When I got back from Scotland couple of weeks ago I was a bit overwhelmed by the heat in my kitchen and baking was definitely not top of my priority list. But then I heard that the “cronut" craze had reached Delhi and I just had to try one. Now, I’m not easily overwhelmed by baked goods (I can happily snack on deep-fried Mars bars, for instance) but this croissant/doughnut hybrid is just too much, in fact I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the most horrible confections I’ve ever tasted. I know that at the Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York where the cronut originated, queues start to form 2 hours before the shop opens and customers are limited to two each but I managed to eat about a quarter of one and felt sick. In fact, just remembering the layer upon layer of heavy deep-fried dough is making me feel queasy. But it did make me long for either a good croissant or a good doughnut not a mad mash-up of the two. Especially a doughnut. The mass-produced ones at the global “Donut" chains just wouldn’t do; I needed a freshly-baked jammy doughnut like the ones the local baker in my home town used to make. And, just like that, I was back in the kitchen.

I’ve never made doughnuts before so I had to research recipes. I started, as I always do with anything involving yeast, with Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery only to find the grande old dame in an unhelpful mood. “Frankly," she says, “doughnuts are not for me. I have never made them, and haven’t eaten them since school days. Nowadays I avoid deep fried food of all kinds." I have no such fear of deep-fried food so I moved on to more contemporary bakers. I tried out a couple of recipes to get the proportions right and noticed that the dough used is very wet and tricky to handle. I had to watch an online tutorial by French pastry chef Richard Bertinet (his doughnuts of course are called “beignets") a couple of times to get the hang of it. It was worth it though, the doughnuts were perfect—slightly crisp and sugary on the outside; fluffy and jammy on the inside.

Doughnuts turned out to be the ideal thing to make in kitchens that are as hot and humid as mine still is—the monsoon is yeast’s favourite season. And while we wait for the cooler weather, any recipe that involves short bursts of activity (I like to think of it as an intense workout in a sauna) and long periods of rest is a winner in my book.

Doughnuts

Makes 20

Ingredients

500g flour (bread flour if you have it, but mine were perfectly good with maida or refined flour)

2x7g packets of instant yeast

1 tsp salt

50g caster sugar

60g unsalted butter

2 eggs

250g milk

About 100g caster sugar for rolling the doughnuts in

Half a jar of strawberry jam

Sunflower oil for frying

Method:

Put the milk and butter in a small pan and heat to melt the butter. Leave to cool till lukewarm, then add the eggs. Put the flour, yeast, salt and sugar into a large bowl. Pour in the milk/butter/egg mixture and mix everything together with your hands to make a very sticky dough. Tip the dough out on to the work surface (don’t put any flour on it—the dough is supposed to be wet and floppy) and knead until the dough forms a smooth rounded dough. To do this, gather the dough into a pile, put your hands under the dough, one on each side, lift the dough and pull it towards you. Slap the dough on to the work surface then fold the end that you’re holding back down over the dough on the work surface. Repeat this until the dough is, as Monsieur Bertinet says, “like a baby’s bottom"—it will gradually stop sticking messily to your hands and work surface. It should hold together in a ball and be very stretchy. This could take about 10-15 minutes by which time you’ll be dripping with sweat but hang in there—you’re just about to sit down with a glass of nimbu pani (lemonade) for an hour. Put your dough into a clean bowl; cover then leave for an hour (you can also leave it in the fridge overnight—in fact the batch I made following refrigeration was, if anything, nicer). Either way, the dough should have at least doubled in size—it could be positively crawling out of the bowl if your kitchen is very steamy. Tip the dough gently on to the work surface, pat it down then divide into 20 pieces. Roll each one between your palms to form a smooth ball then place them, widely spaced, on a large baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave to rise again for about an hour.

To fry the doughnuts, heat the oil—about 4 inches deep—in a large pan, to about 170 degrees Celsius. Gently put in few doughnuts at a time—leave for 30 seconds then flip them over. Repeat this a few times until the doughnuts are a rich golden brown. Take the doughnuts out and drain on some kitchen paper tower and then roll them in the caster sugar. When the doughnuts have cooled down enough to handle, make a little slit in the sides and spoon or pipe in about a teaspoon of strawberry jam. Doughnuts are best eaten very fresh.

Pamela Timms is a Delhi-based journalist and food writer. She blogs at Eatanddust.com

Also Read | Pamela’s previous Lounge columns

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