Donuts that understand the real reason for the season.

When I was little, I watched the Donut Man a lot. He had a song… “Life with Jesus, is like a donut, like a donut, like a donut… Life without Jesus, is like a donut… there’s a hole in the middle of your heart!”
It’s a super good song.

KCAM had their Share-a-Thon a few weeks ago. During it, they gave away prizes for answering trivia questions. Some people didn’t come pick up their prizes, so what was left after all this time got to go home with people who work at the station. Sooo… Jonathan, knowing me well, brought home this:

The book sat innocently on top of my microwave with my other recipe books for about a week. But then, The Inevitable happened.
Last night, we watched a movie… and one little scene was of people eating donuts. It triggered something, and Jonathan got a puppy dog look on his face and reminded me of how much he loves chocolate donuts. So off I went to the kitchen to try my hand at donut-making.

People, it was scary. The most basic of basic recipes was incredibly detailed, and said things like “Replace paddle attachment with dough hook, set mixer to low setting, and add one-inch chunks of butter one piece at a time until there are no more lumps. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough pulls away from bowl. Turn mixer to medium setting, and add flour until the dough is soft but not sticky.”

See? DETAILS. I don’t like details. I like the recipes that say things like “mix all ingredients in bowl. Bake.” Sometimes I just do that even if the recipe has more specific instructions. But something told me that that wouldn’t work in this case.

But, not to be deterred by the intricacy of the instructions, I put on my apron and set to work. I decided to try a “basic baked raised donut” with a chocolate glaze. Baked, because:
A. I don’t like frying things
B. I don’t have that much oil
C. maybe it wouldn’t kill us quite as fast as fried donuts.

The dough was kinda weird while it was in the bowl, but then I dumped it out to knead it, and was so incredibly excited to discover that it was the most beautiful dough in the world.

It was indeed soft but not sticky. Pliable, mushy, and wonderful to work with. Better than play-dough. I wanted to play with it all night. But I resisted. And, per instructions, I put it in a lightly greased mixing bowl, covered it with a “damp tea-towel” (what exactly is a tea towel?), and set out to put it in a warm place.
The problem is that we live in Alaska, and warm places are hard to find. Jonathan suggested I put it in the boiler room. Here’s a fun tidbit:
I’m scared of the boiler room.

It has a giant… machine… in it that makes noises. The floor is gross. The room IS warm, and damp, and with all the buttons and levers and pipes that fill the room, it feels like an explosion is constantly imminent. But I figured my donut dough could survive in there for an hour. So, I tentatively propped my bowl up on a little metal yellow box in there and prayed that nothing would catch on fire.

After an hour, I went to check on the ball of dough that was supposed to have doubled in size.
It had, in fact, NOT double in size. It just sat there, the exact same size it had been an hour ago. I’m not sure why it didn’t raise. True, the recipe called for “1 cup of whole milk, heated to 115 degrees Fahrenheit” and what I actually used was “1 cup of 2% milk, heated in the microwave for 2 minutes and then prayed over.” I don’t know if that’s what did it… maybe it wasn’t quite the right temperature for the yeast. Maybe it was because I used a dish towel instead of a tea towel. Maybe my mixer’s “medium setting” was not “medium” compared to the rest of the world’s mixers. Whatever the case, my dough did not raise.
Hungry and wanting donuts, though, I decided to go ahead with the process.

I rolled out the still-beautiful ball of dough, and then realized that I don’t have a real donut-cutter. Oh well, who really needs their donuts to have holes in them? Christmas-themed donuts would be good, and they can be the Jesus-loving donuts that the Donut Man wished for.

So, out came my handy-dandy Christmas cookie cutters that my mom sent in the mail.

Once they were safely distributed on my parchment-paper lined pan, I dutifully covered them with plastic and waited, once more, for them to “double in size.” And, once more, I returned to them after the allotted time and found that they had not changed sizes at all. Oh well.

The very descriptive recipe book said to bake them at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, “until the donuts are a light golden brown, 5-8 minutes, being very careful not to overbake them.” So, once my oven had reached 400 degrees, into the oven they went. And yet another perplexing thing happened. I checked them at five minutes… they were not close to done. At eight minutes, they were still nowhere near golden brown. At ten minutes, they still weren’t done. At twelve minutes, I cut one in half to see if it was baking. It was… sort of. I was afraid to overbake them, since the book said to be “VERY careful,” but I figured I’d take a chance. After a total of seventeen minutes in the oven, I was delighted to see that they were, in fact, light golden brown, and baked through. I pulled them out of the oven, spread them out on the table, and let Jonathan put butter on them while I followed with the chocolate glaze I made while they were baking.

They were no longer recognizable as Christmas-themed donuts, but I was willing to give that feature up in exchange for the chocolate.

And, surprise… they actually tasted good, despite their inability to raise or bake properly. Fresh out of the oven, they were incredible. Heated up in the microwave this morning, they were still good.

I’ve decided that this is something I want to perfect. I need a thermometer to use for the milk, and I guess I need to buy whole milk. But there are tons of recipes in this book for some pretty cool donuts… everything from chai donuts to margarita donuts. I really want to try the chai… but they call for cardamom. What on earth is cardamom? And, if you’ve ever made donuts, do you have any tips? Can the dough really tell the difference between a tea towel and a dishtowel??

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6 comments

  1. Could it be the altitude affecting the rising and baking? That would be my first guess. After all, you ARE in Alaska. Just blame your surroundings, not your skills 😉 Maybe there is a way to alter the recipes to take that into account. Like adjusting the ovens in Aldersgate to bake 5 degrees cooler than the instructions say 🙂

    1. Whoa, good thought. That had not occurred to me… though, you know how on cake mixes and stuff they give you specific instructions once you reach a certain altitude? We aren’t high enough for those to affect me, so I wouldn’t think we’d necessarily be high enough to affect this. I don’t know, though. Good thinking. =)
      And, PS, here I have to adjust my oven, too… throughout the whole baking process I have to keep an eye on it, since it’s gas. It’s very tedious… it always reminds me of you & Kelsey baking. =D

  2. Cardamon is a wonderful spice!!! I make chai with whole cardamon seeds (they are green on the outside with tiny black seeds inside) I really like the smell. You can purchase the ground cardamon at a grocery store – but whole is the best. 🙂 I’m trying a new recipe, Persian Love Cake, for a tea later this week – it uses the tiny black seeds in the cake mix. I’m glad you are having fun baking, I enjoy hearing of your adventures 🙂 – enjoy using the cardamon.

  3. Lacey, the 2% milk shouldn’t have anything to do with it. I would think it was more the temperature of the milk. And it still might not have been warm enough in the boiler room. I have already put my dough in the oven – put on a low heat for just a few minutes and then shut it off and put the dough in. My dough definitely goes faster here in the summer than the winter. I applaud your efforts – sounds good right now!! — with my cup of coffee that I just had.

  4. HI Lacey, I stumbled onto your blog and thought I would chime in. First, I have not noticed the altitude affecting us. I am pretty sure we are below 1000 feet. I would definitely get a thermometer – that was most likely the problem. If you miced the milk for 2 minutes it was probably almost boiling 🙂 115 is not very warm. If you need a little cardamom come on over and get some, I have it. (You could also borrow my candy thermometer – I just test 115 on my wrist – it feels like a hot bath…I bake bread a lot, so have learned it by feel!) Anyhow, call me for that cardamom…also I have tons of yarn that you can go through! (Our number is 5690.)

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