It turned somehow into a coffee and doughnuts sort of a weekend, with plenty of friends popping in to hang out in our kitchen nook. Which made it just fine to not be jetting off to Mexico on a long weekend that began and is ending with below -20 temperatures.
Because this extended deep freeze means we hardly see our neighbours out on the street anymore, I sent out an email to invite a few to pop in over the weekend, and then didn’t even clean the house. Sliding into bed at midnight on Friday, it occurred to me that extra mouths coming over provided the perfect opportunity to make doughnuts. What better bait than coffee and homemade doughnuts? I have this fab old doughnut cutter that I never get to use, mostly because I’m afraid of taking it for a whirl without backup. (I cannot be alone in the presence of dozens of warm doughnuts, although it has been a dream of mine since I was a kid and read about Curious George letting loose in a doughnut factory.) Besides, Mike has been practicing his barista-ing with our new coffee/espresso machines – we now have what has become a full-on coffee station beside the sink and under the spice racks.
We got it into our heads over the holidays that none of the myriad of coffee-producing kitchen gadgets currently taking up space in the basement actually produced a satisfactory cup of coffee – under our operation, anyway. We were spending altogether too much on coffee shop coffee, and I had lazily regressed to be dependent on instant espresso. Something had to give. I had been tweeting out a lot of questions about how to go about buying an espresso machine – what to look for and such – I’m truly no expert when it comes to brewing coffee. Turns out there are people out there who roast their own beans in their hot air popcorn poppers. Hard core, man. We did our due diligence on Coffee Geek and wound up ordering a Lelit PL 041 espresso machine – the highest rating for the lowest money. In fact, it was the only machine as highly rated that came in at under about $1000. (It was about $500.) I’ve had plenty of people ask me to write about how it’s going, and so far so good – although our burr grinder hasn’t arrived yet, the machine appears to work beautifully. Mike is having a blast playing barista and attempting to master his foam art.
A few days after the Lelit arrived, an enormous box showed up in the mail. The fine folks at Reunion Island Coffee in Ontario had seen my plight on twitter (obviously clueless and looking for help to make my own coffee in the mornings) and sent me a BUNN My Cafe Home Single Cup Coffee Maker. So thoughtful.
At first I thought I’d do a free stuff giveaway. Then we thought we’d better try it, to see how it works and all. Then I thought since it was out of the box I’d give it to my sister across the street, who hardly has time to bother setting up and brewing coffee just for herself – this gizmo does one cup at a time, straight into the cup. It’s a pod machine, which I was initially against, but rather than use plastic pods it uses biodegradable packets that look like round tea bags. You fill your mug with water, pour it into the tank in the back, stick in your pod, put the mug underneath and press a button. There are a ton of fair trade varieties to choose from, and rather than $2-$3 per pod, they cost around 50 cents each. And there’s no need for barista training. It appears I’m never going to use that espresso machine now.
Just typing this, I realized my sis should have one, too. I just ordered one online. Ali – look for it to arrive in the mail. I do love it, and the same unit appears to have many happy owners if you read the online reviews.
So now that we have our own veritable coffee corner, we hoped (or I did, at least) our kitchen might turn into a weekend morning hangout. (I’d love to go buy a plexiglass display case to fill with muffins, scones and doughnuts for such occasions.) Because W asks on a regular basis for Timbits, I told him we’d make them, which it turns out was far more exciting than hitting the drive-thru. We mixed up a batch of yeast dough and let it sit.
There were little girls over, and so I gave them the dough and cutters and let them go to it. J’s mom told a story of when she was little and her grandma made doughnut holes and let her shake them up in a paper bag of cinnamon sugar, and so we did the same. (I could only find bags meant for popcorn.)
We also made fritters, while we had oil in the pot. My plan was to make sour cream Timbits, but when I extracted the sour cream from the fridge, it was more than just sour. So I referred to a few of my favourite food experts, and came up with a simple lemon yogurt fritter than delivered all it promised with under 5 minutes of mix-up time. They’re sweet and subtly lemony, with great crunch and soft, cakey middles. If you have a levered ice cream scoop, you’ll feel like a pro dropping perfectly round orbs of soft dough into the oil to cook until they’re crispy. It turns out these are perfect to serve with hot chocolate post-winter skate or hockey game.
You’ll find the lemon fritter recipe over at the Family Kitchen, and it’s worth printing out and keeping. It uses ingredients you probably already have – a glug of bottled lemon juice worked out just fine if you don’t have fresh lemons. They seem a little more upscale than the average donut. I have fond memories of that tang and crunch.
As for the cinnamon-sugar Timbits, they were made from a yeast-raised dough, so could really be turned into any variety of glazed doughnut. For the first batch I tried Lara Ferroni’s raised doughnuts, knocking down the yeast to a tablespoon, and they turned out very well, but I found I needed at least a cup of flour more than the recipe calls for. I poked around and morphed a bunch of recipes for yeast-raised doughnuts, most of which are pretty similar.
If you have a few pals who like coffee (or tea) who are willing to hang out in your nook for a few hours, it’s a fun/delicious side project.
Yeast Raised Doughnuts (for doughnuts or Timbits/donut holes)
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp. salt
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter or shortening, softened
canola oil, for cooking
sugar spiked with cinnamon, for rolling (optional)
In a small bowl, stir together the yeast and water and set aside for 5 minutes. (If it doesn’t get foamy, toss it out!) In a large bowl, stir together the milk, sugar and eggs; add the yeast mixture and stir until well combined. Add 2 cups of the flour and the salt and beat until well blended. Add the butter and beat until incorporated.
Add the rest of the flour gradually, stirring (or using the dough hook on a stand mixer) until the dough comes together and isn’t too sticky. Continue to beat with the dough hook or turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Cover and let sit for an hour, until doubled in size.
Roll or pat the dough out and cut into doughnuts or rounds (if you don’t have a doughnut cutter, use a round cutter or glass rim, then another smaller round cutter for the middle), or into small (about 1/2-inch) plugs to make Timbits. Cover and let sit for a half hour to an hour, until they get poufy again. (They’ll rise even more as they cook.)
Heat a couple inches of oil in a heavy pot until hot but not smoking. Gently cook the doughnuts/Timbits in batches, without crowding, turning as needed until golden on both (or all) sides. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. While still warm, toss in a shallow bowl of cinnamon sugar to coat. Makes lots.