Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Doughnut Holes

In my personal experience, there are a few cooking truths that are absolutely infallible. One - any food that is dipped, covered or spread with chocolate is immediately going to be a success. Two - bacon makes EVERYTHING better, no exceptions. And three - there's not a foodstuff on the planet that's cooked in hot oil that doesn't taste like a gift from the gods. I challenge you to prove me wrong! And as far as deep fat fried fodder goes, you simply can't beat these for sweet, doughy goodness. Doughnut holes, munchkins, diddy them what you will, they're bloody fantastic. And this past weekend, with a morning at my disposal and a hankering for something just a little bit fatter than normal, I whipped up a batch. I love how jealous you are right now.
In a large bowl, mix together about 180g of plain flour, a couple of teaspoons of baking powder and a pinch of salt. My missus has actually gone gluten-free so I've replaced the plain flour with rice flour in this instance - hopefully your doughnut-eating pals aren't such difficult human beings (I will get a slap for that). In a smaller bowl mix 60ml milk, 50g granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons of melted butter and about 60ml buttermilk. If you can't get your hands on buttermilk, just mix lemon juice or white vinegar with regular milk and leave for a few minutes to sour a little. Think roughly 1 tablespoon of lemon juice/vinegar to every 240ml of milk, that should do you just fine.
Combine your wet ingredients with your dry ingredients and give it a mix until you've got a nice light and fluffy batter. The consistency you're after is a bit like a thicker icing - don't overwork it or else the doughnuts will be heavy, just mix until everything starts to come together.
Cover a baking tray with parchment paper, then measure your dough out, roll into balls and line them up. The quantities above made, for me, about a dozen or so little doughnut holes, but you do what you want. If you want even diddy-er doughnuts, make them smaller. If you've got a big mouth and want to cram it full of something sweet, make them bigger. You're the boss. Roll them as quickly as you can - still being careful not to overwork them - then bung them into the fridge for a hot minute or two just to firm up slightly.
I use vegetable oil for frying, so fill a heavy-bottomed saucepan (I like my saucepans like I like my women...) and stick it on a medium heat. If you've got a sugar thermometer, you're trying to get to about 175C. If you don't have a sugar thermometer give it about 7-8 minutes, then test by dropping a small piece of batter into the oil. If it fizzes and floats, chances are you're good to go. This also gives you a good opportunity to ready your jams, sugars, chocolate sauces...whatever you're planning on filling or coating your doughnut treats with. As you can see I've gone for the old syringe-filled-with-jam method. What you can't see is that I ran into the old raspberry-seeds-too-big-for-the-hole-in-the-syringe problem and had to upgrade to a larger and more robust model. Hey, it's all good.
Once your oil is hot enough fry in small batches for about 3 minutes at a time, flipping halfway using tongs or a wooden skewer. Drain on some kitchen roll then, whilst they're still hot and a little bit oily, roll them in sugar. Fill them with your desired jam or sauce, or just eat them as they are - either way you won't be wrong.

180g pain flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
3 tbsps melted butter
60ml milk
60ml buttermilk
50g granulated sugar
vegetable oil, for frying
sugar and jam, to coat and fill

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

A bit of a pickle...

Well, Christmas is almost here and it's time to start thinking about presents. And because we've got a wedding to fund in the new year, and would also like to get onto the property ladder before too much longer, it's shaping up to be a homemade gifts sorta year. But fear not, anyone who thinks they might be unwrapping a crudely knitted sweater or some poorly constructed bit of DIY - I kid you not, 3rd grade secret santa I received a plank of wood that was half-painted and had some nails hammered into it. No, I think this year most of my homemade gifts will be things that are 'chocolate covered' ''cold-smoked' or indeed 'pickled'. So I'm getting practising early, trying out a few new ideas, and planning the hampers. You lucky devils you.
The process here is very basic: take your pickling vinegar, pack it full of whatever flavourings you want to use then bring it to the boil in a saucepan, reduce to simmer for a minute or two and then allow to cool completely before pouring over your goods. I went for a favourite of mine, pickled cucumbers, and a controversial newbie - eggs. Pickled eggs are a revelation, and I highly recommend them to all of you out there. I know for a fact that most people reading this will turn their nose up at them, and I know for certain that most of those people will have never even given them the old college try. Just do it. Really, really do it. For something like eggs you want quite a strong, acidic vinegar in which to steep so for a dozen eggs, hard-boiled and peeled, you need about a litre of pickling vinegar. I flavoured mine with a pinch of saffron and a few black peppercorns, then added to a jar with a red chilli. The cucumbers want a lighter, brine-like mixture so use about 3:1 ratio of water to vinegar and add a tablespoon of salt and sugar before boiling. For a bit more flavour I added some coriander seed and a couple of cloves of garlic to the jar before sealing. And that's pretty much it, oh but don't forget to sterilise your jars properly before using. Otherwise you get ill and nobody wants that, definitely not before the holidays. So try it, enjoy it, and let me know how you get on. And don't worry Mom, you're not getting any pickled eggs this year. Somehow I don't see it being your kinda thing...