Doughnuts Doughnuts Doughnuts

When was the last time you ate a doughnut? The last time I ate one was this summer at the Gathering Together Farm in Philomath, Oregon. The Gathering Together Farm is an organic farm/restaurant. My mom, dad, uncle Peter, and I stopped there on our way back to Portland, Oregon from the coast. My mom remembered the farm's name from some brochure she had picked up some where, and luckily, Peter had his iphone with him and was able to use the GPS to successfully guide us there. The restaurant is located in the middle of several fields. It serves a terrific Saturday breakfast and sells produce from the farm and these mighty fine chocolate-covered potato doughnuts. After breakfast, we ordered one for each of us. They were heavenly. Peter didn't eat his right away, but he put it in a box for later. In the car, Mom kept hopefully asking at one hour intervals, "Pete, when are you going to eat your doughnut?" We should have bought her one for later!

My sister, Katherine, is a big fan of doughnuts. She's been known to whip up a batch of doughnuts on the weekend and invite her friends over to enjoy the feast. Her enthusiastic telling of such occasions over the phone inspired me to invite my dear friends Chloé and Louis over for brunch last Saturday. And that's how I found myself making doughnut dough at 1 AM while talking to Katherine on the phone to verify that I had the right consistency.

Deep-frying often scares people. But there is nothing to fear. It's simply a matter of experience. And you don't need a fancy deep-fryer or a fire extinguisher or a special kind of oil (although if you plan on serving a deep-fried meal every week, I highly recommend purchasing one as it is easier to control the temperature).

These doughnuts are super easy to make and a great way to impress your guests (or yourself).

Caprial's Doughnuts
From Caprial's Deserts (an excellent book).

Makes 8 big doughnuts, plus the holes.

This is a cake doughnut and straightforward to make. The only difficulty I had was the amount of flour to use. All flours behave differently. I would start with the amount that the recipe calls for and then add more if you need to. If the dough is slightly sticky, don't worry. It will absorb more of the flour overnight in the fridge.

A doughnut cutter is the easiest way to cut the doughnuts out, but a glass and a shot glass would work too.

An instant read thermometer will help you keep the temperature of the oil constant.

1 3/4 C flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp all spice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
pinch of five spice powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1/8 cup unsalted butter at room temp
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt

1 litre of vegetable oil for deep frying
white sugar for dredging the cooked doughnuts

- Mix together the dry ingredients.
- Mix together the vanilla and milk in another bowl.
- Cream together the butter and sugar, add the egg.
- Add half the flour and half the milk to the butter and blend on low.
- Add the remaining flour and milk and blend until well combined. Add more flour if necessary. You may need to knead the dough.
- Cover the dough and chill it overnight or for 2 hours.

To deep fry

- Pour the oil into a large pot and heat over medium high. Check at regular intervals with an instant read thermometer for the temperature.
- Roll out the chilled dough on a floured surface until it's 1/2 inches thick.
- Cut into the desired shape using a doughnut cutter or a wide-mouthed glass and a shot glass for the holes. It's fun to make a whole bunch of small doughnuts using only a small glass.
- When the oil reaches 350 F, try out the temperature with a doughnut hole. If it bobs up to the surface after about 30 seconds, the oil is ready. Slide in 3 or 4 big doughnuts and turn them after 3 minutes. You can also go by colour: golden brown means they're done!
- Transfer the cooked doughnuts onto paper towels and let cool.
- Shake them around in a paper bag with some sugar and serve!

After you finish cooking and the oil has cooled, place some cheesecloth in a funnel and pour the oil back into the bottle. Keep it in the fridge for the next time you want to make doughnuts!

Birthday Coffee Cake

I've had the most wonderful summer. I went swimming in community pools. I gardened, even though my garden produced zilch. I rode my blue Peugeot bike to and from work. I sang Joni Mitchell songs from the Rise Up Singing songbook. I made Thai curries and pork tonkatsu and lots of sushi rice. I started watching Minuit, le soir, an incredible Quebec T.V series. I translated at the Ecocity World Summit 2011 in Montréal and learned about designing cities for people not cars. I read a lot on my Kindle (Matterhorn, Karl Marlantes, A Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan, and The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver). I went home to Victoria where I saw maternal relatives, played tennis, realized my sister is growing up big time, had big life discussions with mom and dad, and ate a lot of fish. I went to Oregon where I saw paternal relatives, swam in the lake, played tennis, read, made blackberry pie, and ate a lot of granola.

