Sarah: Anna’s husband bought her a place on this workshop by one of our favourite doughnut creators, and I joined her for a pre-Christmas treat. Bread Ahead have a bakery school in Borough Market and we were a class of 16 novices there for three hours of doughnut-making heaven.
Manuel was our teacher, a witty and reassuring French chef, who led us through the making of the dough – a very messy process involving five minutes of stretching the dough in which I ended up with more dough on my hands than on the table. The dough is made up of strong flour, caster sugar, salt, eggs, lemon zest, water, butter and fresh yeast. It’s then left to prove for a while – so Anna took this dough home and made a second batch the next day.
We were provided with a second batch of dough that Manuel had made earlier which we rolled into 50g balls – or rather, we rolled them into sticky messes which Manuel deftly corrected for us.
I was a little nervous about the deep-fat fryers, and you had to be careful and quick, skilfully dropping each dough ball into the oil and timing two minutes before flipping over.
Then we extracted them, dipped them into a huge bowl of sugar, and piped in the fillings: blueberry jam, vanilla custard and caramel custard. I underfilled mine (it was very difficult to work out how much filling you were piping in!) but the dough was so light and delicious, I didn’t mind.
Manuel rescues our misshapen balls of dough.
For the honeycomb I had to measure out sugar (so much sugar…), liquid glucose, water and honey. I have never used liquid glucose before so had no idea how sticky it was. After stirring it all together it felt like I had done a full workout on my arms. It then went onto the heat for a while – my instructions were to keep a close eye on it and to tell Manuel when it was around 130 degrees. Once it reached this temperature, I poured in some bicarb and Manuel stirred energetically before pouring it quickly out onto a tray as it erupted. It was pretty impressive and smelt incredible. It also made me realise how rubbish crunchie bars are.
Once we had made our doughnuts and piped them, we topped them off with some honeycomb and packaged up some extra to take home. Unlike Sarah, I went the other way on filling my doughnuts and filled some so much they exploded (see middle photo on bottom row). Not a bad problem to have, especially when the honeycomb proved to be a nice vehicle to scoop up the extra filling!
We had been given the dough we made in the class to take home with us, on instructions to use it up no later than the following day. As Sarah was travelling the following day, she gave me her dough so it wouldn’t go to waste. I got it out late afternoon and it had expanded so much the plastic containers it was in had cracked. I attempted to get perfect, smooth and round balls like Manuel had shown me but sadly again, my efforts were not up to his standard and not boom-worthy.
Once proved they looked better, but as soon as I picked them up gently to put them in the hot oil, they sort of shrank and collapsed into flat ovals. After frying they looked better, but not very round and not smooth! Not that I minded the crispy bits – once rolled in sugar with cinnamon, they tasted delicious and still fairly light.