There is one story that has been far too long in coming.
Back in November, Mr. Pedantic and I returned from our honeymoon with a great many stories and adventures to share, but none have elicited such laughter as the donut story.
THE SETTING: Borough Market and A Very Lovely Hotel Room
THE CHARACTERS: The very newly married Mr. and Mrs. Pedantic
Exactly one week after our wedding day, we found ourselves in the bustling cornucopia that is Borough Market. I ate so many things, but none of them impressed me more than what would become the goddess of all donuts.
A sugar-encrusted pillow filled with the lightest, creamiest creme filling I have ever tasted. I handed over my two pounds, and within moments I sent Mr. Pedantic back with another four to acquire more of these utopian pastries. I cannot even begin to describe how amazing these donuts really were.
Obviously, the wonder of that tiny stall’s donuts was no secret, because within moments of buying our first, they had sold out and we had to bite our lips and hope with all our hearts that their bakery truck would return with sweet reinforcements before we bid the market a sad farewell.
Thankfully, the delivery boy came through, and we hopped back on the tube with two donuts in tow. This time, my paper bag concealed the same pillow-like donut, but filled with a thick, blackberry jam. Mr. Pedantic stuck with the creme. I devoured mine the moment we returned to our hotel (typical), but Mr. Pedantic took only a few small bites and then gave his over to me. We were but moments away from leaving for our dinner reservation, so I decided to show some restraint and tuck the treat away for later.
We did have a small refrigerator in the room, but it was packed full with $12 bottles of water, so I did the most logical thing I could think of, I wrapped my donut up in its paper bag, and gently placed it in the very empty trash can.
Now before you judge, there was thought behind my choice. I did not want to just leave a seemingly unimportant paper bag on the table or nightstand, because I knew that the maids would be coming into clean and turn down the bed while we were out, and I did not want to risk my precious midnight snack being thrown away. So, I put it in the trash can for safe keeping. Surely they would not empty a trash can with only one thing in it.
We darted off to dinner and had the best steak in all the world for the second time, and then returned to our beautiful room. I ran to the trash can and shrieked in horror, “MY DONUT - IT’S GONE!!” Mr. Pedantic looked concerned and confused as he inquired as to why I had left something I was intending to save in the trash can. He did not appreciate my logic.
The maids had carried off my last bites of heaven, and I am still slightly bitter about the whole ordeal.
Of course, the hilarity has yet to wear off for Mr. Pedantic, and whenever there are leftovers my wonderful husband kindly suggests that we find a trash can for safe keeping. *insert eye-roll*
While the tragedy was a humorous one, in my mind, the best part of the story is remembering the wonder of that glorious donut.
Over the years, I had attempted donuts on multiple occasions, but with little success. They just were not quite right - certainly not the puffy pillows of my London dreams.
It was not until last week that I discovered the secret - shortening. In order to get that really light, airy dough, we have to kiss butter goodbye and give a nod to the one thing I really wish was not in my pantry.
The result is a donut that is almost as wonderful as those angelic puffs of happiness. I tossed mine in some vanilla sugar - which you should certainly start making if you do not already - and then filled them with Nutella. I have not quite mastered the magical pastry creme so I used another pretty magical filling that never disappoints.
Not a one of these will be left in the trashcan. I’ve learned my lesson.
Nutella-Stuffed Donut Holes with Vanilla Sugar
makes about 60 / recipe adapted from Alton Brown
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
- 1/3 cup warm water (about 100 degrees F)
- 1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 2 eggs, well beaten
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 23 ounces all-purpose flour (plus extra for rolling out the dough)
- 2 cups vanilla sugar*
- 1/2 gallon vegetable oil
- 1 heaping cup Nutella
Heat milk in a microwave-safe bowl until warm (about 100 degrees); about 3 minutes. Stir the shortening into the warm milk until melted. Allow the mixture to cool until just warm.
Pour warm water into the work bowl of your stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow the yeast to sit for five minutes. Add the lukewarm milk and shortening mixture, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and half of the flour. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed until the flour is just incorporated and then increase the speed to medium and beat until well combined. Reduce the speed to low and add the remaining flour. Beat on medium speed until well combined.
Switch over to the dough hook attachment and knead the mixture for 3-4 minutes; until the dough is very smooth and has started to pull away from the sides of the bowl. The dough will still be very sticky, but resist adding more flour.
Coat a large bowl with nonstick spray and place the dough into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, dry area (I usually go for the top of my refrigerator), until doubled in size; about one hour.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and roll out into a rectangle about 3/4-inch in thickness. The dough will still be very, very soft. Use a 1-inch biscuit cutter to punch out the donut holes and place them on a floured baking sheet. You may re-roll any dough scraps to make more donuts, but only do this once so that the donuts will still be very tender.
Cover the baking sheet with a paper towel and allow to rise for 30 minutes. While the donuts are resting, prepare a frying station and the filling.
Line two large baking sheets with paper towels and set cooling racks on top. Fit a pastry bag with a 1/4-inch tip and fill with Nutella. Place the vanilla sugar in a pie plate or shallow bowl.
Fill your deep fryer with 3 inches of oil and heat until the oil has reached 365 degrees F. Once the oil has come to temperature, drop the donuts into the oil gently, working with 3 to 4 at a time. Cook the donuts for 1 minute, then flip, and cook on the opposite side for another minute.
Transfer the donuts to the vanilla sugar and toss to coat. Set them on the cooling racks to cool slightly before filling them. To fill, I used the narrow end of a spoon to punch a small hole into the center of the donut, but you could easily use a chopstick instead. Then, I stuck the end of my pastry bag into the hole and filled them with about 1 teaspoon of Nutella. If you have one of those fancy cupcake injectors, you can use that instead, just make sure the tip is not overly large.
These donuts are best served warm with many cups of coffee and good conversation. Enjoy!
*Vanilla sugar is very easy to make, and is a wonderful way to use up empty vanilla bean pods that we would typically discard! Just stick two or three beans into 2 cups of sugar and store in an airtight container. Allow the sugar to sit for about a month before using. This will give the sugar plenty of time to soak up the delicate flavors of the beans.