Sunday, August 4, 2013

Making Artisan Donuts with Chef Pagano

I *love* donuts.  The cake variety I'm not so crazy about.  But yeast donuts can chase away anything that ails me.

My donut epiphany came to me a few years after moving to NY.  I was walking along an otherwise nondescript street when I abruptly stopped in my tracks: just behind a glass storefront, pillowy donuts were slowly making their way down a conveyor belt.  I bounded into the shop.  Seconds later I was sinking my teeth into a yeast donut: it was light and airy; had a crust sweetened by a glaze dip; and on the inside, soft and chewy.

Mind you, it was only a Krispy Kreme donut, yet I hadn't had anything like it to date.  To me, the donut tasted like a little bit of heaven.  

That store soon closed down, so I took to making occasional stops at the coffee-and-donut cart just down the street from work for my donut fix (I'm almost embarrassed to admit this).  Then one day a friend took me to Donut Plant.  I was introduced to the world of "gourmet" donuts, and that's when everything changed.  If I wasn't hooked on donuts before, I certainly was now.

So I jumped at the chance to take an artisan donut class at the Institute of Culinary Education, taught by Chef Chad Pagano.  

Chef Pagano has all the hallmarks of a great instructor: he is knowledgeable, passionate, approachable, and patient.  Most of all, he is funny.  During the demonstrations he regaled us with stories of how he concocted the various recipes for the class.  With an air of excitement in the air, we set to work in teams of four.  We made both yeast and cake donuts, fillings galore (banana pastry cream, caramel, peanut butter spread), and some sprinkles and toppings, too (streusel crumb, candied bacon, chocolate glaze).  Assistants were on hand to help us out, yet Chef Pagano still went from station to station sharing tips, making gentle corrections, and doling out praise, all the while with his easy humor.  
Chef Pagano at work
cutting out donut rounds
scooping apple filling onto a donut circle

me, as happy as can be
Chef Pagano and our wonderful assistants for the evening
Each donut that we made was uniquely different, each a play on textures and flavors.  A yeast donut filled with a banana pastry cream and dipped in dark chocolate glaze (chewy, creamy, rich).  A cake donut with a maple bacon glaze (sweet and salty, and crunchy on top).  And my absolute favorite, the apple crumb pie yeast donut: a yeast donut stuffed with a baked apple filling, then glazed, and finally topped with a streusel crumb (dense, chewy, tart-sweet).  Divine!

Details on the donut course can be found here.

Apple Crumb Pie Donuts
Recipe by Chef-Instructor Chad Pagano, Institute of Culinary Education, NYC

7 ounces water
1 ounce whole milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 ounce active dry yeast
1 large egg, room temperature
3 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
16 ounces all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil for frying

Apple filling:

1 large tart apple
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Streusel crumb topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the donuts
Combine water and milk in a small pot and heat to 100° F.

Combine the warm water and milk, sugar, and yeast in a medium bowl, whisking to dissolve yeast. Set aside until the yeast is active and bubbling, about five minutes.

Pour the yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the remaining ingredients and knead with dough hook on low speed until dough comes together into a ball.

Turn dough into a slightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until almost doubled in size, about 1 hour.

For the filling
While the dough is proofing, make the filling.  Peel, core, and chop the apple in 1/2-inch cubes. Set aside in a bowl. 

Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add apples and sauté for about eight minutes, until the apples are semi-soft.

Add sugar, lemon juice, flour, and cinnamon to the apples and stir to combine. Cook until mixture begins to bubble, then turn heat to low and cook for another three minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer filling to a boil and let cool.

Preheat oven to 350° F.
For the streusel
In a food processor combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt and mix to combine.

Add butter and mix until crumbly and the butter pieces are very small.
Spread streusel mixture out on a sheet pan lined with parchment. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating sheet once halfway through and turning over the mixture with a fork, until the streusel is golden and dry. Remove from oven and let cool.
Punch donut dough down and roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/2-inch thick. Use a 3-inch donut cutter to cut as many donuts as possible on the first cutting. Place the donuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and let proof for 10 to 15 minutes. You can re-roll the remaining dough once cut out the remaining donuts and add them to the baking sheet.

Flatten out half of the donut circles slightly, so they are now bigger than 3 inches wide. Place a heaping tablespoon of the apple filling in the center of each circle. Place the remaining circles of dough over the filling, pressing down the edges slightly to seal. Use the same cutter to cut the donuts down to 3 inches again, sealing the edges together in the process.
Heat at least 2 inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot the to 350° F. Fry a few donuts at a time until cooked through and golden brown (about 1-1/2 minutes per side), flipping them over halfway through the cooking time. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on paper towel-covered wire rack to drain and cool slightly.

For the glaze
In a wide bowl mix together powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla, and whisk until smooth. Add more milk as necessary to make a liquid glaze.
Dip donuts first in glaze, and then in the streusel crumb topping to coat. Set on wire rack to dry.