Great story (and picture!) about a doughnut shop in Philadelphia I really, really want to visit – Federal Donut.
I was very excited to watch the Food Network’s second episode of The Next Iron Chef and see the first challenge of the evening involve coffee and doughnuts! What could be closer to a Fried Dough Ho’s heart after all? And I admit up front that I am rooting for Chef Mary Dumont as I had the distinct pleasure of dining on her scrumptious cuisine many years ago when she was the chef in foie gras-centric Sonoma Saveurs (now closed). Wishing I could taste the offerings, here is my thoughts based solely on what I witnessed.
But you must know that what was offered to the chefs to cook with were obviously sub-standard doughnuts. Considering this was being filmed in Los Angeles, I would have hoped the producers of the show might have sourced this ingredient from Randy’s Doughnuts but I could tell from the images of the doughnuts that these were mediocre at best. Given that, I am sure what the chefs did was to create the best possible dishes considering the mediocrity of their core ingredient.
Chef Pagan: Donut Tapa with ricotta, coffee-infused cream (the cream had come from a doughnut), bacon and pine nuts as well a deep-fried doughnut with banana. There were some great comments about the fact that that Chef Pagan re-fried and already fried dough with Chef Estes alluring stating, “it was naughty!” But Chef Caswell commented that he could not taste the coffee in either dish. The extra crunch on the outside of the double-fried doughnut looked like a bit of overkill, but apparently it tasted better than it looked.
Chef Tio – Her Old Fashioned Griddled with butter and Bacon and Egg Donut and served with red-eye gravy looked pretty disgusting; flat and lifeless. But the second offering of a buttermilk fried powdered doughnut topped with fried chicken livers with hearts – her version of chicken and waffles – was well-received by Estes and seemed quite appetizing to me. It was Chef Canora who said that chicken liver was not a breakfast meat and I wanted to bitch-slap him right there for that. Oh, so wrong, my friend! Her dish was favored by Chef Tsai.
Chef Dumont – Duo of bananas; Bananas which had been caramelized and served with a sauce made from the scrapings of a glazed doughnut and croutons from French doughnuts with a coffee crunch. The second was also bananas, this time deep-fried and served with a sauce made from the chocolate from a doughnut glaze. She admitted that she wanted to have a lemon cream but a sliced finger prevented her from other additions. Chef Forgione expressed empathy over the injury, but pragmatic that it was a competition. Chef Dumont was quite possibly the least traditional of the evening’s offerings by going off on the banana junket, and not showcasing more doughnut and coffee flavor and it definitely hurt her in the long run, as Chef Tsai noted.
Chef Chauhan – Doughnut Grilled with Cheddar and Fontina Cheeses as well as Doughnut Frittata made with glazed and chocolate doughnuts. It seems she used coffee and basil in the flavorings which elicited a wink from Chef Pagan. I would be curious which flavor doughnut she used for the grilled cheese; it looked like a standard cake doughnut and while that might work, I am more intrigued with the basil-scented frittata. Chefs Tio, Pagan and Dumont picked these dishes as their favorite.
Chef Tsai – The only one to make a beverage this evening; an iced, frozen espresso topped with a thinly sliced section from a chocolate chip-studded doughnut. To complement the beverage, he sliced a glazed doughnut to make a panini with sliced green tomatoes, eggs, and ham. Chef Canora commented that he couldn’t get any coffee flavor and I wonder if the objective was to assure there was coffee flavor in both dishes. More surprisingly was Chef Caswell’s objection that “he’s seen it before.” Like Chef Tsai, I would be curious where one would find such a dish. It seemed innovative and oddly tasty.
Chef Estes – Tried to create baked shirred eggs but had to fry them up at the last minute with doughnut serve. Coffee yogurt with doughnut granola and coffee’d apricots. Like Chef Tsai’s beverage, the idea of a granola seemed more innovative and daring than what some of the other chefs were doing in the classic sandwich sense. Although the eggs seemed like they were not going to work, the presentation looked appetizing. Chef Canora picked Estes as the winner based on the granola.
