They look pretty good, don't they?
The thing is, I think they could be better than they are.
So keep reading and I'll tell you why.
This is a cautionary tale…
Whenever I run errands with Julia in tow, she asks if we can get a doughnut. This started a while back – a year or two – when we'd go to Stop & Shop. The local Stop & Shop stores often had a small Dunkin Donuts inside as part of their sales floor, right near the bakery. And so I'd get the kids each a doughnut, which they'd eat while strapped in their seats in the shopping cart, and I could do most of my shopping without a lot of "Oh, can we get that?" "Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease???"
Anyway, since Alex is in school all day but Julia isn't yet, then Julia is the one who usually comes along with me if I have errands to run.
And she still wants a doughnut.
Recently, however, for whatever reason, Dunkin Donuts and Stop & Shop have parted ways.
So sometimes I'll tell Julia if she's a good girl while we're shopping, I'll get her a doughnut on the way home.
And no, this is not a daily occurrance.
And it's happening less and less, too.
But the other day, Julia begged and begged. And I didn't feel like stopping anywhere on the way home, so I said "How about this weekend I MAKE doughnuts??!!"
And when you say it with the proper enthusiasm and decibel level, it sounds like the BEST IDEA EVER!
So Julia agreed.
Last night I started going through cookbooks looking for a doughnut recipe. The thing was, none of them appealed to me. I wasn't sure what I was looking for, but I hadn't found it yet. I finally realized I wanted something light, not cakey. Like what they call a French Cruller – light and puffy and basically like sugary air.
And I found it.
I've had it for a number of years, and I don't think I've made anything from it yet. The funny thing is, I was looking through it earlier in the summer when Bill's Uncle Werner and cousin, Beth, were visiting.
We were looking for recipes similar to various German sweets that Uncle Werner remembered his mother making.
Anyway, I thought maybe there might be something doughnut-like in this book, so I scanned the index to see what I could find.
And I found "Crullers with Rum Glaze."
Yum! That sounded good, though I probably wouldn't make the rum glaze, because I know it wouldn't taste so yummy to the kids.
I flipped to the page and read the ingredients.
First up? "Cream Puff Dough, recipe pg. 14."
Heeeeyyyyyyyyyyy…cream puff dough…that's pâte à choux! And that was exactly what I wanted.
This morning when I got up I cut up little 4" x 4" squares of parchment paper. Why? You'll see. ("Because I said so!" heh heh heh.)
Then I got together all my ingredients. Here's the recipe from Kaffeehaus (Austrian name is in bold type):
Cream Puff Dough
Makes about 16 5-inch eclairs or twelve 4-inch doughnuts
While many doughs require cool ingredients, cream puff dough is cooked before using. Depending on the humidity and relative moisture in the flour, you may not need all of the fourth egg, so add it gradually to judge the dough's consistency. As soon as the water and butter come to a boil, stir in the flour. Don't delay, because if any water evaporates, the measurements will be inaccurate.
1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup unbleached flour
4 large eggs (3 whole and 1 beaten), at room temperature
1. Bring the water, butter, sugar, and salt to a full boil in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirringoccasionally so the butter is melted by the time the water boils. All at once, add the flour, and stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a ball. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir until the dough films the bottom of the pan, about 1 1/2 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed to keep the dough from scorching, as the dough needs to cook for at least 1 minute to evaporate excess moisture.
2. Transfer the dough to a medium bowl. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat in the whole eggs, one at a time, being sure the first egg is absorbed before adding another. BEat in enough of the beaten egg to make a thinck, shiny dough that holds its shape. If you have egg left over, it can be used to brush over the dough as a glaze before baking. Use the dough while it is warm.
Pretty straightforward, right?
The thing is, I want to emphasize one element of this recipe, because in order to make cream puffs or eclairs or anything else with this dough, you need to keep this in mind.
You don't want the dough to be too wet.
When you're cooking it in the pot on the stove, part of what you're doing, besides forming the ball of dough, is cooking the flour and cooking OUT some of the water. You need all that water in order to form the dough, but you don't want so much moisture when you bake or fry the final product.
With cream puffs and eclairs, what you want, after they're baked, is a crisp outer shell and a center that's hollow and dry. You don't want eggy mushy doughy stuff left inside.
So that's your goal here.
And I was rushing when I made these, and guess what. I lost sight of that goal.
Anyway, back to making the dough…
First, combine the water, butter, sugar and salt in a pot over medium-high heat.
I thought the melting butter looked kind of cool, so naturally I took a few more pictures that aren't at all necessary for you to follow the recipe, but I liked them, so I'm including them.
When the mixture comes to a full boil…
Dump all the flour in at once and stir with a wooden spoon.
I couldn't take a picture of the dumping of the flour or the initial look of everything as I started to stir it together, because I was busy actually stirring. It goes fast.
And then you have this:
The lens fogged up a bit. This one's better:
Keep stirring and cooking until the dough forms a ball and leaves a film on the pan.
