Even though, for all these years, I have apparently been oblivious to the famous “Time to make the doughnuts” commercial campaign, when I heard about Helene’s and Peabody’s similarly-named challenge, I wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity to try my hand at doughnut–making again. The only question was what sort of doughnut to make. We didn’t eat many Dunkin’ Donuts when I was growing up, but I still have a few fond doughnut memories. The first one that sprang to mind was eating plain cake doughnuts with hot chocolate on top of Pike’s Peak, but unless we drove up to Mount Hood to eat them, I just don’t think it would be the same. I decided to go with a childhood favorite from the grocery store: chocolate long johns.
Apparently, long johns are a regional thing—who knew? I can find unfilled chocolate bars and cream-filled round doughnuts, but the filling is always too much like pudding or custard. The filled bars I grew up with are non-existent in Oregon, though, and have consequently been added to my “unavailable cravings” list, along with funnel cakes and chicken nuggets from Chick-Fil-A. So, for this event, I decided to try my hand at Alton Brown’s yeasted doughnuts and make a few into long johns for my own personal gratification. (Jeremy doesn’t understand the attraction of long johns or funnel cakes, so the latter will have to get their own post as soon as I make acquaintance with a funnel of my very own.)
This was my first experience with making yeasted doughnuts, but the dough was easy to make and very cooperative. I started early enough the day I made them that we even ended up eating breakfast several hours before lunchtime, which may be a first for homemade yeasted breakfast foods in our house. I’m still having some issues with getting my frying temperature right to avoid greasiness, but I think that will continue to plague me until I break down and at least buy a deep fry thermometer, or even an honest-to-goodness fryer. Because there are only two of us, I cut the recipe in half, and still got 10 round doughnuts, 3 bars, and a few doughnut holes from the batch. Everything got dipped in the chocolate glaze, which was absolutely luscious stuff: thick and shiny and well-behaved.
For my three long johns, I picked out a filling recipe that sounded very much along the lines of what I remembered from childhood: nothing remotely dairy about it, just sugar and fat made up into a fluffy sort of frosting (mmm, I can’t imagine why Jeremy wouldn’t want one!). I do think I was in the right vein, but the particular recipe I tried ended up staying gritty even after 15 minutes in the stand mixer, so it wasn’t quite right. Still, it was close enough to tide me over until the next time we go back to Colorado for a visit, and now I can let myself periodically buy the yummy fresh doughnuts from King Donuts—just a few blocks from our house—without resentment or regret at their decided lack of long johns. (Oh, and just for the record… I’ve never eaten a Krispy Kreme doughnut, and I’m kind of proud of it, too!)
3/4 C milk
1 1/4 oz vegetable shortening
1 package instant yeast
3 T warm water (95 to 105 degrees F)
1 egg, beaten
2 T sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
12 ounces AP flour, plus more for dusting surface
Peanut or vegetable oil, for frying
Place the milk in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat just until warm enough to melt the shortening. Place the shortening in a bowl and pour warmed milk over. Set aside.
In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let dissolve for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, pour the yeast mixture into the large bowl of a stand mixer and add the milk and shortening mixture, first making sure the milk and shortening mixture has cooled to lukewarm. Add the eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and half of the flour. Using the paddle attachment, combine the ingredients on low speed until flour is incorporated and then turn the speed up to medium and beat until well combined. Add the remaining flour, combining on low speed at first, and then increase the speed to medium and beat well. Change to the dough hook attachment of the mixer and beat on medium speed until the dough pulls away from the bowl and becomes smooth, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a well-oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
On a well-floured surface, roll out dough to 3/8-inch thick. Cut out dough using a 2 1/2-inch doughnut cutter or pastry ring and using a 7/8-inch ring for the center hole (I used a biscuit cutter and an apple corer to make my doughnuts). Set on floured baking sheet, cover lightly with a tea towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oil in a deep fryer or Dutch oven to 365 degrees F. Gently place the doughnuts into the oil, 3 to 4 at a time. Cook for 1 minute per side. Transfer to a cooling rack placed in baking pan. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes prior to glazing, if desired.
If you plan to fill your doughnuts, cut the dough into either rectangles or non-perforated circles before frying. When cool, use a sharp knife to cut a pocket inside each doughnut, angling it as you cut so that the opening is smaller than the pocket itself (like stuffing chicken breasts or pork chops). Make your desired filling and pipe it into the pockets, making sure to use enough filling to entirely fill the pocket.
Source: Adapted from Good Eats, with Alton Brown.
Chocolate Doughnut Glaze
1/4 C unsalted butter
2 T whole milk, warmed
1 1/2 tsp light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 C confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Combine butter, milk, corn syrup, and vanilla in medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until butter is melted. Decrease the heat to low, add the chocolate, and whisk until melted. Turn off heat, add the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Place the mixture over a bowl of warm water and dip the doughnuts immediately. Allow glaze to set for 30 minutes before serving.
Source: Adapted from Good Eats, with Alton Brown.
1/2 C shortening (I used Spectrum)
1/2 C confectioners’ sugar
1/2 C white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Using an electric mixer, whip shortening in a medium bowl with confectioners’ sugar and white sugar until creamy and no longer gritty, 5 to 10 minutes.
Source: Adapted from AllRecipes.