And, there have been many birthday celebrations. Birthdays are important in my family, as all celebrations are. When I was younger, I used to average two or three birthday parties. One with my friends, one with my family at home, and one in Oregon. With cake and presents at all of them. Of course, everyone in my family teased me relentlessly (and they still do)  about having so many parties. But they only encouraged it with their organizing and asking me weeks in advance for birthday dinner requests! (Mind you, I do send my birthday list out as a group email on July 1st.) Despite any teasing, we still feel evening birthday dinner parties aren't quite enough. You have to have birthday breakfast too, even if it means getting up at 6:30 on a week day. And that means birthday coffee cake.

Dad started making birthday coffee cake maybe 10 years ago. I think his dad made it for him and his brother and sister when they were small. It was one of the few things he made when they were kids. The recipe's originally from the Joy of Cooking, and there's nothing else quite like it.

This summer, Dad made the coffee cake for my birthday when I was home, and I made it for JB's birthday last weekend in Montréal. Everyone loved it, especially after they figured out it wasn't a cake made of coffee but a brioche-type delicacy.

Birthday Coffee Cake
Adapted by Eric Murphy from the Joy of Cooking

The recipe will be different every time you make it depending on flour, oven temperature, memory, and state of mind. Use instant yeast, it's easier. I make this the night before, putting the dough in the fridge over night after it has risen once. Then, in the morning, I take it out early to let it rise before cooking.


1/2 C butter, SOFT
1/2 C sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 TBS lemon juice
2 beaten eggs
1 C milk
1 tsp vanilla

4-5 C sifted white spelt flour or all-purpose white flour (quantities will vary depending on which flour you use)
2 TBS instant yeast

- In a big bowl, cream the butter and sugar until creamy. You can do this by hand, with beaters, or in a stand mixer.
- Add the salt, lemon zest, lemon juice, eggs, milk, and vanilla. Mix well.
- In another bowl, sift 4 C of flour and whisk in the instant yeast.
- Gradually add the flour. When the dough's too stiff to stir, use your hands to mix the rest of the flour in. If the dough's sticking to your hands, add more flour until it's just barely sticky.
- Knead the dough for 5 minutes or until smooth. You should be able to stretch the dough without it tearing, but you don't have to knead it as much as bread dough.
- Put the dough in a clean buttered bowl in a warm place. I turn on the oven for 5 minutes (100 F) with the door open and turn if off before I put in the dough. Let it rise for 2 hours or until it has doubled.
- Punch it down and either roll or stretch it into a 9 X 9 rectangular baking dish. Let it rise for another 30 minutes. Make the topping (see below for recipe).

- OR: Once the dough is in the pan, you can cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge over night. The cold will slow down the rising. In the morning, take out the dough 1 1/2 hours to let it rise before baking.

- Bake at 350 F for 20-30 minutes. The cake is done when you press your fingers in the middle and the dough springs back. The middle cooks last.

Make the topping while the dough rises for the second time.

4 TBS flour
4 TBS butter
4 TBS brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)

- Mix together well.

We bought JB the Italian-made Avanti espresso machine for his birthday. It makes terrific espresso and accompanied the cake perfectly. And, as I said, if espresso makes you feel like you have jet engines  under your feet, tea would be fine.

Out of the box

Turns out someone I graduated from high school with is a farmer. I felt pretty damn awesome about that so I joined her CSA for the summer and have been kicking my butt to find interesting ways to eat radishes, arugula, and greens greens greens. The following are some of my favs thus far...more to come as I endeavor to eat everything before it goes bad...

Walnut, Radish & Arugula Sandwiches (are my new favorite meal)
from Mark Bittman's Food Matter's Cookbook

Drop one bunch of washed radish's into a food processor. Whiz them up until they are in chunky little pieces. Remove as much as you can to a separate bowl, stragglers, are ok. Put .5 cup walnuts & 1 cup packed arugula in the food pr...ocessor. Grate the zest from 1 orange (or 1 lemon) into processor as well. Whiz all of that up for about 1 minute - it will look a little gritty. With the food processor on, pour about 1-2tbsp. olive oil in the spout. This will emulsify with the walnut/arugula/zest and produce one beautiful green paste. Turn processor off, taste and salt and pepper as necessary. Spread that number on some bread or crackers and then sprinkle with pre-prepared radish bits. Surprisingly delightful & addictive. 

