Thursday, January 24, 2008

"Coffee and Doughnuts" -- Cappuccino Semifreddo with Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnuts

Doughnuts? Me love you longtime. My late uncle was a baker, and his bakery was in my little hometown across the street from my elementary school. Walking to school in the morning, you could smell all the cakes, doughnuts, breads and cookies being made, and after school was out, we'd flock to the bakery to gaze at the wedding cakes on display, and order a doughnut. Or three. Glazed, sugared, iced, custard-filled... they were all really delicious, and I felt super-special because it was MY uncle and his sister and brother-in-law who were making them.

After he passed away and the family bakery had changed hands, I had a hard time finding doughnuts that were as good as his. Dunkin' didn't come close. Neither did Krispy Kreme. Other smaller bakeries couldn't match them either. It wasn't until I had the "Coffee and Doughnuts" at Per Se that I had a Ratatouille/Anton Ego moment in which I was transported back to that bakery (which happens to be right across the street from the famed chestnut tree I've written about). One bite of the doughnut at Per Se, and I could smell my hometown bakery with its flourescent overhead lighting and faux wood paneling, and recall how tall I was by what I could see in the bakery case. I could see the faces of my childhood friends and the winter coats they wore. The only other time a doughnut had that kind of impact was when I bit into a maple bacon doughnut at VooDoo Doughnuts in Portland, OR. The texture and weight of the doughnut was the same, and it was a really nice moment.

And even though I rarely, if ever, have doughnuts with coffee, it's no secret that I love coffee. I love the way it smells and tastes, and it's the first thing to make me smile in the morning. I make mine using a French press and prefer it that way over a drip machine.

All that is to say that because I love coffee and doughnuts so so so much, this is one of the dishes I'd been most looking forward to making since I started this project. I lust over the photo of it in the book (page 261) and practically committed the recipe to memory, I've read it so many times over the years. Let's not keep you groovy cats waiting any longer. Here goes...

The day before I knew I was going to serve this, I prepped the doughnut batter and made the cappuccino semifreddo (semifreddo = "half cold"). To make the semifreddo, I put a few egg yolks and some sugar into my mixer bowl, added the whisk attachment, then scraped the seeds from a vanilla bean into the mix. I whisked it for about 13-14 minutes on medium speed; the mixture tripled in volume.



I then beat in the coffee extract and removed the bowl from the mixer stand and let it sit in a bowl of ice. Using another mixing bowl, I whipped some heavy cream with some sugar (until it held soft peaks), then folded it into the coffee-laced mixture:


I then whipped some egg whites with some sugar until they were frothy. I did this by hand because I ran out of clean mixing bowls. I folded this into the main mixture and then spooned it into coffee cups:




I covered each coffee cup with plastic wrap and put them in my freezer overnight:


The last thing I had to do that night was start the doughnuts because they needed an overnight proofing.

The first task was to make the "sponge." To do that, I put some water in the bowl of my mixer, then added the yeast. The French Laundry Cookbook says to use compressed fresh yeast. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't find any anywhere. I did a little research and calculated what I thought would be a mathematically appropriate substitution using fresh bakers' yeast instead. So, after about a half-hour of number crunching by hand and on the calculator (I'm very serious, I totally did this), I added what I thought would be the right amount of fresh bakers' yeast, dissolving it in the water. I then added the flour to the bowl, attached the dough hook to the mixer, and mixed is slowly for about 2 minutes, until everything was thoroughly combined. I transferred this mixture to a bowl:


I covered it with plastic wrap and a towel and let it sit at room temperature for two hours until it had doubled in size:


In a separate bowl, I combined more yeast into some milk, and stirred it until it had dissolved. In my mixing bowl, I combined flour, sugar, and salt, then started mixing it using the dough hook attachment. I poured in the milky yeast mixture slowly, then added a few egg yolks and some melted-then-cooled butter. Last but not least, I added the proofed sponge and the rest of the flour. I mixed this on low speed until everything had combined. I then cranked up the speed a little bit and kneaded the dough for about 4 minutes. The dough formed a ball and cleaned the sides of the mixing bowl. I removed this newly formed dough and put it in another bowl, covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to proof overnight.

The next day, I placed the chilled dough on my lightly floured kitchen block and rolled it out to about a half-inch thickness. Using a doughnut cutter (because the thought of using two separate biscuit cutters did not appeal to me in any way, shape or form), I cut out about a dozen doughnuts and doughnut holes. I put them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and covered them with plastic wrap I'd sprayed with Pam. At the same time, I heated a pot of oil in which to cook the doughnuts.

