Five-Spice Spudnuts with Prune Plum Jam
We interrupt the usual beat and flow of this blog to present another dissertation on donut-making…
I kid. I will keep it very short this time, because I’ve reread my previous donut post—the one in which I explored the ways to make light yeast-raised donuts at home—and got a bit of a headache.
I mentioned that there would be more donuts. But I’ll spare you from too many words this time. Pie is my passion, but donuts, which I’ve also said I rarely eat, are, for some reason, my fascination. Or at least my fascination du jour. I knew immediately after posting the last donut recipes what my next project would be—five-spice spudnuts with plum jam; I just needed to wait until that project was in season. The clarity was a result of having given up testing iterations 10 through 25 of the yeast-raised donuts with the fancy fillings and toppings in the recipes (browned butter glaze, butter-toasted salty almonds, cardamom-sugar, coffee pastry cream). Instead, I rolled each batch in five-spice-sugar for ease and to save money. And I came to love it. Plus, given the popularity of apple cider donuts (I might tackle cider donuts that actually taste like cider and not just like warm spices next year), donuts would be the perfect summer-fall transition dish, especially when paired with a favorite summer-fall transition fruit, sweet but just tart enough and musky prune plums.
Spudnuts are a cute name for potato donuts. They’re not potato cake donuts, but those do exist (future project). These are yeasted potato donuts. Why would you add potatoes (mashed) to donuts? Well, the starches in the mashed potatoes interfere with the wheat proteins glutenin and gliadin, which link up to form gluten, the pesky complex protein that results in structure and elasticity but also toughness. Donuts (or any bread) fortified with mashed potatoes are moister and more tender, and, most importantly for me, lighter, even though common sense says that loading potatoes into dough would make it denser and heavier. As you know if you read the last donut post, I like my yeasted donuts super light. But potatoes also have enough starch so that the potato-pumped donuts do not lack structure. Potato donuts rise faster than traditional ones, but that’s not a motivating factor for me. And I have a hunch that gelatinized starch on the outside of the donuts resulted in the crunchiest (but not tough) outer sheath on the donuts after frying.
Although it took several batches, this journey, unlike the last one, was completed in one weekend. I needed only to adjust my past donut recipes to accommodate the potatoes. Some switches involved swapping some of the AP flour for bread flour, using all butter instead of coconut oil and butter, upping the yeast a tad (my least favorite thing to do, but it had to be done), and mixing fully.
I made the donuts on the small side because I rarely see mini yeast-raised donuts and because they reminded me of the Cinnamon Dippers that I used to eat at the Ground Round (which actually still exists!) when I was a kid. The warm Dippers (which also still exist!) were served with sickly sweet strawberry sauce, hot fudge, and ice cream (which the donuts promptly melted), but they were a kid’s dream. These are not sickly sweet, so they are a grown-up’s dream, especially when served with homemade (and quick) Italian prune plum jam. You can also serve whipped cream on the side, or fold the jam into the whipped cream. Donuts can be filled or dipped.
These light, airy donuts deliver on their potato-y promise. And since I’ve been known to say that potatoes are my favorite food, I am a very happy camper, well until the next donut project arises.*
*Most likely childhood-favorite cake donuts and in February. After another nice break.
Five-Spice Spudnuts with Refrigerator Prune Plum Jam
Makes about 16 donuts
I’m not sure I’ve ever offered this tip: Whenever I flour counter, dough, or rolling pin, I use cake flour. You never want to incorporate a lot of additional flour while rolling and the cake flour makes me feel a bit better about the inevitable amount that will be incorporated. In my last donut recipes, I highly recommended placing each cut-out donut onto a parchment round for easier transfer to the hot oil after proofing; this time I found that I could just cut around the donuts on a larger sheet of parchment this time to save on parchment and on cutting out all of those perfectly-sized squares. You can choose whichever method you prefer. I love the bit of muskiness the tablespoon of crème de cassis adds to the plum jam, but if you don’t have any of this expensive spirit on hand, just omit it. You may want to add a teaspoon extra sugar to the jam to make up for its sweetness. I serve these donuts with whipped cream as a dipper in addition to the jam. I love the dipping concept, but I also like to fill rectangular ones with plum jam or with whipped cream hat has plum jam folded into it, as seen in the above photos.
