September 8, 2010

Buttermilk Cake Doughnuts (with Cinnamon, Sugar, and Cardamom)

I have been craving doughnuts for roughly two years.  Sure, I eat doughnuts in Maine every summer, and yes, I ate that crumb doughnut from a corner shop in Portland, Oregon not too long ago, but I had been drinking then, and it was a yeast doughnut, so it doesn't really count. Southern California is all kinds of famous among Californians for being the mecca for sprinkle-drenched cake doughnuts, twisted maple doughnuts that are just this side of being too much (read: awesome), and apple-filled bear claws with crackled glaze that are actually too much, but my god, how could you resist? 

My sister is an east coast doughnuts denier who believes, as I do, that cake doughnuts (and popsicles for that matter) are the best when left to Southern California and its sugar trails that weave through gas stations and wander into corner lots by defunct copy stores and auto shops; the gritty doughnut is the legit doughnut. My mom, a flight attendant for 38 years and simultaneously a toy-store owner for approximately three, thought about cashing it all in to open a tiny doughnut shop that would focus exclusively on doughnut holes -- just the right size for people who needed a break from their day, she said. She also once scolded me for getting her a chocolate doughnut in the morning, asking, "Why would you ever want to dip that in your coffee? Old-fashioned is the best."

While I've got an insatiable, hereditary craving for deep-fried cake batter, I had neither found a favorite doughnut shop in DC, nor mustered the energy to make homemade doughnuts until last Saturday, after a long, dumb week and with a killer weekend ahead. I'm kicking myself for not having made doughnuts sooner! Don't  be daunted by the length of the recipe -- few things are better than fried cake, especially early on a Saturday morning. It's also entirely likely that your main squeeze will wake up and look at you as if you're made of magic when you slide a plate of fresh, hot doughnuts (beautiful words!) and a coffee press in front of him. 

Buttermilk Cake Doughnuts
Adapted from The Art of Baking by Karen DeMasco

DeMasco uses a KitchenAid mixer for this recipe, but I did the whole thing by hand.  I'll give you the by-hand version since it's less dish-intensive (read: more lazy and thus better for an early Saturday morning), but just note that she uses a KitchenAid with a paddle attachment beginning with step two. I shook my doughnuts with cinnamon, sugar, and cardamom, but there are lots of good glaze recipes hanging around the internet, and powdered sugar (oh man, or vanilla sugar! or maple syrup glaze!) would be great too. You can do no wrong.

3/4 cup buttermilk (or make your own with 3/4 c. milk + 1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar)
1 large egg
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
3 3/4 cups cake flour, sifted, divided, plus more for dusting (I used all-purpose)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoons nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Zest of one lemon
Peanut oil for frying, enough to pour about two inches deep into your pan (about five cups for me)

1.  Whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and oil in a small bowl.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, sift 1 3/4 cup of flour, the sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and lemon zest.

2.  Using a fork (or egg beater or KitchenAid), blend the dry mixture just to evenly distribute the ingredients.  Slowly add the buttermilk mixture, and mix with your fork until just combined.  Use a rubber spatula to fold in the remaining two cups of flour. The dough will be very sticky.

3.  Plop the dough on to a floured sheet of parchment paper that's about 12" by 14".  Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour, cover with a second sheet of parchment paper the same size, and roll out dough into an oval 3/4" thick. Slide your dough baby into the fridge for about a half-hour, until dough is firm enough to cut.  Remove, peel off top parchment sheet, flour the sheet place dough on top, and then pull off and discard the second sheet of parchment. You should now have a slab of dough that moves freely along a well-floured piece of parchment.

4.  Using a floured three-inch doughnut cutter (I used a three-inch drinking glass and a bottle with a one-inch mouth for cutting out the center hole), cut your doughnuts as closely together as possible.  Place them and the holes on a cookie sheet sprayed lightly with oil.  You should get close to 13 doughnuts.  Rerolling scraps is not advised for the actual doughnuts, but I did it to make doughnut holes out of leftover dough and they worked just fine!  Slide the cookie sheet in the fridge for a half-hour.

5.  In a wide pot with high sides, pour your peanut oil so that it covers the bottom of the pan by about two inches.  Heat the oil on medium to 350 degrees F.  Working in batches of three, plop your doughnuts into the oil, and turn after about a 1 1/2 minutes, so that each doughnut cooks for three minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer doughnuts to paper towels to soak up excess oil, and then shake them in a bag with your spice mixture (recipe follows).  Repeat for remaining dough, keeping an eye on the temperature of the oil. For doughnut holes, cook about a minute each, turning halfway through if you can.  Once drained and sugared, doughnuts will keep for about a day, but I recommend eating them the morning of.  Voila!

Cinnamon-Sugar-Cardamom Mixture

3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
A little less than 1/8 teaspoon salt

1.  Pour ingredients into a plastic resealable bag, zip, and shake up to mix.  Once doughnuts have drained but while still hot, put them in the plastic bag and shake 'em up to distribute sugar and spices on both sides.  The same technique could be used for coating your doughnuts with powdered sugar or a different spice mix of your choosing.