Friday, September 17, 2010

Baked Walnut and Cinnamon Doughnuts

I ran across a baked doughnut recipe in the July edition of Food & Wine Magazine that was adapted from Chef Robert Jörin, lead baking and pastry instructor at the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone Campus in Napa Valley. I had the pleasure of learning from Chef Jörin during a weeklong introductory baking course I took at Greystone back in 2008. The course is designed for those thinking about making the jump into baking and pastry school but who want to give it a trial run first. CIA will credit the tuition you pay for the introductory course to your first semester’s fees if you decide to enroll in their program. It was an excellent experience and the fact that I chose to go to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris for further instruction is no reflection on CIA.

I would have loved to drop everything and move to the California wine country to spend 30 weeks in CIA’s program but practical considerations pretty much negated the idea. I chose LCB for flexibility and expediency. LCB offered the convenience of completing courses over time as well as an accelerated session which made it possible for me to take time off from my job while still holding down a position that enabled me to pay for tuition. Although I still believe Sonoma County is heaven on earth, Paris wasn’t exactly a bad trade off.
But back to Chef Jörin-  the man is an excellent instructor and he has the patience of Job. My classmates and I were all novices and a bit timid but he kindly led us by the hand and showed us the ropes. The whole experience was just so pleasant - the school is housed in a gorgeous old winery, the vineyard views from the school windows are amazing, the pace of the class so laid back, and the chef so accommodating- it felt more like a vacation than school.
If you’ve read the early posts on my experience at LCB in Paris, you’re probably thinking I must be sorry I choose LCB over CIA. But I’m really not. While LCB was more of a trial by fire than a class, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Working in a professional kitchen is hard, dirty, not so glamorous work and you’d better be prepared for such if you really want to work in the field. My husband had tried to tell me this before I left for LCB but hearing it is one thing and experiencing it is a whole other ball of wax.

LCB removed my blinders. And that’s a good thing- I realized that I’m not the type of person who would thrive in the pressure-cooker environment of a commercial kitchen and that perhaps the professional route isn’t the path for me. 

In addition to the personal satisfaction of making it through a difficult, yet exhilarating life experience, LCB taught me a lot about myself. I learned that there are other ways to enjoy a passion- for me, writing about my thoughts and taking photos to chronicle my baking pursuits is really rewarding. If I never work professionally in baking or pastry, I’m o.k. with that. I’m not ruling it out but I’m not particularly pursuing it either. My journey to LCB led me to start this blog - I probably would never have done so otherwise. Learning that I enjoy writing, by far, has been my favorite lesson.

Baked Walnut and Cinnamon Doughnuts

This recipe came from a Food & Wine Magazine feature, "The Year of the Pastry Chefs." I adapted the recipe that Christy Timon and Abram Faber adapted from Robert Jörin. The recipe as published called for dried currants and nutmeg but I was out of nutmeg and I don’t keep currants around the house. I think the walnuts, extra cinnamon, and clove I compensated with worked pretty well.

2/3 c roughly chopped walnuts
1 envelope active dry yeast
Granulated sugar, for dredging
3 c all-purpose flour
1/4 t clove
1 t cinnamon
3/4 c milk, warmed
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 stick unsalted butter, softened, plus 4 T melted butter for sugar coat
2 t kosher salt

1.    Stir the yeast with 2 tablespoons of warm water and a pinch of sugar in a small bowl, and let stand until foamy, approximately 5 minutes.
2.    In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, clove and cinnamon with 1/4 cup of sugar. Add the milk, egg, egg yolk and half of the softened butter; beat at low speed for 3 minutes. Beat in the yeast, then add the salt. Beat the dough on medium speed until smooth, about 8 minutes until the dough pulls cleanly away from the bowl.
3.    While the machine is on, add the remaining softened butter to the dough in teaspoons, beating at low speed between each addition until incorporated. Beat the walnuts into the dough on low speed. Transfer dough to a greased bowl, cover and let stand in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, approximately 1 hour. After the dough has doubled, punch  down, reform into a ball and return to the bowl. Cover and let stand another hour.
4.    Butter 2 large baking sheets or line with parchment or a silpat. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and cut into 12 equal pieces. Pinch each piece into a ball and arrange 6 balls on each of the prepared baking sheets, smooth sides up. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Press each ball into a flat 4-inch round. With a 1 1/4-inch round cutter, cut out the centers of each round and return the holes to the baking sheets. Cover loosely and let stand for 1 hour, until slightly risen.
5.    Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the doughnuts and holes for 15 minutes, shifting the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the halfway point. If needed, continue to bake the doughnuts until done - they should be golden and puffy and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part should register 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
6.    Spread sugar in a shallow bowl. Brush the hot doughnuts and holes on both sides with the melted butter and dredge in sugar. Allow to cool slightly, then serve.


  1. I've been wanting to try that recipe too! The doughnuts look delicious. Your LCB experience must have been amazing.

  2. If you try it, let me know what you think. I had to reduce the baking time from 25m as published to 15m or they would have burned up. I'm wondering if my ommission of the reconstituted currants (i.e. less moisture) caused the difference.

  3. These look perfectly done and absolutely beautiful! I can almost taste them through the pictures.

  4. @Crepes of Wrath - thanks for stopping by!

  5. ughhh, when will i ever just get the strength (re: courage) to make donuts. the moment i am guaranteed they will come out the oven exactly like Krispy Kremes is the moment I shall try. and you recipe will definitely be the one i use! :)

  6. Oh, Lola... these hardly hold a candle to KK. Not sure any recipe could. I think KK's secret ingredient must be crack because their donuts are addictive. However, for a baked donut, these aren't too shabby.

  7. Baked donuts sound a lot healthier than fried! I love your pictures of Greystone. We've driven by there often but never been. I understand that they offer lovely meals made by students.

    I'm with you, Sonoma is marvelous! That is my favorite California "wine country" region.

    You make LCB sound ferocious!

  8. @Stevie- I'm so jealouos that you get to live near Sonoma. We love the Bay Area and have contempalted more than once moving there.

    And LCB was a little ferocious but I was also way under-prepared.