29 June 2012

Faschingkrapfen (Mardi Gras Doughnuts)

Time for another Girls Brunch, so I busted out the cast iron skillet and some oil to fry us up some Austrian doughnuts--Faschingkrapfen from Rick Rodgers' book, Kaffeehaus.

The three of us have been doing brunch long enough that the girls are used to my food experiments.  Poor things, they're always having to taste some new recipe I've dug up.

Although I admit one lemon fig crostata failed so miserably I wouldn't even let them see it!!  (The photo is a definite Before)

Honestly, it would probably be weird if I didn't have something untested for them to try.

Smaller than a typical Krispy Kreme or Dunkin Donut, Faschingkrapfen are traditionally eaten in February during Carnival.  Usually these sweet little indulgences are filled with apricot jam, and found in every bakeshop prior to Ash Wednesday and Lent.

Their trademark is the "white ribbon" band that wraps around the doughnut.  All I know is that they looked like little pillows of doughy goodness and I had to have one (or seven!).

What Happened:
The doughnuts are based on a sweet, fairly wet and sticky dough that gives them their pillow-y quality when they're fried.

It's a fairly fast dough to put together, considering it starts with a sponge.  But I don't think this is a recipe I'd wake up one morning and decide to make for breakfast, although you could prep them the night before.  To me, the better idea would be to have them for dessert or as an afternoon snack.

Something to know about this dough is that it has considerable elasticity, so rolling it out requires a little patience because it shrinks back pretty easily.  If you're slow and steady the dough will ultimately succumb.  Remember, you control the dough the dough doesn't control you!

Like most "stuffed" pastries, be sure not to overfill them or they will bust open in the skillet. 

Also, they relax a little after they come out of their oil hot tub.  Don't panic if they look more like balls at first.

Things I Would Change:
  • I added a little more salt (reflected in the recipe) to the dough just to give it some character.
  • The frying method in Rodgers' book didn't work for me.  He suggested covering the skillet once the Faschingkrapfen were in the oil.  That way the trapped heat would help cook the top of the dough too, then you would flip the doughnuts to brown the other side.  Instead, I flipped the dough frequently to cook both sides to golden brown and still managed to get the white ribbon around the middle.  Rodgers' method made it difficult for me to flip the doughnuts and I had to try to hold them on the second side so they would cook.  Their natural tendency was to float cooked side down.  Even when flipped, they flipped back.

The Results:

The funny thing to me was that I thought I was being clever filling most of the Faschingkrapfen with Nutella, a few with Plum Jam and only TWO with Apricot Jam.  The best flavor was in the traditional Apricot filled doughnuts!

I was leery of the apricot because of my cooked fruit issues, but the fruit brought out more flavor in the dough.  The acid in the jam married well with the lemon zest in the slightly sweet dough.

My advice is to stick with acid based fillings.  Hey, you could even spike the jam with rum or another spirit of choice.  That would definitely add a bit of complexity.

Between the three of us we ate 18 doughnuts, leaving just 2 for Cody to taste.  EIGHTEEN!!  Guess we liked them a little, huh?

yield – 20 doughnuts
adapted from Kauffeehaus by Rick Rodgers

2 ¼ t    yeast
½ c      milk, lukewarm
½ c      flour
1 t        sugar

½ c      milk, lukewarm
4 T       butter, melted
2 T       sugar
1 T       golden rum
1          lemon, zested
¾ t       salt
4          egg yolks, room temperature
3 ¼ c    flour

¼ c      apricot preserves (or any preserve flavor)
1          egg white, beaten until foamy
1 qt      vegetable oil for frying
            powdered sugar, for dusting

Sponge:  Combine the yeast and milk in a small bowl and let it stand for 3 minutes to proof.  Add the flour and sugar and whisk until smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap and let stand until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Dough:  Whisk the milk, butter, sugar, rum, zest and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer.  Whisk in the yolks, then the sponge.  Using the paddle blade on low speed add enough flour to make a soft, sticky dough that barely comes away from the sides of the bowl.  Increase the speed and beat the dough for 2 minutes.

Gather up the dough into a ball and knead briefly until smooth.  Place the ball in a buttered bowl, turning the dough to coat, cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise about an hour.

On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to ¼-inch thickness.  Using a 2 ¼ -inch round cutter, cut out rounds of dough, set aside on a baking sheet lined with a lightly floured towel, and cover loosely with plastic wrap (you can stack the rounds). Kneading the scraps until smooth, roll and cut out to make a total of 40 rounds, discarding any excess dough.

Place a heaping ½ teaspoon of filling in the center of a round.  Moisten the edges of the round with egg white.  Cover with a second round, press the rounds together to seal.  Use a 2 ½ inch cutter to cut the sandwiched rounds again, sealing the doughnuts.  Transfer to a baking sheet lined with a lightly floured towel.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until the doughnuts have barley risen, about 15 minutes.  Don’t let the doughnuts rise until puffy or doubled or they will expand too much while frying.

Pour the oil into a heavy skillet to a depth of ½ inch and t over medium high heat to 350 degrees.  Place a wire rack over a jellyroll pan to drain the doughnuts.

Place 3 or 4 doughnuts in the oil at a time.  Flip the doughnuts frequently until they are golden brown on both sides with a white “band” around the middle.  This should only take 2-5 minutes total.  Use a wire skimmer, transfer the doughnuts to the rack to drain and cool.  Sift the powdered sugar over the warm doughnuts.  Be sure to reheat the oil between batches.

Make ahead:  Make the recipe up to the point where the doughnuts are sandwiched and cut then either freeze or refrigerate overnight.  Before frying bring the doughnuts to room temperature.

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