After about 15 minutes at room temperature, they'd risen to be 3/4" high (just like the book said) and looked like this:


When I removed the plastic wrap, hilarity did not ensue:


Isn't that gorgeous? Don't you want an oil painting of that over your fireplace mantel? I know I do. Jeesh. How embarrassing. I didn't want to trash it all and start over because I just didn't. I'm sure this happened because I used the wrong kind of yeast, and I just didn't have the time or energy at that point to drive 100 miles (okay, four) to a bakers' supply place to get the fresh compressed yeast I had been looking for. So, I figured I could scrape together bits of the dough and make doughnut holes. Except, when I tried to roll the dough into balls, it just wouldn't cooperate, so instead, I made, well, you'll see in a minute. But if you make ANY cracks about The Colonel or 11 herbs and spices, I will personally kick your ass.

I deep fried the non-doughnuts and non-holes and while they were still hot, I rolled them in this lovely bowl of cinnamon sugar:


I let them cool on a baking rack while I got the milk warmed up to finish the semifreddo (which I'd taken out of the freezer a few minutes before). Wanna see what they look like? I know you're dying to. Oh boy....


They're dough-NOTS!!!

I warmed then frothed some milk until it was way foamy, then spooned some over each semifreddo to look like a real live cappuccino. Here's what the final dish looked like:

Wait, who wants a bowl of fried chicken with their coffee???


Kidding. Here's the final plating:


And, here's what it looks like when you've dug in and started enjoying the delicious goodness that is this dessert:


Yummmmmmm.... even though the dough-NOTS looked like something from a Swanson's HungryMan meal still left in the freezer from 1972, they actually tasted really, really good if I do say so myself. They were still warm, and their texture and weight were perfect. The cinnamon-sugar balance was great, too. The semifreddo? Wow. Just wow. The cold of the semifreddo and the warm of the milk was really playful and delicious. Despite the earlier foibles, I was really pleased with how this dish turned out, taste-wise. However, I'd forgotten that the coffee extract has more than a little alcohol in it, and I think the combination of alcohol and caffeine, along with the sugar on the doughnuts made us loopy and tired, interspersed with bouts of extreme punchiness for the next hour or so. I just giggled a lot and my eyes got heavy, and then felt like it was SPRING BREAKKKKKKK!!!! WOOO-HOOOOO!!!!! Well, maybe not that bad, but we definitely got a kick out of this dessert, as well as the impromptu wet t-shirt contest that followed. Kidding.

Wanna see what the Coffee & Doughnuts at Per Se looked like? It's the only photo I took all night. I knew going into the dinner I didn't want to photograph every course and post about it because I just didn't. But by the time we got to dessert and we'd had a bottle of wine, this looked so pretty and I was so happy and sated (and a little loopy) that I pulled out my Blackberry and snapped a quick one:


Sigh... maybe someday I can do that. Just not this time.

Up Next:
White Truffle Oil-Infused Custards with Black Truffle Ragout

Resources:
Eggs, vanilla bean, cinnamon and yeast from TPSS Co-op
Domino sugar
Neilsen-Massey coffee extract, bought at Sur La Table
Organic Valley heavy cream and milk
David's kosher salt
365 organic butter and canola oil

Music to Cook By: Ella Fitzgerald; The Johnny Mercer Songbook and The Rodgers and Hart Songbook. I think I own every recording ever made of Ella's voice. If I had to go back in time and be someone else, it's a tie between being her or Dorothy Parker. Or a hybrid of the two. Also, I'd like to be Pat Benatar, although Pat Benatar is kind of 1983's answer to Ella, isn't she? Anyhoo, back to Miss Thing. If you don't have some Ella in your collection, you're missing out. Bigtime. There's no better voice in the past 100 years. And, she makes it sound so damn easy.


Read my previous post: Venison Chop with Pan-Roasted Butternut Squash and Braised Shallots

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love your site. I really felt bad for you that your doughnuts didn't come out pretty. I know what a disappointment it can be when you get excited about a recipe and it doesn't live up to your expectations.

But hey! It doesn't sound like it affected the taste, and that's what matters!

spooneroonie said...

Fritters. They're fritters. Not chicken that's been stunt cast as doughnuts. Fritters.

Ella fucking rocks. I looooooooove me some Ella.

JoP in Omaha said...

