Tuesday, December 1, 2015

in the sweet kitchen

A few weeks ago I got it in my head that I needed to learn to make sour cream cake donuts. What followed was a flurry of research, mixing, and frying. I still haven't gotten the recipe exactly right, but I'm getting closer.


Smack in the middle of my cake donut craze, my husband and I received an invitation to take over the donut making production for the Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale. The couple currently in charge has been filling the position for the past 17 years. We said we may—may—be interested, so one evening not too long ago, they sat down with us to explain just what, exactly, the job entailed. This is the summary:

1. Make 14,000 donuts in 12 hours.
2. Oversee 120 volunteers.
3. Pull one all-nighter.

We thought about it for several days and then said yes.

And then I embarked on a quest to tweak my yeast donut recipe. (Actually, I started making donuts before we even said yes. I was fired up.)


The relief sale's donut-making system is a tight, streamlined affair. The couple who has been running the show are absolute geniuses in efficiency. This—their delightful practicality—was part of the reason we were so drawn to the job. The other reason was that we will get to work with a broad range of volunteers, from conservative Mennonites grandmas to tatted teens and everything between. It's bound to be a fascinating experience. Delicious, too.


We want our recipe to be similar in taste and texture to the ones we normally make (and not wildly different from the ones that relief sale goers are accustomed to). Also, the recipe needs to smoothly convert to ginormous batches and make use of the available equipment. In other words, we don't want to complicate things, but we want the recipe to be ours.


So now I have a folder for my donut-making experiments and notes. I have dramatically reduced our standard recipe (which is only one-fourth of a single recipe of the relief sale donuts, yikes!) to facilitate experimentation. I've been researching the science of donut making and refreshing my understanding of the purpose for different ingredients. I'm not taking anything for granted, and, as a result, we've been eating a lot of donuts.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (12.1.14), Thanksgiving of 2013, Friday variety, Mom's new and improved cabbage salad, beef bourguignon, and potatoes in cream with gruyere.

11 comments:

  1. YUM! I'm totally available for taste testing if you feel you should bring in back ups.

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  2. Whoa, amazing undertaking. I will give you my advice: don't veer too far from the standard recipe, make them big, and must be yeast donuts.

    Managing 120 volunteers is the scary part.

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    1. Oh, they'll definitely be yeast donuts. The cake donut craze is totally separate from the relief sale undertaking.

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  3. Do the volunteers get free samples?

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    1. One donut per person. Which sounds really mean, but it's not. Everyone is so busy working that there is no time to think of eating. However, workers can buy as many donuts as they want, which is actually a big bonus since they almost always sell out.

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  4. I think this sounds fabulous! Good luck on your donut quest. I grew up in a donut shop. When I was 3 my dad went to work for his father in a donut shop. When my grandfather retired, my dad opened his own donut shop for a couple of years. It almost killed him, but that was every night. I think one night would be fun.

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  5. I'm curious about the fat you are using to fry your donuts. I have a baker friend here who said there are no non-trans fats as yet to make a commercial donut that is exceptional, but I only want to make them at this point for home.

    Thoughts?

    Oh, and that sounds like a blast!

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    1. I've always used canola oil and, in my recent flurry of research, that's the one that was most often recommended, too. Here's one of the articles I found:

      http://www.frytest.com/frying_donuts.php

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  6. glad! The donuts at the sale have been sub-par the last two years. Looking forward!

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