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Recipe: Celebrate National Doughnut Week with Cambridge Cookery

With National Doughnut Week in May and National Doughnut Day in June, it’s officially the season to eat deep-fried, sugar-dusted pastries. . . Nothing compares to the homemade version, writes Cambridge Cookery MD Tine Roche

Dinky homemade doughnuts, served with tart jam for dipping, are hard to beat
Dinky homemade doughnuts, served with tart jam for dipping, are hard to beat

I vividly remember my first encounter with French beignets, sold by an impossibly cool-looking, bronzed beach vendor on a blisteringly hot day in southern France. I was 19 and interrailing. A few days later, I had my first Bombolone in Tuscany and thus was my love of the continental doughnut born.

The American superbrands - which I shall leave un-named here - do not appeal to me as I find them far too sweet. Italian Bomboloni are usually filled with Italian crème pat or Crema Pasticceria - so much more delicious for the addition of citrus zest.

I love Italian cafés where, when you visit in the morning, you will see a cross-section of locals - groups of retired people sharing coffee and pastries, children on their way to school and business people standing by the marble bar, downing a quick espresso and effortlessly escaping being covered in icing sugar while pinching a Bombolone, aka a “big bomb”, between two minuscule pieces of shiny, non-absorbent paper, making quick work of devouring both pastry and coffee. It’s an art form.

This delicious pastry category also includes Churros, Krapfen, Berliners, Aebleskiver, Mendazi and Sata Andagi - deep-fried dough is enjoyed all over the world. The European pastries are made from one of two types of dough - choux pastry or yeast-risen dough.

Spanish Churros are made from choux batter and acquire their trademark contrasting textures of crispy and pillowy by being piped through a star-shaped nozzle, straight into the hot oil. The edges crisp up while the centre remains soft. The grooves are perfect for holding thick, hot chocolate when dunked.

My preferred doughnut, whether round or a ring, are the ones made from yeast-risen sweet dough which comes out of the hot oil soft and pillowy. A third version was unleashed on an unsuspecting world in New York City in 2013 by a French baker who deep-fried some croissant dough, filled it with cream and called it a Cronut. If you have ever eaten a Cronut you may agree with me: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Croissants are perfect as they are.

When deep-frying at correct temperatures, the oil does not penetrate what is being fried - it simply seals the surface. Doughnuts will never fall into the category of healthy food, but, as ever, the homemade version is much healthier than any shop-bought alternative as they are free from additives and preservatives and fried in good quality sunflower oil.

We make them from the dough we use for Kanelbullar, aka Swedish cinnamon buns - a must on our Beginners’ Bread class. We use an “enriched dough” made from fresh yeast, plain flour, sugar, butter, milk, a little egg and a good amount of coarsely ground cardamom.

I would not set out to make a yeast-risen dough simply to make donuts. Rather, before rolling out the dough for Kanelbullar and spreading it with a “remonce” of soft butter, sugar and cinnamon and then folding, cutting and twisting it into knots, I pinch some dough off for doughnuts.

I shape them no larger than a large strawberry before proving and then deep-fry them in a large open saucepan in sunflower oil. Sunflower oil has a high burn point and a totally clean flavour. Rolled in sugar and served warm, with some top quality, sharp raspberry jam on the side, these are quite irresistible. Do have a go at making them at home this National Doughnut Week or Day!

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