Doughnuts are fried in deep fat rather than baked in an oven as are most other bakery products. They are related to another product, fritters, which are made with a soft, rich dough containing pieces of fruit (apples) or vegetables (corn), dropped by spoonfuls into hot fat. An apocryphal story relates that a nineteenth-century Yankee ship captain loved apple fritters but had trouble holding onto them when at the ship's wheel during high seas. His cook, anxious to please, got the idea of making the fritters with a hole in the center so the captain could stick them on the handspokes of the wheel during busy moments. Although there is a certain implausibility about this story, the fact remains that doughnuts, in one form or another, are extremely popular sweet snacks or desserts.

There are three basic types of doughnuts: cake doughnuts, yeast-raised doughnuts, and French crullers. Cake doughnuts are chemically leavened, yeast-raised doughnuts use a sweet yeasted dough, and French crullers are steam leavened. These will be discussed separately.

Cake Doughnuts

Batters for this product are a leaner, lower-sugar version of layer cake batters. A typical regular cake doughnut mix contains (on 100% flour basis) about 40% sugar and 13% nonemulsified shortening. Other ingredients frequently found in doughnut mixes are defatted soy flour, nonfat dry milk, potato starch, and dried egg yolk. These ingredients give a tender eating quality to the finished product, as well as limiting fat absorption during frying. The protein ingredients decrease fat absorption, while potato starch helps retain moisture in the finished doughnut and gives a longer shelf life. Lecithin is sometimes used to enhance the wetting of the dry mix during batter preparation, and occasionally monoglyceride is added to make a more tender final product. Other emulsifiers are not used, as they increase fat absorption without conferring any quality enhancement.

Most cake doughnuts are produced by extruding (or depositing) the batter from a reservoir directly into the hot fat fryer. Bench-cut doughnuts are made using the same recipe, but with a reduced amount of water. This gives a dough (rather than a batter) that can be rolled out on the workbench and cut into rings using a doughnut cutter. This process takes much more hand labor than depositing and is usually used only in home baking or in small, traditional doughnut shops.

In commercial bakeries and most doughnut shops, doughnut batter is deposited through a cutter into the frying fat. Proper batter viscosity is extremely important to attain uniformity of flow through the cutter and uniform spread in the fryer. Batter viscosity is governed by the amount of water used in mixing (usually about 70% based on flour, or 38-44% based on total dry mix weight) and the way that water is partitioned between flour, sugar, soy flour, and the other ingredients present. Sometimes high-viscosity gums (guar, locust bean, sodium carboxymethyl-cellulose) are added to the dry mix at levels of 0.1 to 0.25%. The gum helps give uniform viscosity from batch to batch and also acts as a water binder that reduces fat absorption and lengthens shelf life.

Leavening in cake doughnuts is by 1.5% soda (flour basis) and 2.1% sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP). The fast-reacting grades of SAPP are required, from SAPP-37 to SAPP-43 (the fastest grade). When the doughnut is first deposited in the hot (190°C, 375°F) frying fat, the ring of dough sinks and is supported on a bottom plate. Leavening begins, and after 3 to 7 s the doughnut rises to the surface and frying of the first side commences. As heat penetrates the dough piece it slowly expands; after the first side is fried, the doughnut is flipped and the second side is fried. During this time expansion continues, but the diameter of the doughnut has been fixed because the first side has set (the starch has gelatinized and proteins have denatured). Thus, second-stage expansion tends to be into the center hole and the typical star is formed (or the doughnut balls and fills the center hole if conditions are incorrect).

When the finished doughnut is cut crosswise, three regions are readily seen. The central core is surrounded by a more porous leavened ring, but this porosity tends to be greater on the second side than the first. If the core is inadequately leavened, it will be dense and gummy, and the doughnut will not have a good eating quality. Part of the art of the doughnut formulator is in choosing leavening acids that strike the best compromise to achieve moderate porosity of the two sides along with at least some opening up of the core.

Yeast-Raised Doughnuts

These doughnuts are made using a rather lean, sweet dough. After full development of the dough, it is sheeted, cut into rings, and the doughnuts are proofed for 30 to 45 min. The raised doughnuts are then introduced into the fryer, where they are fried for about 1 min on each side. (Because they are already leavened, they float on the fat throughout the frying cycle.) They are then removed, the surface fat is drained, and the fried doughnuts are (most often) glazed with a simple sugar/water glaze. If they are to be iced or otherwise coated, they are usually cooled before these operations are carried out.

Yeast-raised doughnuts can be made in many different shapes. In addition to rings, the dough is also frequently cut into strips and twisted into various fanciful shapes before proofing and frying. In the form of rectangles about 2 by 4 in., they are iced and topped with chopped nuts or fruit to make Long Johns. In the form of discs, the fried piece can be filled with jelly or custard. This product, filled with raspberry-flavored jelly, is known as a Berliner in Austria and Germany. (This explains why the Germans roared with laughter when, in 1963, President Kennedy proclaimed, "Ich bin ein Berliner." He was telling them that he was a jelly-filled doughnut.)

French Crullers

These doughnuts are made using eclair dough (see the next section). The dough is deposited in a ring shape onto a sheet of parchment paper, and after a few moments to allow it to set, the parchment is dipped into the frying fat and the rings of dough are loosened from the paper. The dough can also be deposited using a specially shaped cutter that produces a fluted surface on the ring of dough. The dough piece expands to a much greater extent than does cake doughnut batter, and the finished piece is much less dense than other doughnuts. It is frequently glazed with a butter/rum flavored glaze.

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