Last year, Milo told me that instead of a birthday cake he wanted an Eiffel tower made of éclairs. So I made one. It was lopsided and barely held together with bamboo skewers and ganache, but it killed; the 7-year olds in attendance were blown away and laid gleeful waste to it. This time around, I was informed that instead of cake he wanted his name spelled out in homemade doughnuts. So I made them. I have little truck with pastries; I’m not inclined to measuring and such and I have no willpower when there are sweets in the house. I’m excellent at not buying them, but once they have penetrated those defenses I’m pretty much helpless. So I tend not to bake much other than bread. I scoured the Internets for recipes that seemed doable, reliable, and adult-friendly, and was surprised to find that the Internets enjoy them some desserts. Who knew?
I settled upon this recipe for all of the above reasons, plus it has a real French pedigree and got mad forks from reviewers. I did use a different pastry cream for the filling, and used raspberry jam for filling half of them, and made a dark chocolate ganache-y glaze for the tops, but the dough is pretty much as laid out in the recipe. I liked the idea of a long, slow mix to develop gluten and character and a retard in the fridge to give it some slightly sour adult sophistication.
It turns out that I made the dough the morning of the party, so retarding it was not an option. I did have some milk that had soured a bit, so I used that, figuring it would have a similar effect. Unfortunately, the long slow mix and the fact that I quadrupled the recipe, meaning I had to make doubled batches twice, spelled doom for the trusty old KitchenAid I inherited from my Mother. It was smoking badly as the second batch rounded third—there were still knobs of butter that needed incorporating—and I coaxed it home before pushing the switch to off for the last time.
This was a blow. The mixer is at least as old as I am, and it’s the machine on which she made countless batches of bread dough, cakes, and other delights. Her gardening and baking were directly responsible for my current passionate involvement with both disciplines. Though I never used the mixer to make bread—I knead by hand or do the overnight no-knead thing—this machine ground every piece of meat that helped me win Charcutepalooza. (All the grinder attachments are original, and metal. The good stuff).
You can see the donut dough gunked around the arm there. I’m going to let Milo help me take it apart, since he’s obsessed with things mechanical these days and I suppose we could try to find a motor and replace it if it’s not too far gone inside. I need to figure out how the design has changed in the last 40+ years to see what’s possible based on available parts. In any case, it seems a fitting end to a much-used machine, giving the third generation a chance to spend a bit of time with it before it heads to the bin. I still have some other kitchen heirlooms, but this was the crown jewel. It will be missed.
The doughnuts were a success. Half got cream inside, the other half jam, and all got chocolate on top, followed by either “chocolate” or rainbow sprinkles, the only ingredients that could not claim to be real or organic. I like to think of them as homeopathic doses of artificial garbage. They did make the result look awfully festive, though my not-so-wide-angle lens made shooting the final presentation a bit tricky, even standing on a chair:
Everybody dug them; the kids all had three each, and the feral looks on their faces were something to behold. The adults all remarked on how they managed to hit all the requisite flavor and texture notes and yet still taste like food. Good flour, good eggs, good butter, and the sour raw milk all contributed to an excellent result. I’m interested to hear what next year’s request will be. Here’s the birthday boy, making a wish and trying really hard not to smile for the camera: