custom cakes/cookies

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Delicata Squash & Toasted Fennel Seed Doughnuts

I have fond childhood memories of doughnuts. Just ask me about “little girl” doughnuts and you’ll see my face light up about special, perfectly-portioned treats my dad used to bring us from a small neighborhood doughnut shop. It operated out of a trailer parked in the lot of a shopping plaza. (I suppose this was my early introduction to food carts.) The best flavors always seemed to sell-out before sunrise, and the shop never stayed open past late morning. Now that I'm older, for health-conscious reasons, I stopped eating such fried indulgences. And really, most places selling doughnuts around town just don't do justice to my flavor memory anyways.

Although lately, I've been justifying eating “junk food” if I make it myself AND if I turn it into something a little more “high-end”. About this time last year I became very interested in homemade doughnuts. I was inspired by this post from Cannelle et Vanille, and then as the doughnut trend took off, built up momentum in my doughnut-making repertoire trying several different recipes. The recipe below is adapted from Cannelle et Vanille, but it incorporates the flavors I’ve been drawn to this fall: roasted winter squash and toasted fennel seed; warm notes of caramel with cool notes of licorice. To me, that combination tastes like a decadent candy; satisfyingly sweet but not overly saccharin.

I’ve been sampling various squash from my farm share, trying earnestly to learn the differences amongst them. So far, my squash of choice is delicata. A well-ripened one will taste candied when roasted, but not cloying. A moderate-sized one (just under a pound) yields the perfect amount of puree needed to make these doughnuts. Expect about one cup of puree per pound of squash. Sure it’s an extra step of preparation to roast and puree a whole squash instead of mindlessly opening a can of solid packed pumpkin. But branch out a little in your “from scratch” abilities. Try a new flavor. Learn how to circumvent a pumpkin shortage, if the need again arises. Avoid the fallout from what BPA-lined cans might leech into your food. I'll stop. I think you get the point.

Farmer's Market photo by Sarijk.

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

Delicata Squash & Toasted Fennel Seed Doughnuts
makes about 20 doughnut rings plus 20 doughnut holes

Pre-preparation of squash puree and fennel seeds:
1 medium delicata squash (about 12 oz or 350 grams)
1 TBS fennel seeds

Preheat oven to 350° F. Slice the squash in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Roast the halves, cut side down, in a baking dish filled with enough water to come a ½-inch up the sides of the squash. Cook until ultra tender when pierced by a fork, 25-30 minutes.

When sufficiently tender, remove squash from oven and allow to rest until cool enough to handle. Scrape the flesh away from the skin and tranfser to the food processor. Puree until extremely smooth, like baby food. Transfer to a mesh sieve set over a bowl and strain for several hours to remove excess liquid.

Meanwhile, place the fennel seeds in a dry skillet set over medium heat. Toast the seeds for about a minute or two. Tossing the seeds often. When they have turned a few shades darker and begin to smell fragrant, remove from heat and transfer to a spice/coffee grinder. Grind the toasted fennel seeds to a fine powder.

To make the doughnuts:
3 cups (375 grams) all purpose flour
scant ½ cup (55 grams) hazelnut flour
10 grams baking powder
8 grams baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1½ tsp freshly ground toasted fennel seed
⅛ tsp ground cloves
10 grams salt
½ cup (110 grams) delicata squash puree
¼ cup (60 grams) whole milk at room temperature
2 TBS (40 grams) sour cream at room temperature
scant ½ cup (100 grams) sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
4 TBS (60 grams) butter, melted

Canola oil, for frying
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
2 tsp freshly ground toasted fennel seed
1 tsp ground cinnamon

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, hazelnut flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ground fennel seed, cloves, and salt.

In a separate bowl, mix the squash puree, milk, sour cream, sugar, eggs, and melted butter. Add this wet mixture to the dry ingredients and fold until it starts to come together. Knead lightly with your hands until a cohesive mass forms.

Dust your work surface with a bit of flour and turn out the dough on to this. Dust your hands and the top of the dough mound lightly with flour. Shape and pat the dough gently down into a circle about ½-inch thick. Using a doughnut cutter or two graduated-sized, round cookie cutters, cut out the doughnuts and place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment and dusted with flour.

To fry the doughnuts, fill a pan up to 2" of canola oil. Heat the oil until it reaches 375° F. Do not over-crowd the pan with doughnuts. Fry about 3 at a time (depending on the size of the pan). They will sink to the bottom but then float to the top. Turn them over and let them cook for an additional minute or so.

Drain them on paper towels and while hot, toss them in the cinnamon-fennel seed sugar.

These are best eaten the day they are made, but will last a day or more, loosely covered at room temperature.


Three Birds Jewelry said...

i would love to try this recipe, but brian has an aversion to fennel. have any substitue suggestions for fennel?

Olivia said...

hmmm, anise, toasted whole and then ground would be nice. but if he doesn't like licorice all together, maybe just stick with traditional pumpkin pie spices :)

Noelle said...

These look wonderful! Yum!!