salt and yeast in large bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Gradually add the warm (120-130°F) creamed corn to the dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Add eggs and enough flour to make a thick batter (about ¾ cup). Beat at high speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in the rest of the flour to make a stiff batter, then beat at high speed until the dough comes together and begins to slap against the sides of the bowl (up to 8 minutes).
                5. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes, sprinkling flour over dough as needed to keep it from sticking, until dough is smooth and less sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and a damp dish towel and let rest 20 minutes.
                6. To form, roll out the dough to about ¾ of an inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutter (I used a carrot-shaped one) or a biscuit cutter. (Alternatively, divide the dough into pieces and roll them on the table into balls, then flatten them slightly into oblongs. Pinch one end so they look like ears of corn.) Place doughnuts on greased baking sheets, cover with a floured dish towel or plastic wrap sprayed with vegetable oil spray, and refrigerate 2-24 hours. When ready to fry, remove from refrigerator, uncover and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.
                7. Meanwhile, make the apple filling: Put all the filling ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the apples are mushy. Set aside to cool. Blend the apple filling in a food processor or with a hand-held blender, until you have a smooth puree.
                8. Preheat oil in deep-fat fryer to 370°F. Drop doughnuts into hot oil, a few at a time, and turn when just browned. When both sides are brown (3-5 minutes total), carefully remove doughnuts with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper toweling, then transfer to wire rack to cool.
                9. Mix cinnamon and sugar together in a bowl. While doughnuts are still warm, roll them in cinnamon-sugar mixture.
                10. Fill a large piping bag with apple filling (or spoon into a piping syringe with injector nozzle attached). When doughnuts are completely cool, use a narrow sharp knife to make a cut into wider end of each doughnut, poking up through the center almost to the top of the doughnut. Pipe or syringe puree generously inside.
                11. If desired, wrap doughnuts in green tissue paper circles to serve.

                Next week: Baklava

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