I'm glad you carried on despite the free-form shape. I think the donuts look just fine; they puffed up nicely with the alternative yeast. I can imagine the aroma and the crispness and the taste.....dang, I want those coffee donuts right now!

Anonymous said...

If it were pizza dough I would guess that it was too sticky because it was mixed "too roughly." This happens when my girlfriend's daughter helps with the pizza dough. Doughnuts are different, so I'm probably way off base. I bet if you tried it again they'd turn out perfect.

Kitt said...

I'd call 'em dough-knots.

Your sweetly expressed nostalgia makes them extra-special. Definitely trying the semifreddo if not the knots.

Mike of Mike's Table said...

The whole thing sounds delicious--sorry the presentation didn't quite work out. Doughnuggets? *shrugs* lol

bristlesage said...

We've had good luck finding the yeast you needed at our regular old grocery store (Jewel, part of the Albertson's family of stores). It's by the eggs. We can usually find it in the same place at Whole Foods, too.

But I agree, I'm not sure it's important, because the fritters look delicious.

Jess Jones said...

I just wanted to say how much I love your site and I always dream of eating the food you make! I've rented the FL cookbook from my local library here in rural Iowa and just love following along with what you do - especially this past recipe since you cited one of my favorite pictures! I'm determined to try some of these recipes (I'm sure truffles wont be involved) and your recommendations for the "easier" recipes was so helpful. Thanks!

pk said...

I'm with mike. "Doughnuggets."

This is, honestly, the one post i've been waiting for... you may have to make this a regular.

GregWA said...

I have never felt so sympatico with any food blogger as I did when I saw that tray of dough. I feel like I have some little tray-of-dough moment everytime I'm cooking from a book. My favorite post so far!

And Ella does makes everything OK.

Tara said...

This post was friggin' hilarious. I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing with you! That is totally something that would happen to me. And I really laughed when you said fried chicken because I normally zip through your posts first to look at all the pretty pictures, then I go through and read it. Well, I was confused why a post about donuts had fried chicken in it. ha! So that really made me laugh. I'm sure they were delicious, though. :-)

Devlyn said...

Those look lovely. I share a maple bar from VooDoo with my boyfriend once every 3 months. I can't go near it without looking longingly in the tiny store's general direction. Now that I'm hungry, it's appropriately lunchtime! ^_^

Liz said...

Beignets! They look just like beignets. You just put a NOLA twist on Keller. You meant to do it. (It's never a mistake, just a design element.)

Sarah said...

Your two shots of the donuts were hillarious!!! I have had that happen so often when rising something under plastic wrap, I am still giggling :) Glad you went ahead and made yummy looking 'fried chicken'

Sarah said...

Your two shots of the donuts were hillarious!!! I have had that happen so often when rising something under plastic wrap, I am still giggling :) Glad you went ahead and made yummy looking 'fried chicken'

amber said...

i just stumbled upon your site through michael ruhlman's blog and i love it! you've totally inspired me to branch out and try fancier recipes. i have a giftcard to borders and i'm going tonight to pick up the FL cookbook. can't wait to start following along with you. :)

cook eat FRET said...

so i'm reading along, scrolling down... scrolling reading, reading scrolling - and it gets to the money pic and i just CRACKED UP.

so if you made them like 10x you'd be a perfect doughnut making fool. a fat perfect doughnut making fool...

as ruhlman says... repetition...

thatgrrl said...

Now I know: when I make this recipe, skip the rolling and cutting parts. Ah, simplification!

Pastrymann said...

Hi Carol,
Next time, because I know there will definitely be a next time dust your dough with hard flour before you cut them and then cover loosely with a tea towel instead of the plastic wrap. The yeast needs to breath...

Anonymous said...

Your doughnuts looked delicious, but I think your problem was over proofing the dough with too much yeast. I seem to recall the conversion of fresh yeast to dried yeast is 1oz to 1 teaspoon - not very much. I routinely use dried/instant yeast rather than fresh, and never have problems, unless I stuff the conversion up. Try less yeast next time and I think you'll get more regular shapes

pdxblogmommy said...

Mmf....mmffmfmfmfffmmmmmwwwaaaahhhahahahahahHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAA!!!

I'm sorry.

Cynthia A. said...

Oh my goodness, you are going to come and kick my ass! I couldn't help it, even though I can totally sympathize with "kitchen setbacks", I was laughing so hard that I was wheezing and teary!

