Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cruller Intentions - The French Cruller and the Churro

OK, what happened? I realize that all things change. But, honestly, someone should have warned me about this…!!!

Let's rewind for a moment <<------------------<
When I was a child, oh so many decades ago… OK, it was only 3 decades but still. A doughnut was a lightly sweet but spicy torus (Geometric/Physics speak for doughnut shaped) of deep fried goodness, with or without a small amount of glaze and maybe some sprinkles (If you had been especially well behaved that day)…

Fast forward to the Now >--------------------->>
Doughnuts are sickly sweet gobs of shortening soaked dough that are then, saturated with enough glaze to choke the Tooth Fairy. Dunkin is defunct, Winchel’s…all but wiped out, and Krispy Kreme (The worst perpetrator of sucrose over-saturation) has taken their places.

Maybe it’s because my taste buds have changed, but I seriously do not remember doughnuts being so grossly "over the top" sweet. I think KK is in league with the American Dental Association in an evil plot to raise the average American’s oral hygiene costs.

By far the hardest hit by this trend is, what is supposed to be, a light and fluffy, crispy yet creamy manifestation of Choux Paste --- The French Cruller. It is now, so over laden with glaze that it collapses under its own weight with a texture more befitting and “Old Fashioned” doughnut. Depressing.

In my ongoing quest to avoid sugar commas, even when I am craving something "sweet", I had embarked upon a home-made spiced French Cruller in an attempt to re-create the more spicy doughnuts I remember from childhood... and while not a "Real" Cruller, which is torpedo shaped and twisted (more like a cinnamon twist), they are quite delicious and, for the most part, resemble, in flavor, the delicious French Crullers I use to acquire from Dunkin Donuts. The point of all this, is that someone from work asked me why I had not made doughnuts for awhile (I originally did it about 8 months ago). So, I have revisited my French Cruller recipe and added a twist.

Unlike "true" crullers, which are of German/Dutch origin, French Crullers are based on Pâte a Choux or Choux Paste, just like Eclaires and Creme Puffs, however, they are deep fried instead of baked.
Choux paste is fairly easy to make at home, you will need a piping bag to make rings (tori, for all you geometry and physics buffs out there) of dough on parchment. Once the rings are made they must be frozen to facilitate movement into the hot oil. Being frozen when they hit the oil is part of what creates their crispy exterior and puffy yet creamy interior.

As a side note, before I begin, this is also very similar to how Churros are made. Simply replace the sugar with about 2 TB brown sugar and cut the eggs in half and flavor with 2 tsp cinnamon. Fill the pastry bag and skip the freezing step, simply squeeze dough from the pastry bag directly into the hot oil. Drain and roll in cinnamon & sugar. I am making both this evening. It gives me something to do while I am waiting for the French Crullers to freeze.

French Crullers – Spiced Pâte a Choux

1 cup Water
8 TB unsalted Butter
1 1/2 tsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1 cup AP Flour
1/2 tsp Mace
1/4 tsp Cardamom
1/8 tsp Allspice
1/2 tsp Ceylon Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Ginger
4 Large eggs (possibly 5)
Peanut/Vegetable oil, for frying

1 cup powdered sugar
1.5 oz milk
If you want to coat them you will need to make a double batch of this glaze.

Combine the water, butter, sugar, and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat.

Measure out flour and spices and whisk together lightly to combine.

Once water is boiling, remove from heat and add the flour mixture all at once and begin stirring with a wooden or bamboo spoon until the flour has absorbed all the liquid.

Return the pan to the low heat and continue to cook the paste, stirring constantly, for another 2 minutes to evaporate any excess water.

Remove pan from heat and let cool for about 10 minutes.
Now comes the hard part.
Take your first egg

Crack an egg into the mixture and begin stirring,

the dough will "break" and kind of fall apart, looking like a total mess, but keep stirring..

Then suddenly the dough will bind back together again and become a homogeneous paste.

It takes a lot of stirring, you can use a hand mixer, but you don't want to incorporate too much air into the batter.
Add each of the 3 remaining eggs individually and stir until each egg is incorporated.
The dough will break each time, and then come back together.
When you are done, you will have a smooth and glossy paste.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Fill a pastry bag, fitted with a large star tip, with the choux paste.

Pipe 3 inch rings of choux paste onto the parchment paper. (I usually get 1 1/2 dozen)

Place baking sheets into the freezer for 1 hour.

