29 January 2009

Doughnut Ask, Doughnut Tell

Some teas are gentle; others feel like a punch in the mouth. And, like people, sometimes they masquerade as the other.

Such is the case with megami sencha, a Japanese green which has a clear, bright jade appearance and lighter mouthfeel than other senchas- but a bold, almost astringent taste. I love the contrast, but it does need something alongside to balance it out. What better than something hot, sweet and fried?

I'll justify making these Japanese hiking doughnuts any way I can.

I got the recipe years ago, from my absolute favorite cooking magazine Saveur. Unfortunately I didn't save the accompanying story, in which the author related how she and her husband had been hiking at Mt. Fuji, and while stopping to rest along the trail, met an old Japanese couple who offered these doughnuts. One bite, and the author knew she had to have the recipe, so despite the language barrier, gestured that she would love to know how to make them and gave the old woman her email address. On the way down, her husband scoffed she would never, ever see that recipe.

But over a year later, an email from one Mrs. Nishiwaki turned up, with the recipe for the elusive treat.

(Oh ye of little faith. I would have made and eaten the entire first batch myself, telling that doubting Thomas he was welcome to fish out any blackened remnants from the oil.)

I can see why the author was so enchanted with these doughnuts: They're crispy and moist on the outside, sweet and lightly lemony inside, and if you eat them fresh, the oil warms your fingers and turns the powdered sugar coating into a heavenly paste that you have no choice but to lick off.

For junk food, they seem almost good for you, with a dense crumb but an interior lightness- well, until you eat more than five. After that, you may have to reconsider any hiking plans.

Japanese Hiking Doughnuts
Makes: about 15.

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 eggs
Juice of 1 lemon
1 heaping tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil plus more for frying
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch salt
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

1. Put granulated sugar, yogurt, eggs, lemon juice, honey and 1 tablespoon of the oil in medium bowl and stir until smooth. Gradually sift flour, baking powder and salt over yogurt mixture, beating with a wooden spoon until batter is smooth. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until batter is chilled, 30 to 60 minutes.

2. Pour oil into a wide medium heavy-bottomed pot to a depth of 2 inches and heat over medium heat until temperature reaches 300° on a candy thermometer. Working in batches to avoid crowding with the pot, carefully spoon a scant 1/4 cup of the batter into hot oil and fry, turning occasionally, until doughnuts are deep golden brown all over and cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes per batch. Transfer doughnuts with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Dust with confectioners' sugar.

If you can manage to save any, you really can pack these for an outdoor excursion. Just let them cool completely before wrapping them up, to avoid sogginess.

And do keep in mind that you will burn the first batch; it's a well documented phenomenon, from crepes to blinis, that the first one has to be discarded because it never turns out quite right. Just take a deep breath, a sip of sencha, and then throw the burned ones out the window.

Someone always benefits from your mistakes.


montague said...

my waistline is begging me to stop reading your blog. it's bad for us.

cha sen said...

Your NY sparrow is lucky to be the recipient of sweet treats, albeit a litte burnt:)

Anonymous said...

Yes, what a cute s p a r r o w.

AC said...

must try this!!

Anonymous said...

man you are on a roll this week....i mean you are on a BRIOCHE AAAAW

Veri-Tea said...

Wow, I must hide this recipe from my husband... it's way too hot in Canberra for cooking doughnuts... but they look amazing.

ana dane said...

no hiding the recipe.

and this is GOOD for your waistline, and your body. you will feel so happy when you eat that first one, all dripping with oil and powdered sugar.

s said...

I'd sell my soul for a hiking donut.

test it comm said...

Those Doughnuts look good and they would go well with some green tea.

avra romanowitz said...

i know what i want next time in town.

(the accompanying hike would be nice, too! who knows who we might meet--and what recipes s/he could share--along the way?)