It was one of those painful summer vacation visits to Kerala. I was about to turn 16 and spending the summer among relatives in god’s-own-forsaken land (or as it seemed to my action-crazed teenage eyes) wasn’t a prospect I was happy at. Away from home, school, Delhi and all my friends, in the maddening midst of hoards of relatives was the last place I wanted to be. Any of you who have had scores of smirking distant relatives walk up to you and ask, “do you know who I am”; only to be offended at your embarrassed but honest reply that you have no idea whatsoever (and frankly couldn’t care less) know the pain of those excruciating summers in the lap of beauty. The only significant silver lining was the impending delivery of my favourite aunt… That and the prospect of the yummy food ofcourse!
Never having seen a just born infant, I was curious about how this was going to play out. And just having learnt about the details of the reproductive processes at school, I couldn’t help but worry about how my aunt would cope with the mythical pain. Part scared and part dizzy with anticipation, I so clearly remember walking into her empty hospital room. She was already in the throes of labour, and had been taken to the delivery room, they said. It was going to take long they said. Silent, worried, excited..anticipation crept into inertia. My mother wanted to visit my grandmum who was admitted in the same hospital. On the pretext of a hurting boil in the foot, I refused to budge. It didn’t matter that all the grown ups were stepping out for some chore or the other. I insisted on waiting alone for my aunt to come back.
And so it was that when they brought the newly minted little Sheryl to her family, I was the only one there. Stunned that my secret prayers were heard, proud to represent our family and beyond delighted to be the first one to meet her. As the nurse reluctantly left the pair of us alone, time slowed down to a stand still. Nestled silently in my arms, was the tiniest little person I had ever seen. Big eyes that were almost open to the spanking new world, petal soft little fingers and toes, she was so so tiny, even baby sounded too large, too old a word for her. As I held her in my arms and stared wondrously at her, I couldn’t believe this fragile moving doll that looked like it would shatter on touching was a real living human who would one day talk, laugh, fight, love, get angry, run (nag the hell put of me to play party games)… a fully functional, legitimate person. She was a miracle. And so it is, that 18 years ago, shut away from the world in that silent, sanitized hospital room, in those moments that I stole, Sheryl etched herself into my life .
Is it any wonder then, that the tiny little thing that has now grown into a 5’8″ tall xavierite and forensic sciences student can bully me into making whatever she wants to eat? Between her and her elder sister Meryl, they are now my ears, nose, tastebuds and training manual for untrendy cool-th, sitcom marathons, party games, memes, new age lingo and must-be-owned junk food. As my chief tasters and weapons of mass food distribution, they are both often my inspiration as well as my target audience. So, the other day, when I got dragged by them to a mad-over-donuts outlet and watched them roll their eyes in pleasure and sigh as they downed the vile, oversweet, utterly synthetic tasting rings of dough, I was shocked and appalled. So much for all the carefully honed culinary experiences I was trying to create. As I caught them giggling at my aghast expression, I realised that this was infact, their long standing secret affair. Clearly, in my capacity as the local parent, I had to do something. It was my responsibility. I couldn’t possibly allow them to live in a college coloured bubble that had them tucking away copious numbers of the plasticky pastry all the while thinking this was acceptable food. After all they are almost my progeny.
Little did I know I was just falling prey to their plans of making me cook up doughnuts. I wasn’t really giving in I said. I was just doing my duty of showing them what was real food and what was not. Yes, I would make doughnuts. No I would not love them. I was more grown up than that. I had a more sophisticated palate. Sure, homemade doughnuts would be way better than the chemical flavoured MOD stuff they were hooked to, but they were still only doughnuts…
I am sure you can figure how this played out. OH MY GOD, how I ate my words. What a revelation it was, these doughnuts. I am at once reluctant and proud to say that these are actually one of the most amazing things I have made this year. My first time making yeasted doughnuts has changed my soul and allegiance. Why did nobody tell me that fresh, warm doughnuts are such a thing of joy! A thin crisp outside shell, light as feather inside, these rings of joy are what dreams are made of. Hot out of the oil, glazed with this awesome milky glaze or oozing the beautiful velvety cream; both ways, these are so so moreish. As I fried and Sheryl glazed, there was far more in our tummy than on the plate, but this was the most fun I had bingeing in a long time. I am not going to reveal how many I ate that day. That would be telling. Let’s just say, it wasn’t anywhere nearly enough.
Only enough to teach me to quit some of that food snobbery. Yep, child is the father of man. Or woman.
