Monday, December 11, 2006

Deep Frying Homemade Donuts in a Hotel Room on Thanksgiving

I had deep frying homemade donuts on my mind ever since I started out at Chicago's O'Hare airport to jet to Thanksgiving 2006 at the Grand Canyon with my family. My brother, my dad, our pal John and I were about to spend three days hiking in the Grand Canyon (my photos, my brother's photos) while Mom took tours of the South Rim. When we rolled in to Phoenix and some of us went to REI for camp stove fuel and last minute gear, I walked across the parking lot to another store to buy a deep fryer.

My donut daydreams had kicked off at the airport newsstand when I saw a photo of coffee-glazed and sugared donuts in the December 2006 issue of Gourmet magazine. After we arrived Phoenix, when we were enjoying tofu skillets for brunch with our Phoenix family at the Mandala Tea Room, I was on the phone getting a vegan donut recipe emailed to me. We drove to Flagstaff, stopped at Macy's European Coffeehouse, Bakery and Vegetarian Restaurant for vegan treats -including some for the following day's breakfast, and then continued on to the Grand Canyon. Our hike was nothing short of spectacular and very soothing. The canyon gave us new mind-blowing views with every turn. And the canyon let us rest; camp bedtime came when darkness fell, about 5 p.m. When we came up from the hike, we had a night to rest before setting of to make donuts -and the rest of our vegan Thanksgiving dinner- in Flagstaff.

We had rented a hotel suite with a kitchen in Flagstaff for Thanksgiving. After three days in the canyon, we drove to Flagstaff, stopped at the grocery store, and cooked up a feast in our hotel. It was a vegan Thanksgiving of tofu roulade jammed with savory stuffing, roasted kabocha squash, green beans with crispy fried onions, and -of course- the donuts.

Here's a rewrite of the recipe that was passed along to me.

Mix and set aside to proof for 10 minutes:
2 packs active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup tepid (but not hot) water

In a large bowl, combine:
4 cups of spelt pastry flour or white flour
2 teaspoons salt

In a second bowl, combine:
1 cup soymilk
2 tablespoons potato or corn starch
1/3 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup margarine, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Add the yeast mixture to the second bowl.

Beat in the flour. If the dough isn't stiff, add more flour (up to about 1/2 cup) until it feels stiff but still sticky.

Cover the dough with a cloth and let it rise for an hour in a warm spot.

Cutting Shapes
Flour a surface to roll the dough on. Knead 15 to 30 strokes with a pinch or two of flour. Roll the dough about 1/4 inch thick and cut the donuts (but not the center whole) with a glass, cup or ring cutter.

Cover the donuts and let them rise in a warm spot until they have doubled in height, about 15 to 30 minutes; then cut out the centers. Meanwhile, start heating the oil.

Deep Frying
1 to 2 liters soybean, corn or canola oil

If you have a deep fryer, heat the oil according to its instructions. If not, heat the oil in a deep pan on medium for about 20 minutes; if the oil smokes, it is too hot. Always attend the hot oil and keep it far away from any water to avoid fire or an injury that could at the very least ruin the deep frying experience. Drop a small piece of dough in the hot oil. If the oil is ready, the dough will quickly brown and rise. If the dough burns, turn down the heat; if the dough doesn't darken and rise within an minute, turn up the heat and test again after a few minutes.

Slowly and carefully put the doughnuts in the oil using a spoon. When each donut's bottom has nicely browned, carefully turn it over. After both sides have browned, remove each donut and sit it down on a paper or cloth towel.

Stir on low heat to combine and dissolve:
1/2 cup sugar or powdered sugar
enough soy milk or water to absorb the sugar and create a slightly runny mixture
dash vanilla or almond extract

Dunk the donuts in the glaze, or spread the glaze on. Enjoy!

Let the oil cool completely before emptying the fryer or the pot. Then pour the used oil into a container to save or discard. Make sure not pour oil down the drain; it might cause a terrible jam. Fashion a funnel from rolled paper if needed.

The next day long after the wine wore off, it became soberingly obvious just how many donuts at least one of us had eaten. We headed to Macy's for some very tasty soup and sandwiches. Then, before heading back to Phoenix to chill out before flying home, we shipped my new deep fryer so I would have it back home.

Our deep frying could only have been more epic had we done it during our stay in a Phoenix motel before the canyon. Our attempts at sleeping there were incredibly troubled by excessive noise from a raucous drinking crowd occupying all but three rooms of the motel with tailgating filling the parking lot, consolidating their position outside one of our rooms. We could have taken such frying just outside our door.

On my first day back in Chicago, I got a call from my brother who had flown back to his home the day before. He had just bought a deep fryer, and was in the grocery store asking what ingredients to buy.

photos: Jon and Chris B.


Blogger Rosie said...

"an injury that could at the very least ruin the deep frying experience..." I love it. Safety first... then extremely fun deliciousness! Simran Bakehouse is waiting for the donut party at the House of Bell!

10:24 PM  

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