As January slowly turns into February, Gerhard Jenne discusses whether 2014 will be the year of the doughnut.
We all know that food, including baked goods, carry a great deal of memories with them. I hasten to add that this can include good and bad. A scotch egg may always remind you of a rain-sodden walking holiday, whereas an oven-fresh croissant may transport you back to your first ever romantic break in Paris.
When I bit into a typical jam-filled doughnut at Kemps Bakery in London last week, it reminded me of my time in Munich where, at this time of the year, all things ‘Fettgebackenes’ (deep-fried pastries) are on the menu of every bakery. In fact, January is the beginning of the season for fried baked goods, culminating with Carnival, when hungry revellers and families alike, devour tons of the stuff.
The light yeast-leavened, jam-filled and icing sugar-dusted variety is most popular. A notch up is having them filled with rosehip purée. We also used to make a fondant iced one and, for those who fancied some Carnival spirit, they were additionally sprinkled with colourful marzipan confetti. Also baking were apple beignets and “Mutzenmandeln”, a sweet pastry-based, but fried, ‘cookie’.
More akin to a doughnut are the amusingly named ‘Ausgezogene’, which can be translated into ‘the pulled or stripped one’. This has nothing to do with taking ones clothes off (awash with Bavarian lager) and making a fool of oneself, but with the way they are hand-moulded.
It is a doughnut where the centre of the uncooked doughball is indented with the thumb, then the rim carefully pulled and enlarged so that a thin membrane of dough remains in the centre with a ‘lifebelt’ of dough around it - imagine a bagel with a hymen - it is carnival time after all!
After proofing, they are fried, and since they float on top of the fat, the centre remains white. Halfway through the bake they are flipped over and cooked to a nice brown colour, making the finished pastry look like a reverse coloured fried egg. Before serving they are sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.
In my days there was Café Schmalznudel (incidentally, another name for the same pastry), referencing the fact that they used to get fried in lard ‘Schmalz’, a Munich institution specializing in this delicacy. It opened its doors at 5am and let in merry disco bunnies and bleary-eyed night workers in search of blotting paper and the amazing emotional comfort a small pastry can provide. These days the nightclubs have moved on and the lucky baker can have a lie in until 8am. It’s still worth a visit, should you ever find yourself near Viktualienmarkt.
On Facebook I saw a link to someone who made a doughnut out of a solid frozen Cadbury’s Cream Egg, wrapped in ready-made pizza dough, then deep fried – quite inventive. And as my ex-boss used to say, you can fry a bread roll or a brioche – both of them are doughnuts; one will be cheap to make, but the other may just be nicer on the palate and set you apart.
British Baker recently reported that Dunkin’ Donuts will open more shops to bring their American-style doughnuts to the UK, and there is definitely demand. St John’s bakery in Maltby Street near Tower Bridge has developed a cult following for its classy über-filled no-holes doughnuts. Jam, creamy custard or lemon curd is pumped into them so generously they have to be displayed side up, as the fillings ooze out of the top.
The year of the horse has come round again – could this also be the year of the doughnut?