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NEW YORK (Reuters) - After tasting his aunt's doughnuts when he was young at family Sunday dinners, Stephen Collucci was hooked.
Not only are they tasty, doughnuts are fun, versatile and easy to make, Collucci says in his first book, "Glazed, Filled, Sugared & Dipped," released on Tuesday.
Collucci, head pastry chef at Colicchio & Sons in New York, has sold plenty of these treats in different shapes, filling them with creams and jams and accompanying them with hot fudge or sour apple granita.
The 29-year-old New Jersey native spoke to Reuters about his passion for doughnuts and why it takes more skill and courage to make them than cupcakes:
Q: Why did you decide write a book about doughnuts?
A: For me personally, it is a medium that best exhibits what I do. My whole philosophy about desserts and being in the kitchen is about having fun, indulge a bit and kind of escape. There's just such a fun, playful nature with doughnuts. I have such great memories making doughnuts and sharing them.
Q: What are your childhood memories about doughnuts?
A: I'm Italian and stereotypically, Sunday dinners are really big for my family. My best memories have always been around food and eating with my family. I have always been in the kitchen with my grandparents. I wanted to bring something different to the table.
I would make cookies and cupcakes. My aunt has this awesome apple cider doughnut recipe she makes every Sunday. I love them, so I learn how to make them. Those are the things I brought to the restaurant. I do a rendition of it in the restaurant. The recipe is based off the family favorite.
Q: Compare making doughnuts versus say, cupcakes.
A: There are more potential errors in making doughnuts, depending on which doughnut you are working with. You are using hot oil. There are definitely more skills and awareness required ... There's a little more danger and science involved. You don't have to worry about having anything active or alive while making cupcakes. You need to pay attention to temperature.
Q: What is your feeling about cronuts (a trendy hybrid of a croissant and a doughnut launched earlier this year)?
A: I haven't actually tasted them for myself yet. I think it's exciting. Dominique Ansel (the cronut's creator) is a big inspiration for me and someone whom I really admire in the industry. Anything that draws attention to what pastry chefs and bakers are doing is great. I'm a big fan of fried food.
Q: What kind of flavors and ingredients are you experimenting with right now at Colicchio & Sons?
A: Right now we are getting a lot of stone fruits and a lot of berries. I have also been preparing a lot of stuff with herbs lately like basil and lemon thyme and lavender here and there. I try to play with things that remind me of summer, like roasting marshmallows outside over a grill, so I've been thinking about a toasted marshmallow ice cream right now.
Q: What is the favorite doughnut you like to make at home for yourself and your wife?
A: Zeppole is a big one. We make them here at the restaurant. It's been a staple since we opened. I've made zeppoles since I was a little boy. My mother would throw pieces of pizza dough into the fryer and throw some powdered sugar on them. We would have our pizza or calzone dinner, then we would have our zeppoles. It's no muss, no fuss. Really it takes 10 minutes to throw together, and you can't really go wrong with them.
Basic Berliner (makes about a dozen 3-inch doughnuts)
3¼ teaspoons active dry yeast, or 4½ tablespoons fresh yeast if available
1½ cups room-temperature whole milk
3 cups bread flour
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine yeast and milk and blend on low speed for 2 to 3 minutes. You'll see small bubbles appear on the surface, which tells you that the yeast is working.
2. Sift together both flours, the sugar, salt, and nutmeg, add them to the yeast mixture, and mix until combined. Add the egg and vanilla and mix for a few seconds, then add the butter, mixing until incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to medium and work the dough for five to eight minutes, until it completely pulls itself away from the bowl. The dough should feel smooth and just the tiniest bit sticky.
3. Work the dough in your hands or turn it out onto a floured work surface and form into a smooth ball. Place dough in a large, greased stainless steel bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let it proof in a warm, draft-free area (about 110 degree Fahrenheit) until it has almost tripled in size and springs back slightly when you poke it with your finger. This should take 20 to 30 minutes.
4. Turn dough onto a floured work surface and lightly flour the top of the dough. Using a rolling pin, gently roll until it is 3⁄8 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut and bake or fry as directed in your recipe of choice.
For orange Berliners: Add the zest of 1 orange along with the flours, sugar, salt and nutmeg.
For espresso Berliners: Add 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder along with the flours, sugar, salt and nutmeg.
For cinnamon Berliners: Add 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon along with the flours, sugar, salt and nutmeg.
(The story is refiled to fix typo in "Glazed" in book title in second paragraph)
Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Chris Michaud and Bill Trott