Prune Plum Jam
1 pound Italian prune plums, chopped
75 grams (6 tablespoons) sugar
1½ tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon crème de cassis (optional)
1⁄8 teaspoon kosher salt
270 grams (1¾ plus 2½ tablespoons) all-purpose flour
150 grams (1 cup) bread flour
250 grams (1¼ cup) sugar
2½ teaspoons instant yeast
¾ kosher salt
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
56 grams (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
65 grams (4½ tablespoons) whole milk
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, plus 1 large yolk, lightly beaten
1½ teaspoons five-spice powder
Lard, peanut oil, or vegetable oil
1. For the Prune Plum Jam: Stir all ingredients together in large saucepan and let sit, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Cook mixture, covered, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until plums soften and begin to break down, about 15 minutes. Uncover saucepan, increase heat to medium, and cook until spatula leaves trail on bottom of pan and teaspoon of jam sets on chilled plate.
2. For the Donuts: Using stand mixer fitted with dough hook, mix all-purpose flour, bread flour, sugar, yeast, and salt on low speed until combined.
3. Place potatoes in large saucepan and fill saucepan with cold water just to cover the potatoes. Bring potatoes to boil then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer potatoes until fully cooked, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside 65 grams potato cooking water in bowl and drain potatoes. Place saucepan over low heat and stir potatoes to dry of excess clinging water. Run potatoes through a ricer or food mill and place 225 grams potatoes in bowl (reserve remaining potatoes for another use…like dinner). Gently fold in butter until melted. Create well in center of flour mixture and add mashed potato mixture. Mix potatoes into flour mixture until all flour is coated (I found it easiest to use my hands).
4. Add milk and vanilla extract to potato water. Create well in potato-flour mixture. Add eggs and then milk-water mixture to well and mix on low speed until dough is smooth, 7 to 8 minutes, scraping bottom of bowl occasionally to ensure all dry ingredients are incorporated (dough will not be elastic). Transfer dough to greased large bowl. Bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until it has doubled in bulk, about 40 minutes.
5. While dough is rising, combine remaining 200 grams (1 cup) sugar and five-spice powder in shallow dish. Transfer dough to floured counter. Lightly flour rolling pin and roll out dough 3⁄8 inch thick. Cut out doughnuts with 2-inch round biscuit cutter (use ip for pastry bag to cut out center hole) or cut out 1¼ by 2-inch rectangles, brushing bottom of each one lightly in flour on counter and placing each one on parchment paper–lined baking sheets. Cover baking sheets with plastic wrap sprayed lightly with oil spray. Let donuts rise until puffed (but not quite doubled) and an indentation made with your finger almost fills back in very slowly, 30 to 40 minutes.
7. Meanwhile, heat fat of choice to depth of 2 inches in Dutch oven to 360 degrees. When donuts have risen, use cut parchment around individual donuts and transfer 3 or 4 donuts (on parchment) at a time to oil, top-side down; peel away parchment. Fry donuts on first side until golden brown, 1 to 1½ minutes. Flip donuts and fry on second side until golden brown, 1 to 1½ minutes longer. (Adjust burner as necessary to maintain oil temperature between 350 and 360.) Transfer donuts to paper towel–lined baking sheet, shaking off excess oil. Let drain for a minute, then transfer to dish of cardamom sugar and coat. Transfer sugared donuts to wire rack. Repeat with remaining donuts. Let donuts cool for 10 minutes before serving with plum jam and, if desired, whipped cream (let cool completely before filling; see headnote).