Stephanie Rosenbaum’s new book covers sugary sweet territory in World of Doughnuts: More than 50 Doughnut Recipes from Around the Globe (Egg + Dart Press, $16.95). The Bay Area Bites contributor offers historical backgrounds, recipes and tips on how to mix, bake and fry up the beloved universal staple. I was especially drawn to regional favorites like the apple cider doughnut, pumpkin doughnut and the doughnut muffins from the Downtown Bakery and Creamery in Healdsburg, which are a good way to “scratch that doughnut itch without getting out the fryer,” according to Rosenbaum. There is much to learn about doughnuts beyond what looks good in the Bob's Donut & Pastry Shop display case when I’m hungry after midnight in San Francisco.
Rosenbaum is a longtime Bay Area resident and began writing about food in 1994 as the lead restaurant critic for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. She has been the lead restaurant critic for San Francisco Magazine, the Bay Area restaurants editor for Citysearch, a cookbook editor at Chronicle Books, a project editor for the guidebooks department at Time Out New York, and a writer for CHOW, Vegetarian Times, Time Out New York, Williams-Sonoma, Edible Brooklyn, sf360, Priority, Bay Times, Bay Area Reporter, and Where SF. She has authored and contributed to many cookbooks and travel guides & was nominated twice for a James Beard award for her cooking and gardening column, Table Ready. Her book "World of Doughnuts" is approachable and induces hunger pangs—a definite great sign.
Rosenbaum’s book has fun factoids on the origins of doughnuts and how they are made in cities and cultures around the world. I may not be able to fly to France for a fabulous beignets souffles just yet, but in the meantime this book lets me sift and sample international fried goods in my own kitchen. She also just turned in the manuscript for a book on cocktails. Many restaurant dessert menus offer cocktails with sweet courses, so I thought it would be fun to ask Rosenbaum her thoughts on the best doughnut and cocktail pairing. With cronuts being all the rage, we chatted about that phenomenon too.
Bay Area Bites: How did the book come about? Rosenbaum: My friend Leslie Jonath, who I knew from our time together at Chronicle Books, was working with Egg + Dart Press. She told me that they wanted to do a book about doughnuts and asked if I knew anyone who’d be a good fit. I jumped on it and the fun part was that the project was for doughnuts around the world. I didn’t get to travel the world but I did get to do research and found that every culture has a doughnut.
Bay Area Bites: What do you think of the cronut? Rosenbaum: Everyone’s been asking me that! I haven't had the chance to fly to New York and try one of the 200 available each day yet.
I think the kouign amann is so crunchy and delicious, I can’t imagine that frying that dough makes it better. It sounds so over the top, and is not something I want to personally eat. I don’t look at a croissant and say, “Wow, this needs to be deep fried.” I read a piece about how it’s just a matter of time ‘til a big chain makes this version. I feel it’ll be in Trader Joe’s and La Boulange soon. Having a cronut in New York fits: the fact that it’s limited and you get enough buzz on something, New Yorkers go for that. Anything that you can have bragging rights on.
Bay Area Bites: What is the most interesting thing you learned researching World of Doughnuts? Rosenbaum: That every culture has a version of a doughnut. This book only covers sweet things because if we did savory, it’d be the “encyclopedia of doughnuts” (laughs). It’s interesting to see the variations you can get out of really only three basic doughs: a muffin or quick-bread dough with flour, sugar, eggs and baking powder, a yeasted, enriched bread dough, and a pâte à choux, the cooked, eggy dough that's also used to make eclairs and profiteroles. That’s more or less it. There’s some variation in the Asian doughnuts.
The typical ring shape doughnut is very much an American thing. Other cultures don’t do the ring thing. There are a lot more free form things like churros.
Bay Area Bites: What are your favorite recipes? Rosenbaum: I have become very fond of the strawberry and cream doughnut. You take a round yeast-raised doughnut and slice it three quarters of the way through. Next, fill it with sliced strawberries and whipped cream. You could add blueberries, and make it a Fourth of July thing. These recipes aren’t achingly sweet. The way you make a yeast-raised dough is similar to a white bread dough and is not that different from a challah dough or a brioche dough.
One of my favorite American regional recipes is the apple cider doughnut.
Bay Area Bites: What are your fave spots to get doughnuts in San Francisco and the Bay Area? Rosenbaum: My total old school favorite is still Donut Alley in Larkspur, across the street from Emporio Rulli. A friend of mine who grew up in the 80s in Marin turned me on to that cute, family-run place. They serve old-fashioned doughnuts. Nothing fancy, although they may have fair trade coffee now. They open at 6 or 7 a.m. and then shut around noon when they run out.
I’m a straightforward doughnut person and like a cinnamon-sugar cake doughnut, or a chocolate glazed. Doughnut Dolly in Temescal is good and so is Donut Savant. I have not had a lot of Dynamo Donuts. They are yeast-raised and I know that people really like them.
