Friday, December 2, 2011

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Pumpkin and Ginger Doughnuts

I’ve been making booze since I was too young to buy it. But I’ve been making doughnuts and fritters even longer than that.

When I was very young, my mother taught me how to make a cheaty sort of doughnut (or, if that’s the way you roll, donut) from uncooked biscuit dough, the commercial stuff that came in a tube. Although I was barely able to tie my own shoes at that age, my siblings were all teenagers and slept in until unfathomable hours on weekends while my father golfed. If Mom was in the mood, we got doughnuts — all to ourselves.

While she handled the hot oil, it was my duty to lay out the dough, cut out shapes with an upturned glass, and then toss those sizzling fried gobs into a brown paper bag, coating them with sugar and cinnamon. They were still so hot when we tore into them that fingers of steam curled up from every bite.

With no kids of my own, it’s no longer the kind of cooking I’m likely to do. But homemade doughnuts have been a bit of an obsession ever since those early days. On a recent trip to Chicago, I idly picked up Allegra McEvedy's recent book Bought, Borrowed & Stolen where I found her recipe for pumpkin and ginger doughnuts.

With a fat ribbed pumpkin on the counter and a drive to eat up as much as is reasonable before we move, it was a simple matter of time before I succumbed to that Autumnal allure of hot pumpkin and spice. Do as you like, but swapping out an ounce of dark rum for an ounce of milk in the glaze is not the worst thing you could do this week.

From the Guardian UK, here’s McEvedy frying up a batch. Recipe follows the video.

Pumpkin and Ginger Doughnuts

150ml / ¼ pint whole milk
5 teaspoons (15g / ½oz) fast-acting dried yeast
100g / 3½oz sugar, plus 1 teaspoon extra
1kg / 2lb plain flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling
1 tin (460g / 14¾oz or thereabouts) of mashed pumpkin (or make your own by roasting 650g (1¼ lb) peeled pumpkin or squash, foiled, in a medium oven for 40 minutes, then mashing it)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons plain oil [peanut, vegetable, canola]
1-1.5 litres (1¾ – 2½ pints) oil, for frying

For the glaze:
a knob (around 1 teaspoon) butter
75ml / 3fl oz milk
175g / 6oz icing sugar
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
75g / 3oz ginger, washed and unpeeled
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat the milk gently until it's just warm to the touch, then whisk in the yeast and the 1 teaspoon of sugar and leave to stand for 20 minutes, until frothy.

In a large bowl mix the flour, pumpkin (or squash), cinnamon, salt and sugar, then pour in the yeast mixture, beaten egg, melted butter and the oil then bring it all together to make a soft dough. Turn out on to a well-floured surface and knead with floured hands for about 5 minutes, adding more flour as necessary so that it doesn't stick to you or the surface.

Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 2cm / ¾ inch and use two circular cutters, one with a diameter of 8cm / 3½ inches and one with a diameter of 4cm / 1¾ inches, to make your rings. Use the trimmings to re-roll, then leave them to rise for 30 minutes.
Knock up the glaze by melting the butter in the milk and whisking in the icing sugar, ground ginger and vanilla extract. Coarsely grate the ginger root and squeeze the juice into it too – you can re-use the fibres for tea / hot toddies.

Pour the oil into a wide, thick-bottomed pan to a depth of about 2.5-3cm / 1–1¼ inches. Heat it up until hot but not nearly smoking, then turn the heat down to medium. Slide one of the doughnuts in first, just to check the temperature is right: it should fizzle and float up to the surface, very gently bubbling away. Cook them in batches for 5-7 minutes total, turning halfway through so they are evenly golden brown all over, then take them out with tongs or a slotted spoon and put them on a wire rack.

When they're cool enough to pick up, dip them into the glaze on both sides and tuck in not long after: there's not many ills in the world that can't be cured with a warm doughnut.

Allegra McEvedy (2011)
Bought, Borrowed & Stolen: Recipes and Knives from a Traveling Chef
224 pages (hardback)
ISBN: 1840915773

Goes well with:
  • Ginger pie. I can't help it. I'm a sucker for ginger in all forms and ginger pie in particular.
  • We often have pumpkins around the house. Sometimes, they even get turned into tiki-style jack o'lanterns.
  • Half-Slab Pumpkin, a recipe I outright stole from British writer Nigel Slater and then let mutate into something entirely new.
  • Doughnuts aren't the only fritters on offer. How about some lovely brain fritters or the New Orleans rice cakes called calas?

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