Chef Forgione - Coffee Sabayon served in eggshells served alongside a doughnut grilled in brown butter. His other dish was a deeply gorgeous browned French toast served with caramlized bananas and a coffee and bacon syrup. Chef Caswell thought the sabayon was perfect and Chef Chauhan chose Forgione’s dishes as her pick of the evening. Chef Pagan thought the French toast was innovative but did not like it because of texture. Honestly, if you are going to serve a dish in eggshells, make the eggshells presentable! I know they are on a time limit but having bits of broken and hanging shell bits dangling around what you are about to eat is less than appetizing.
Chef Caswell – Cake doughnut Pain Perdue and here I *do* see another glass with a beverage. The pain perdue was made with a cake doughnut and served with a roasted peach, bacon bits, and coffee syrup. His version of a Vietnamese coffee was shockingly created a BLENDED monstrosity of buttermilk doughnuts with buttermilk, coffee and heavy cream. Excuse me? You blend fried dough with liquid and expect people to drink it? Well, obviously not well because no one could taste the doughnut in the dish. Some bickering occurred with Chef Forgione thinking Caswell’s French toast was undercooked (it did look a bit pale and pathetic!) as “it was squishy.”
Chef Canora – Breakfast sandwich which depicted a sliced, grilled doughnut was the base under an egg with fontina cheese, some spinach, and this slice of coffee-crusted Canadian bacon. The coffee crust made the dish look burned and unappealing. His second dish was cinnamon doughnut French Toast with sliced banana and a bunch of other toppings which were hard to distinguish. With comments from his fellow chefs that they were tasting bitter, Chef Canora tried to justify it with a comment that “Bitter is a great flavor that does not get enough recognition.” Oh really? Well, he did acknowledge later that he might have over-griddled his toast. This was favored by Chefs Caswell, Forgione.
THE WINNER: Chef Chuauan
THE LOSER: Chef Dumont
No, this post isn’t about any form of fried dough, but a specialty fruit that appear briefly each summer, the Donut Peach. I am considering this a sort of Trompe l’Oeil doughnut for looking at it, there is no doubt the mind immediately goes to the more fattening, unhealthy version. A little research has discovered that with the heightened awareness of heirloom fruits and vegetables, this is not actually a new variety of peach at all, but had been grown in the States as early as the 1800′s. Originally from China, it probably lost its allure because its flesh is not the bright yellow of classic peaches and also perhaps its shape.
Long before it was known as the Donut Peach — undoubtedly because of its flattened shape with the ubiquitous hollow in the center so indicative of those raised and cake varieties we love so much — this odd fruit was known as Chinese flat peaches, Chinese sauces peaches, peento peach, or Galaxy or Saturn peach (because it alludes to a 1950s U.F.O. shape and/or the rings of our sixth planet?) Now more commonly referred to as the Donut Peach, California and Washington are the primary locales for its growth and farming.
As an artist, I am drawn to their two-toned, mottled color – pale yellow splotched with alluring splashes of blushing crimson at once, demure but at second glance, teasing and sultry. Granted, there is not as much flesh so cooking with donut peaches would take a few more if quantity is needed – and they are a bit more expensive. But on the upside, they are lower in acid than the classic peach with a more mild, sweeter taste and some have ascribed almond overtones to them. They are a little easier to eat and the skin tends to be a bit thinner with less fuzz so some who are inclined to peel peaches might enjoy these varieties more. I have also found them much easier to pit; a quick slice through the flesh with a knife and the two halves can be twisted apart with the pit almost falling free, leaving just unctuous bites of decadent fruit easy to consume.
No, what you are looking at are not actual doughnuts. They are part of the rising culture of the doughnut obsessed. And they come from Japan. These little biscuits are about the size of a half-dollar. Light and crunchy, they are slightly sweet and studded with black sesame seeds, giving them a darker, more subtle flavor. The texture are light and addictive; almost cookie-light without being cloying.