I still miss Tita’s Restaurant, a Hawaiian place in the Castro that made really good malasadas, but that’s going at least 10 years back. It was in the same storefront where Frances is now.
Bay Area Bites: I like to get churros from vendors walking around the Mission, or for a sitdown meal at Café Gibraltar in Half Moon Bay. What do you think about the state of churros in Northern California? Will we ever be able to do a walking tour that covers churros?
Rosenbaum: I wish people would latch on to churros as a cool artisanal thing to make. That’s a ripe artisanal area, for hot and fresh churros.
Bay Area Bites: Any advice on what to do with vegetable oil—are there sustainable uses for it that we don’t know about? I don’t have Yuban cans, so get stumped on what to store use oil in at home. Rosenbaum: I had a couple cans of Café Bustelo, which I have nostalgia for from my low rent twenties. I keep a few cans around for when I make Boston brown bread.
The big thing is, of course, do not pour oil down your sink. You can cool and funnel oil back into the bottle and then pour it into your green bin over whatever veggies may be there. If you strain it, I find you can use it a couple of times but you really have to get the crumbs and stuff out -- things that could burn.
Bay Area Bites: What are you working on now? Rosenbaum: I just finished the cocktails book which will be out in the fall. The title is The Art of Vintage Cocktails and it’s a very cute snappy book with great information in it. I figured I could either drink or write but I was on a tight deadline so, sadly, there was less drinking and a lot more reading and writing research.
I got to read a lot of really fascinating books and now have a great shelf of cocktail books in my office thanks to Celia Sack at Omnivore Books.
Now I have a bunch of book ideas percolating, which I am trying to sell.
Bay Area Bites: What would you pair with the Coconut Cake Doughnut, based on your new cocktail book? Rosenbaum: I would suggest a Ramos Gin Fizz, of course. Invented by New Orleans bar owner Henry Ramos in 1888, this eye-opener is one of the great brunch drinks. Part velvet, part fizz, it's a well-shaken mixture of gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, heavy cream, and egg white, scented with orange flower water and topped with club soda. Perfect with a coconut doughnut on a sultry Southern morning!
Egg white from 1 small egg, or half the white from 1 large or extra-large egg
3 to 4 drops orange flower water
Club soda or soda water
Combine gin, lemon and lime juice, simple syrup, cream, egg white, and orange flower water in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for several minutes. Strain into a highball or wineglass. Top with soda.
Recipe: Coconut Cake Doughnuts
Makes 12 doughnuts and 12 holes
Topped with feathery wisps of coconut nestled into thick swaths of white icing, coconut layer cakes are a staple at parties and bake sales all across the South. These coconut doughnuts are a tasty hand-held version. Want pretty pastels for an Easter party or bridal shower? Separate the coconut topping into several small bowls and color each one with a drop or two of food coloring.
1 3⁄4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
3⁄4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons coconut oil 1⁄2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup buttermilk
1⁄2 teaspoon coconut extract vegetable oil for deep-frying
vanilla glaze (see Below)
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Using an electric mixer or the paddle attachment, beat the coconut oil and sugar together on low speed. Beat in the egg. Add the buttermilk and coconut extract and beat until smooth.
On low speed, beat in the flour mixture until blended. If the dough seems very sticky, cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour.
Lightly flour a work surface and a baking sheet. Place a grid-patterned wire rice on another baking sheet, or line the pan with two layers of paper towels.
Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 1⁄2-inch-thick round. Dip a doughnut cutter in flour and cut out doughnuts and holes, dipping the cutter in flour before each cut to keep it from sticking. Arrange the doughnuts and holes on the floured baking sheet. Pour the glaze into a wide, shallow bowl. Spread the coconut in another wide, shallow bowl.
In a Dutch oven or other deep, heavy pot, heat 2 or 3 inches of oil over medium-high heat to 365°F on a candy or deep-fat thermometer.
Using a slotted spoon or a skimmer, drop the doughnuts and holes into the hot oil in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan. Fry for 60 to 90 seconds on each side, or until golden brown and cooked through.
Using slotted spoon or a skimmer, transfer the doughnuts and holes to the wire rack or paper towels to drain.
Dip the tops of the warm doughnuts and holes into the glaze. While the glaze is still wet, dip the glazed tops into the coconut, pressing the coconut into the glaze. Let the glaze dry and set before serving.
For the Vanilla Glaze:
1 1⁄4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons honey
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons whole milk, or more as needed
In a medium bowl, combine the glaze ingredients and whisk until smooth, adding additional milk as needed if the glaze seems too thick. Dip the warm doughnuts into the glaze to cover both sides. Using tongs, place on a grid-patterned wire rack set on a baking sheet to let the glaze set for 10 minutes before serving. If desired, gently warm the glaze and give the doughnuts a second dip. Let the second coat set for a few minutes before serving.