- 3.25 tsp instant yeast or 4 tsp active dry
- ¼ cup (60ml) water luke warm
- 1⅛ cups (265ml) milk
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons(85g) sugar
- ¼teaspoon teaspoons salt
- 2 eggs (remove 1 tablespoon
- ¼ cup (56g) butter
- 3¾ cups (470g) all-purpose flour plus more for dusting while rolling
- oil for frying
- ¼ cup (56g) butter
- 1½ cups sugar
- 1⅛ teaspoons vanilla
- 3 -4 tablespoons condensed milk (may need a few tablespoons regular milk to thin out the glaze)
- 2 cups half-and-half (I used 1 cup Amul cream and 1 cup whole milk)
- ½ cup sugar
- Pinch salt if using unsalted butter
- 5 large egg yolks
- 3 tbsp. cornstarch
- 4 tbsp. butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
- THE DOUGH. Proof the yeast by adding it to the warm water. Mix and rest. Bring the milk to just under a boil and let cool. ( I have seen this step in many of my favourite bread recipes and now gather that the reason you scald the milk is because regular milk has an enzyme in it that will kill the yeast. Killing the enzyme, helps the bread rise better.) Combine the hot milk with butter and stir till the butter melts in. This should help bring down the milks temperature as well. If required, wait till the milk is just about luke warm. Now add the sugar, salt, eggs, butter and 1.5 cups (188gm) flour. Beat with an electric mixer, on low for 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat further on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. If you are doing this with a whisk, or wooden spoon, beat with a strong hand for 5 minute.
- Stir in remaining flour until smooth and combined through. Cover and let rise until double, (took me the full 60 minutes, but this depends on the yeast and the weather). Getting a good rise will help get you light and fluffy doughnuts.
- SHAPING. After the dough has risen, turn dough onto a well floured surface; roll around lightly to coat with flour. Gently roll dough ½-inch thick with floured rolling pin. Cut with a round cookie cutter or steel glass rim. You can also use bottle caps for the inside holes. Just experiment till you feel you have the sizes you want. Separate donuts and holes, as they take different frying times (but are equally delicious). Save your scraps, bunch them together, knead briefly and then roll out again to cut more doughnuts. - the remaining scraps are great to test your fry time and like Sheryl and I did, to snack on while you're making the rest! Cover and let rise until double, 30 more minutes.
- THE GLAZE. In a mixie, powder the sugar till fine. Add in the melt the butter, vanilla and condensed milk and pulse until smooth. Add extra milk until desired consistency is reached. It should be a smooth, white thickish liquid that will stay on the doughnuts ones they are dipped and removed. (to make chocolate glaze, melt 6 ounces of chocolate along with the butter over a double boiler, while stirring. Make sure no moisture enters the chocolate or you will have a grainy mess)
- THE FILLING (optional). Pour the cream, and milk if using, with 6 tablespoons of the sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl till the sugar has started to dissolve and the mixture is even and creamy. Now whisk in the cornstarch till you get a smooth, creamy paste. (a few sugar crystals are ok).
- When the cream-milk mixture has reached a simmer, remove from heat and ladle half of it slowly into the egg yolk mixture while whisking constantly. Once you have added about half the milk mixture to the egg mixture, pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the cream, whisk and return saucepan to heat.
- Now cook over medium heat, whisking vigourously and constantly until a few big bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thick and glossy(about 30 seconds).
- Switch off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla.
- Unless you are absolutely certain that your cream is smooth and lump free, strain the pastry cream through a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl.
- Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set. Whisk before using.
- FRYING. Use a scrap of donut first to test if the oil is hot enough. When the oil is hot, a piece of dough dropped in will quickly rise to the surface and sizzle with bubbles all around it.
- Carefully place the donuts in the oil without deflating them. Cook on each side for about one minute. Use chopsticks to flip the donuts and remove them from the oil. I like to cook the doughnut a till they are deep brown just because I like that thin crisp shell on the outside. Also, be careful while you flip the doughnuts and ensure you don't dent or puncture them.
- Place donuts on a rack or paper towels to drain. (Try not to sneak some into the glaze and then into your mouth. Or do. )
- FILL/GLAZE. Dip the doughnuts in the glaze, and set them on a rack to dry with the glazed side up. To fill these doughnut, fit a piping bag with a nozzle that has a small round tip and fill it with the cooled and whisked cream. Puncture the doughnuts on the side with a chopstick and fill by fitting the nozzle deep into the cavity you created. As you fill, you will see the doughnuts plump up. Release pressure and remove the nozzle as you see the doughnuts plumping up with the cream. (Be generous while piping in the filling though remember if you overfill them, the filling will ooze out. Anyway, each bite of your resulting doughnuts will be a super creamy, luscious reward.)