Make the glaze, by mixing confectioners sugar and milk with a whisk until smooth, cover to prevent crusting.

Fill a large pot, deep skillet or your deep fryer with at least 2 inches of Vegetable or Peanut oil.
Heat oil to 350 degrees.
Remove a baking sheet from the freezer, peel the rings from the parchment and gently slip them into the hot oil.

After about 30 second they will rise and begin to float in the oil.
They will need to be turned once the tops of the crullers puff up.

Once turned in the oil, fry an additional 1 1/2 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
Remove from the oil and place on a brown paper bag, or multiple layers of paper towels to drain.

Once cool enough to handle, drizzle with glaze
Let the glaze set for about 30 minutes before serving.


Follow the same steps above, replacing the Sugar with 2 TB of Brown Sugar in the Butter/Water Mixture.

Place 2 tsp Cinnamon (Canela) in with the Flour

Since you will only use 2 eggs, you will find that the dough is a lot stiffer and not as "paste" like.

Fill your pastry bag, and squeeze out about 4 inches of the dough, then cut with scissors.

Fry until golden brown.

Shake in a plastic bowl with cinnamon & sugar...

Now the funny part - I got my tips mixed up cause I was in a hurry. Thus my Cruller tip made my Churros and my Churro tip made the Crullers....

Eat Well.


Bob said...

Unreal. Love it! I can't stand KK, I've never understoof what people see in them. You mentioned Dunkin being defunct, but there is one on every street corner here. Is it just on the west coast?

Culinary Alchemist said...

It must be... when I moved to San Diego there was 1 I believe, in Point Loma. The last time I went back to Portland 4 years ago, the one I use to go to as a kid in Gresham was closed as well. :( It's a dark Day on the West Coast.

Joie de vivre said...

This is my first time on your site. I found you through your comment on Bob and Noodles because I thought your profile image was so funny. What a post to visit for the first time on! Everything looks so amazing! I am so impressed. I've made yeasted doughnuts before that weren't overly sweet (they were fantastic in fact) but we ended up having them after dinner because they took ALL DAY. I think that's why the doughnut places are so popular. People are just too lazy. Nice to find you!

Culinary Alchemist said...

Hi Joie, Welcome!! Thank you, I am glad you enjoyed my blog. I made yeast doughnuts once... and yeah, it takes a long time... That is why I like these... They are fairly quick, well aside from the hour to freeze... LOL

living with spice said...

I have been making cream puff and eclair for years and this year was my first attempt at french crullers, my favorite donut. I love the spices and flavoring you use in your recipe. For the glaze, try a flavored or spicy rhum glaze by substituting half (or to taste) the liquid in the glaze. Simply wonderful holiday treat.

Tatoosh said...

Great stuff there! I remember a donut shop in Central City, Colorado we used to visit during summer vacation in the Sixties. They made fantastic crullers that were quiter tall, were very airy, and melted in your mouth.

What size tip for the bag do you recommend? Will a half inch star tip work? I have to order my bag and tips from overseas (I'm in the Philippines) so running down to the shop to get the right size isn't really an option.

I will give your recipe a try once I have the equipment in hand.

Danielle said...

How did I miss this one? (and why would my browser bring me here automatically when I typed in Culinary Alchemy in the URL as if by memory LOL)...it must be fate. I soooo wanna try making doughnuts and those babies are gorgeous!

Marebear_56 said...

Bob, Thank you for this post AND your recipe. I am going to use yours. I came upon this because I searched the internet to see if Dunkin' Donuts had changed their recipe. I had not had them for YEARS (since 1977) because I was in the military and was never stationed anywhere near a Dunkin' Donuts. This past year I found one on Ft Hood in Texas where I retired. I was THRILLED and couldn't wait to get my fill of French Crullers. I bought a dozen, brought them home and prepared to feast! Imagine my disappointment when I bit into the first one - there were no massive air holes and found I had a mouthful of a cake-like, overly sweet gunk. I returned a few days later and asked the young woman behind the counter if they had changed their recipe. I don't know why I asked her, she was young enough to be my grand daughter and had no clue what I was talking about. This has bothered me for nearly a year. I felt I had lost one of the best things I remembered from my youth. I kept wondering what they had done. Had they stopped using so many eggs because they were expensive? Or perhaps my taste had changed over the years? Ergo my web search. At least now I know it was not my mature (worn out?) taste buds, they DID change the recipe. Thank you again, you saved my sanity!