Thank You, and I am sure that they were pretty darned good in freeform-fritter style!

Shannon said...

At least it all tasted good. Something was salvaged.

biskuit said...

I've made the semifreddo twice and, as you found too, it is incredibly good. I must admit though to cheating on the donuts - both times I bought Krispy Kreme glazed donut holes - BUT - I then created a homemade cinnamon sugar orange mix to dust them with that kicked them up a notch (or two or three). Just throw those holes in a bowl into the microwave for 15 seconds, toss with the sugar mixture (the orange is baked orange zest), and you're good to go. A photo of my creation at ... http://www.flickr.com/photos/kaplanbr/2211143950/

Anonymous said...

For Ella fans, I strongly recommend checking out the stylings of 13 year old wunderkind Nikki Yanofsky.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=D-bumYe5mfA

rt said...

I read this in the Times and thought of it as a companion piece on the memories that percolate up with the smell of coffee. Link:

http://warner.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/24/memory-refill/index.html

Don't worry about your Dali-like donuts. I think you might have to accept that the pasty dishes are just gonna throw you a curveball the first time. Maybe that is why pastry chefs get fat. It's not the leftovers, it's the false starts. Either way. Another story we enjoyed reading, you enjoyed eating. Call it a victory.

Vaka Flaka said...

Ok. I've done it. It took me over a month after I found this wonderful blog to read every post in order up to yesterday. I know it's a bit anal, but after I read my first post which was sometime in mid December, I was hooked and knew I couldn't miss a single entry. I love to cook and reading your posts every day when I actually should be working (shhh..) inspires me to run home and make a great meal. I know these must take some serious time for you to write, but believe me, your efforts are mucho appreciated. I especially loved this last effort. I was in Oregon recently and walked right by voodoo donuts but didn't go in and now I'm kicking myself. Shame on me. Shame on me. ;-) Thanks again for your efforts. I can't wait until your next post. No really. I mean it. Get busy. Vai vai subito.

biskuit said...

Vaka Flaka: Voodoo Donuts = overrated. Cool, crazy, fun, but overrated. So don't kick yourself too hard. Now if you're ever in New York and skip the Doughnut Plant...

CCBoston said...

Absolutely hysterical. I also thought they were fried chicken legs, as I scrolled down because I hadn't read the venison post yet, and couldn't figure out why they were in a post about coffee and doughnuts.

Well, at least it wasn't as bad as the crab or lobster fiascos! No lasting mental or physical traumas.

Diana said...

Oh, yum... You've inspired me to make this for dessert tomorrow night. Unfortunately, I can't get my hands on any coffee extract. Anyone know a grocery that carries it? Might have to put it off and just make the doughnuts

No worries -- I think your doughnuts look more nut-like than regular doughnuts.

Champagne & Meatloaf said...

Yes - Fritters!

greedygirl said...

I've just discovered your blog and I totally love it! Even though as a Brit I haven't a clue about some of the cultural references (I always thought Sandra Lee was a character from Grease).

What are we going to when you've cooked your way through Thomas Keller? May I suggest you turn your hand to Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck fame (triple-fried chips and snail porridge - yum!).

velvetpdx said...

Just when I think that, despite my love for you, that I'm going to hate you for your incredible endless ability to cook and write beautifully, you redeem yourself wholeheartedly by effing something up in the most magnificent way! I loved it!! And by the way, Liz, no offense, but if you're beignets looked like that, you must have ended up at the Church's chicken next door to Cafe du Monde. Sorry. And biskuit, don't knock Voodoo Donuts. Even though you can no longer get the Nyquil donut.

Anna Banana said...

Carol, you and the French Laundry cookbook are making me a more adventurous cook! I felt a need to clarify some broth last night and learned from the FL lobster consomme recipe that an egg white will work. I didn't go as far as making the Clarification Raft though. I want to see how you do it first. Thanks for your amazing blog, love it.

Alice Q. said...

They do look just like beignets! Thanks for a great early-morning laugh.

Carol Blymire said...

All: thanks for your added hilarity, and for the tips on how to do these the RIGHT way. Practice will make perfect, and I have absolutely NO objections to giving this another shot (or ten). I'm sure none of my friends will mind a dough-not or doughnut delivery as I work on these some more.

And that semifreddo is ridonkulously good. Sorry, sometimes I think I'm Snoop or Chingy or something. The semifreddo was delicious, and I'll make those in many, many different flavors for YEARS to come. It's so easy!