Potato Salad with Radishes & Fennel Tops
based on a recipe by Ethan Stowell in the July 2011 Food & Wine Magazine, page 180.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When water is boiling, add 1.5 lbs of organic potatoes cut roughly to .5" square pieces. Boil for about 15min, or JUST until you can pierce pieces with a fork. When pot...atoes reach this state, drain into a colander and run cool water over them to prevent further cooking.

In a large bowl measure .5 cup extra virgin olive oil and 2 tbsp. champagne vinegar (you can substitute a white wine vinegar here, but champagne vinegar IS pretty delicious). Whisk up and season with salt and pepper. Fold in potatoes (it's ok if they are still a little warm, they will smell great in the dressing!). At this time also add the roughly chopped tops and stalks of 1 fennel bulb. Allow this business to cool completely.  

When you are ready to serve the salad fold in 1 bunch of sliced radishes. Taste it, add more salt, more pepper & enjoy!

Apricot Glazed Napa Cabbage or Bok Choy with Fennel
based on a recipe from Terry Walter's "Clean Food" 

In a large skillet or dutch oven saute 2 tbsp grated ginger in 2tbsp olive oil for 1 minute. (Keep it moving, ginger gets sticky!). Add 2 sliced delicious little baby Five Acre Farm fennel bulbs, tops removed and saved for another dish.... Saute for about 5 minutes until fennel is soft. Stir in three tbsp good Apricot jam and 8 cups washed & chopped asian greens (bok choy or napa cabbage are both great here. Cut the ends off of either green and then just slice into strips across stem. Wash and rinse, you're good to go). Gently fold the picture together in your skillet, watching to make sure that nothing is sticking to horrifically to the bottom. Remove from heat when greens are wilted & stalky bits are soft - the bright green color is usually a good cue. Sprinkle liberally with sesame seeds and serve!

Thai Curry on a Weeknight

I have a cookbook called The Best International Recipe by Cooks Illustrated. In it are recipes for international recipes, all tried and tested to perfection in America's Test Kitchen. The recipes are made with ingredients that North American cooks can buy at the grocery store, but the lists are long. I've been swooning over a recipe for Thai green curry for months, but I haven't mustered up the courage to buy 18 different things and spend an hour and a half sweating over a simmering pot, no matter how delicious the results may be.

JB's brother Pierre is a chef, and a darn good chef at that. Sometime last month, he made a Thai curry at our house, proving that you can make an awesome curry with a little coconut milk, curry paste, and the protein of your choice. He also showed me a little trick: reduce the coconut milk until the oil separates out and starts to brown in the pan. The rest is easy.

I remembered exactly what Pierre had shown me and wanted to compare his method to others. I found another quick recipe for Thai curry in Matthew Amster-Burton's Hungry Monkey cookbook. What d'you know? Matthew also reduces his coconut milk and uses store-bought curry paste. (Matthew also has an excellent, simple recipe for Pad Thai, you can read about it here.)

Different brands of curry paste vary in quality and flavour. I've found, just as Matthew suggests, that Thai Kitchen pastes are less spicy and less flavourful that Mae Ploy pastes. Their flavour is also less complex. But if Thai Kitchen is all you can find just add a bit more or a little less! It's all to taste anyway.

Green Thai Curry
From Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton

Serves 4 with rice

Make a big pot of your favourite rice (I've been really digging sushi rice) and follow the directions on the package.

1 14-ounce can coconut milk
2 TBS green curry paste
1 TBS sugar
1 TBS fish sauce
1 pound shrimp, fish, chicken, tofu, you choose.
1 TBS fresh lime juice

Chopped green onion and cilantro for garnish.

1. Heat a skillet on medium high.
2. Shake your can of coconut milk before opening it. Open the can and pour half the milk into the skillet.
3. Bring the milk to a boil. Reduce the milk until a thin shimmer of oil appears on the surface and little bubbles start to form (about 5 minutes). You'll need to stir! The milk will hiss when you drag a spoon through it. It will look like this:

4. You want to wait until it looks like this (keep stirring!):

5. Now add your curry paste. Stir!
6. Add the rest of your coconut milk, sugar, and fish sauce. Bring to a boil. Stir!
7. Add your protein of choice. (Shrimp take about 1.5 minutes. Chicken takes about 5 minutes. Tofu takes about 5 minutes as well, you want it nice and tender.)
8. Bring the sauce to a boil.
9. Off the heat, stir in lime juice and cover the whole dish in chopped cilantro (or mint or basil) and green onion.
10. Serve! (With rice, don't forget.)

- Murph