I recently competed in a contest at the Stamford Museum and Nature Center during their Maple Syrup Festival. As you can imagine the theme of the contest was maple syrup. I immediately thought of donuts. It’s been a pretty long and cold winter so I figured a hot maple donut would go a long way with the crowd. At first it seemed pretty simple, I mean you can buy a donut for a dollar at any coffee shop in the country and of course there is the Dunkin version we’ve all had. But trust me; a donut is not just a fried ball of dough and icing. It took me at least 6 tries to get something even resembling a donut. All of the components are critical, from the glaze on top to the texture of the donut inside. My first task was to get the base donut perfected, well at least edible. I tried yeast donuts, cake donuts, risen and not risen styles; I just could not get it. I did everything I could to make this donut taste good and finally came up with a no rise yeast donut base that tasted like a punch of maple. I also made the decision that if I needed to make 300 of these buddies then I’d better make a hole and not mess with the whole donut. I also realized that math plays a really key role in the process. After I figured out the amounts for 300 plus holes I told my Dad, “Were gonna need a bigger bowl”.
The next step was how to cook the donuts. I baked a batch but they were not so good and I discovered that the best way to make a donut was to fry it. I fried some donuts in a pot of oil on the stove, but they became too dark and did not cook quickly enough. I knew that it was important to control the temperature, particularly after I added a batch of balls but it was just not easy to regulate the temp using this method. Another A HA moment……. I needed a deep fryer. I prepared my argument; I’ve already gotten my new bowl, around 50 pounds of flour and a gallon of Grade A maple syrup and my Dad was already rambling that money doesn’t grow on trees. I made my case and my Dad agreed for the sake of my donut quest and I got one, a really cool one. I would now be able to get the perfect temperature and I could increase the number of holes per batch! Score!! Next came the oil and like the flour I tried them all but decided on vegetable oil for the crispiness. Up until this point I’ve already made a hundred plus donuts but with the fryer and the basic recipe down, I started to crank them out. Each batch I took notes and made minor tweaks but for the most part I was really confident that I would be a strong contender.
Now to me, the best part of a donut is the frosting. I decided to make a maple glaze. I’ve always been a go big or go home type of cook and if maple was the showcase then I would do it not only in the batter but also in the frosting. Maple two ways, no better yet double maple donut holes….yes. Problem was my maple glaze kept turning into maple caramel. I looked at different glaze recipes and experimented a lot and finally came up with a delicious combo using powdered sugar as a thickener. It was like a small miracle and it tasted great! As a final touch I made candied maple bacon as a salty contrast. Double maple glazed donut holes with candied maple bacon. If nothing else, I covered the maple.
My Dad and I woke up at 6am the day of the competition. Even though I was at a school dance the night before I did not need an alarm to wake up. My adrenaline was pumping. I made the dough, rolled 325 holes, cooked and finely crumbled the bacon and packed the rest of the ingredients for the glaze while my Dad packed the deep fryer and electric burners. We arrived at the nature center at 10:00am sharp with the doors opening at 11:30. I was worried, because the 3 other competitors had arrived with their dishes already prepared and all they need to do was set them out. Did I get to aggressive to think that I could prepare 325 donuts on the spot? Seeing I was a little overwhelmed Dad pulled me aside and told me that I have already done this, 3 times over, in less time than I had now. It hit me and I went on auto pilot. I started to fry my donuts, prepared the glaze and set it on the burner and it soon became an assembly line. Fry the dough, dip them in the glaze, and plate them with the bacon. By the time I had the first batches ready the room started to fill but regardless of the crowd, it started to get easier to control the flow and everyone was loving the donuts. Not only did I prepare and serve the 325 hot donuts but I was also able to spend time with people who were interested in talking to me and even squeezed in a few interviews with the press!
Long story short, a donut may seem like an easy thing to make from the outside in but from the inside out it is a labor of love….the love of donuts in this case, and as I learned, love is not always easy but always worth it in the end.
Mexican Pork Stew (Estofado de Cerdo picante y Maiz Molido)
• 2 pounds fat on pork roast, cubed
• 2 cans whole new Mexican green chilies, chopped
• 1 can chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce, chopped
• 1 medium can black beans
• 2 medium cans white Hominy corn
• 2 cans tomato sauce
• 1 tsp. cumin, ancho chile powder, cayenne, and salt
• 3 tbsp. lime juice
• 1 onion, chopped
• 1 tbsp. piloncillo, or brown sugar
• Canola Oil
- In a large bowl, mix pork and spices
- In a large pot, sauté onions in oil for 5 minutes, and add chipotle and green chilies
- Add lime juice and tomato sauce to pot, and mix
- Brown pork in a medium saucepan with piloncillo, and add to the pot
- Before serving, add corn and beans then warm
- Serve with corn tortillas
Sweet Sunshine- Spanish Meatballs
10 oz. ground pork
6 oz. ground beef
1 bag tortilla chips, grinded
½ cup chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ onion, chopped
1 can chipotle peppers in Adobo, pureed
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. coriander
½ cup Mild Sweet Sunshine Sauce
Warm Mild Sweet Sunshine Sauce to serve
• Combine all ingredients thoroughly
• Form the mixture into small, 2 inch wide balls
• Lay on a nonstick sheet pan, and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until meatballs have an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
1 (8) oz. block cream cheese
¼ cup mayonnaise
6 cups chicken broth
½ cup frozen spinach, thawed
1 pouch Potato Leek Soup
½ cup mozzarella cheese
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
• In a large pot , bring broth to a boil over medium high heat
• Add soup mix, and cook for 30 minutes
• In a large mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, cream cheese, and mozzarella cheese until combined.
• Add garlic, salt and pepper.
• Pour small amounts of the soup into the dip, so that it combines, but does not become to soft.
• Serve warm