Sometimes, when you want to cook something huge, something unusual, something daunting in your very own kitchen…. like a doughnut (in your very own kitchen you say? A DOUGHNUT?) it’s great to get a friend on board to help out. Many hands and all that… or perhaps it’s just more fun to gape at the wonderment of creating such a creature as a doughnut with someone else. My friend was Fran, who, coincidentally, is a top notch baker. Lucky me (it’s not a coincidence).
I happen to have deep attachments to these particular doughnuts, not just physically (because the majority of them are now residing in my stomach), but because the recipe book they are taken from was written by a dear friend of mine, Tess Lister. A Handful of Flour: Recipes from Shipton Mill is a book for bakers and chefs alike, for those with cooking experience, and those who haven’t seen the inside of an oven. Tess’ recipe writing helps you understand exactly what is needed from the recipe, along with tips and tricks to help you grasp the technical side of things. Neither Fran nor I had never before attempted to make doughnuts, and following Tess’ recipe we got this here result. Now I’d call that a success:
If you’ve ever thought about baking bread, this book will, quite literally, teach you how. I’m lucky enough to have been involved with some of the bread recipe testing and I can tell you first hand (my hip measurement will back me up) that these bread recipes make the most wonderful, crusty, airy creations. Try the baguette. That’s all I’m saying, just try it. You didn’t think you could make baguettes yourself? Well you can now. A Handful of Flour will teach you about the flours, the methods, the technical terms you didn’t know existed and will help you understand why bread is the food of life and why Michael Pollen said “You can live on bread and water, nothing else.” Shipton Mill, the flour mill belonging to Tess’ family, where she grew up, has shaped Tess’ love for food and has given her the most wonderful knowledge of flour. If you would like to own some beautiful and unique recipes to use your flour in, this book is the one for you. Or if you just want to make epic doughnuts.
Doughnuts with Coconut Custard
from A Handful of Flour: Recipes from Shipton Mill
Quantity: Makes 8 doughnuts around 8 – 10cm in size
Timings: Make the night before if you want to rest the dough for the full period, or give yourself a few hours before you want to have the finished product. We did 1.5 hours resting and the overall cooking time was about 2.5 hours.
Kitchen Stuff: baking tray, stand mixer or magimix with dough hook (or strong hands), piping bag & nozzle (or zip lock/freezer bag with the corner snipped off)
For the Coconut Custard
150ml canned coconut milk
1/2 tsp vanilla powder (we used vanilla extract)
4 medium egg yolks
1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar
2 1/2 – 3tsp cornflour
For the Doughnuts
250g strong white flour
7g dried yeast (go for a sachet of instant yeast)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar, plus more for rolling your doughnuts in
50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg, beaten
roughly 1.5 litres of oil for deep-frying, such as vegetable oil or sunflower oil
1. COCONUT CUSTARD: Tess says feel free to use other fillings – e.g jam, vanilla custard, rhubarb custard… but the coconut is delish and a bit different! Place the milk, coconut milk and vanilla in a small pan and bring gently to just under the boil. In a bowl, combine the egg yolks and sugar. Gradually pour the hot milk over the eggs and sugar, stirring constantly. Mix the cornflour with 1 tbsp water and add to the custard. Pour it back into the pan and return to a gentle heat. Keep stirring, making sure nothing sticks to the sides or the bottom, until the custard has thickened to the desired consistency for the filling. You want it quite thick! Remove from the heat, leave to cool, then transfer to a bowl, cover with cling film and place it in the fridge to firm up.
2. DOUGHNUT KNEADING: Place your flour, yeast, salt and sugar together in a large bowl and mix by hand to ensure the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Add the butter and egg, and combine, then gradually add the water until you have a soft, elastic dough. Knead the dough using an electric stand mixer with a dough hook (or a magimix dough hook as we used) for 5 – 10 minutes (it will take longer if you do this by hand) until the dough develops a smooth surface with a satiny sheen. Finish the dough off by kneading with your hands to gauge when it is ready to be rested in the fridge – it should be smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave it in the fridge for 8 – 12 hours, or overnight. Fran and I rested the dough for only an hour at this stage which had very good results, but the dough consistency will be improved with more resting.
3. DOUGHNUT ROLLING: Lightly oil a baking tray. Bring out the dough and allow it to come to room temperature. Shape the dough into 8 balls, rolling them with your hands. Flatten them slightly between your palms so that they are rounded discs, to help them cook thoroughly all the way through. Place on the baking tray, cover with a cloth and leave to rest at room temperature for 30 mins.
4. DOUGHNUT FRYING: About 5 minutes before you are ready to fry, heat the oil in a deep fat fryer or a large deep saucepan suitable for deep fat frying. Heat the oil to 160 degrees C (320F) (If a popcorn kernal pops in the oil, it is about 180/190 degrees C). You will have to monitor the oil to make sure it doesn’t get too hot. Use a metal slotted spoon to carefully lower the doughnuts in and out of the oil, making sure not to create any splashes. fry each doughnut until golden brown, turning it halfway through to ensure even cooking – this should take around 5 minutes or so per doughnut. They will expand in the oil, so fry them in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. if the oil gets too hot, your doughnuts may cook too quickly on the outside. This leads to cracking, where the outer edge firms up too quickly and the insides then force it to crack as they expand in the heat. If the oil starts to smoke, it is too hot and should not be used so remove from the heat immediately to cool.
5. SUGAR COATING & CUSTARD FILLING: Pour the caster sugar for tossing into a bowl, and roll the doughnuts in it as they come out of the fryer. Leave them on a wire rack to cool. Once they are cool, pipe in the coconut custard using a piping bag* fitted with a medium nozzle. Store in the fridge or a cool place to ensure the custard remains fresh. These are best devoured on day of making.
*If, alas, you have no piping bag, use a freezer or zip-lock bag with a tiny bit of the corner snipped off. Works a charm.