Pastry chef offers tips for treat
menorah that holds nine candles, spin four-sided tops called dreidels, and eat lots and lots of foods fried in oil to symbolize the holiday’s miracle.
Preparing doughnuts at home might seem intimidating, but it really isn’t. And the reward of a warm, fresh, airy doughnut plump with jam or pastry cream is just too enticing. To improve my doughnut-making skills, I consulted with Janina O’Leary, executive pastry chef at Trace Restaurant. O’Leary’s weekday Drunken Doughnuts — served with a trio of vodka whipped cream, tequila chile fudge sauce, and bourbon dulce de leche dipping sauces – and weekend Stuffed Doughnuts — filled with Nutella and vanilla bean pastry cream — are so popular that customers insist they stay on the menu. Even if they aren’t on the menu, O’Leary confides, “You can get the doughnuts any time by request.”
Before her current gig at Trace, the Del Rio native earned her chops as a graduate of the French Culinary Institute with a Grand Diploma in Pastry Arts and stints as pastry chef in famous New York restaurants such as Daniel, Per Se, Del Posto and her own bakery and sandwich shop, the Village Tart. O’Leary had more than a few doughnut-making techniques up her sleeve to share, plus her own amazing recipe for Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream.
In a saucepan, warm the milk and add scraped vanilla bean and salt over heat until it comes to a boil. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, flour and cornstarch until the mixture is completely smooth.
Once the milk is steaming, add half of it, whisking constantly, to the egg mixture. Add the milk and eggs back into the hot milk, continue stirring, and heat it for 1-2 minutes, until the custard reaches 170 degrees on a digital thermometer and is thick. (Pastry cream will continue to thicken once removed from the heat.) Remove from the heat, chill before filling pastry. a lot in the kitchen with the doughnut recipe and technique,” O’Leary says. “We make the dough a day ahead and let it proof (rise). Allow the dough to rise at least two hours in a nice warm environment. But not too warm; in the 80s is about right. It’s great to make the dough a day in advance and refrigerate overnight.”
This allows the glutens to relax for the lightest, most tender results. The next day, roll out the dough when it is nice and cold. “That way you don’t have to add too much flour, so it doesn’t become dry,” she says.
After rising for another hour, the cut-out dough should be at room temperature to fry. “The dough should be really soft and light to the touch and requires gentle handling,” O’Leary says.
Getting the right oil temperature is crucial. Use a candy or oven thermometer to measure the oil temperature. “Fry at 350 degrees. We notice that if you fry higher, you get too much of a skin on the outside and don’t get the fluffy inside. At 325 degrees, the doughnuts are too greasy and too heavy,” O’Leary says.
Even though sufganiyot need to be fried right before serving, these delectable treats can be made part of a Hanukkah party easily. Prepare the dough and fillings the day before. A few hours before the party, roll out and cut the dough, leaving it for the final rise during dinner. Fill disposable pastry bags with seedless jam, Nutella and pastry cream. To fill and minimize mess, stand each pastry bag tip down in a tall glass with the plastic bag stretched over the lip of the glass. When filled, pull plastic off the glass and twist to seal. Set back into the glass between use.
Hot oil and kids aren’t the best combination. Let the kids spin the dreidel and eat a few pieces of Hanukkah gelt (chocolate coins) while the adults converge on the kitchen for the big fry. When the sufganiyot are cool enough to handle, call your helpers back into the kitchen to squirt in the fillings, sprinkle the sugar, and EAT the warm sufganiyot. Plate optional. Dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in the water. Let sit for 10 minutes. Put 3 cups flour in the bowl of a food processor equipped with a steel blade. Add the dissolved yeast, milk, whole egg, yolk, salt, lemon zest and the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar. Process until blended. Add the butter and process until the dough becomes sticky yet elastic. Add some or all of the remaining 1/2 cup flour if needed.
Remove the dough to a greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for at least two hours. For best results, prepare the dough the day before. Cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray or a bit of butter. Place the dough in the refrigerator overnight. It will continue to rise.
Dust a pastry board with flour. Roll out the cold dough to a 1/2-inch thickness. Using the top of a glass or a biscuit cutter, cut into rounds about 2 inches in diameter. Place rounds on a baking sheet that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Cover tightly with plastic wrap that also has been sprayed lightly with cooking spray and let rise one hour. Dough should be really soft and light to the touch. Pour 2 inches of oil into a heavy pot and heat to 350 degrees. Drop the doughnuts into the oil. Fry a few at a time and don’t overcrowd. Cook about 1-3 minutes on each side or until light golden brown, turning to fry both sides. Drain on paper towels or a wire rack until cool enough to handle. Using a pastry bag filled with the jam, insert the tip of the pastry bag into the middle of the doughnut. Squeeze out the jam into the doughnut until you feel it about double in weight. Dust the tops of the sufganiyot with confectioners’sugar or roll them in granulated sugar. Serve immediately. Makes about 24 doughnuts.
These traditional doughnuts can easily be made at home.
Contact Andrea Abel at 4221915. Chef Janina O’Leary is the executive pastry chef for Trace at W Austin and the creator of Drunken Doughnuts.
The fillings can be any type of tasty sweet, including Nutella.