And here's where I should have stopped rushing. Because in the picture above? That's not really a film. It's moisture. I should have kept cooking more. The film would have been an actual thin layer of the dough, rather than what you see above. So cook it a little more, til the ball of dough is less floppy and there is an actual film on the pan.
Don't make my mistakes!!
And once you've got your dough at the proper consistency, and you've cooked it another minute and a half or so on medium-low, you put it in a bowl and, using a paddle, beat in your eggs. (Or you can, like the recipe says, use a hand-held mixer to do this.)
Make sure each egg is fully incorporated before you add the next one.
And it's a good idea to scrape the sides of the bowl down before you add the next egg.
I onlyl added a tiny bit of the fourth, beaten egg. I probably didn't need to add any at all, in retrospect.
Here's the dough, holding its shape fairly well:
And that's that part of things.
Now we move on to the cruller portion of our program.
(This will bring us back to the parchment paper.)
Crullers with Rum Glaze
Makes 14 crullers
Egg-rich doughnuts with curly edges, Spritzkrapfen are prepared from cream puff dough piped through a star-tipped pastry bag. You can substitute another alcoholic beverage for the rum (applejack is good), or use fruit juice (orange juice would be delicious).
Cream Puff Dough (page 14)
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons golden rum
1 tablespoon water, approximately
1. Cut fourteen 4-inch squares of parchment paper. Place a large wire rack over a jelly-roll pan for draining the crullers.
2. Fit a large pastry bag with a 9/26-inch-wide open star tip (such as Ateco Number 825), and fill with the cream puff dough. On each piece of parchment paper, pipe a 3-inch diameter circle of dough.
3. Meanwhile, fill a Dutch oven or large saucepan with enough oil to come 3 inches up the sides. Heat the oil over high heat to 360 degrees F.
4. In batches, without crowding, place the dough circles (still on their papers) upside-down in the hot oil. Cook for about 15 seconds, then use kitchen tongs to pull off and discard the papers. Cook on high heat, trying to keep the temperature as close to 360 degrees F as possible, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes. Using a wire skimmer, transfer the crullers to the rack to drain and cool. Reheat the oil between batches.
5. To make the glaze: Sift the confectioners' sugar into a medium bowl. Whisk in the rum and enough water to make a glaze with the consistency of heavy cream. Dip each cruller, upside down, in the glaze, and let the excess glaze drip off. Place the crullers, right side up, on the rack to dry and set the glaze.
The crullers are best the day they are made.
By the way, I didn't use a rum glaze. I made something different, which you'll see below.
Anyway, as you know, I cut my squares of parchment paper.
Then I found, by some miracle given the state of my pantry, my #825 Ateco star tip. Woo hoo!
I filled the bag with just over half of the cream puff dough and started piping circles that were roughly 3" in diameter. Like so:
I probably made a few a little too big, because I ended up with 13 instead of 14. Ah well.
And while I was doing this, I also had my oil in a pot, heating up.
When I reached the 360 mark, it was time to fry.
The instructions say to turn the parchment over and place the dough rings in the oil and about 15 seconds later, peel the parchment away.
If the parchment comes in contact with the oil, it curls and shrinks a bit and becomes a lumpy, oily thing instead of a flat sheet of parchment. No need to peel – it unsticks itself from the dough quite readily.
The other thing that will probably happen is that when you're turning the parchment over, the ring of dough will gently peel itself off and plunge gracefully into the oil, sparing you the need to peel.
I admit it – I didn't cook the first batch long enough. I tore one open and it was wet and doughy inside. So I put them back in. I also double-checked the recipe, which isn't a bad idea. It's also a good idea to actually read every word of the recipe the first time around. But we can have that discussion another time.
Anyway, I made sure to cook the remaining rings for about 2 minutes on each side, hoping that this would be the solution to the wet middle.
But it wasn't. It helped, but there was still no nice airy space in there.
Kind of because, maybe, the heavy oil prevents the rings from expanding, to some degree.
I'll have to make these again, just to answer my own questions.
I like how bubbly they got on the edges.
Okay, now, for my glaze. I used:
2 cups of confectioners' sugar
About half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
A teaspoon of vanilla extract.
And enough water to make a glaze thin enough to drizzle on the crullers (or dip them into), but not so thin that there was no substance to it.
And as each batch of crullers came out of the oil, I'd let them cool a minute or so, and then dip and swirl them in the glaze, then return them to the rack to finish cooling.
And then I called the kids and Bill.
No one – including me – loved them.
The glaze was yummy, and fresh from the pan, the outside was very crisp, which contrasted a lot with the wet, eggy center.
There are a few left as I type this – mid-afternoon now – and I tried one, just to see if I still felt the same about the texture.
And now, after 6 or 7 hours have passed, the crispness is gone, and they are soft and moist and sweet – and yummier than before.
So now, after my initial self-criticism when I started this post, I'm thinking maybe I didn't screw it up. Maybe it's just the way these guys are supposed to be.
And I'll tell you what, they're very good with a cup of coffee.
And that's all that I care about sometimes.