A lot of people, both old and new have asked how and why I got into cooking. Depending on my mood and their perceived level of interest, I usually say anything from “because I was getting too fat in college and wanted control the food I ate” to “I needed a new passion that pushed me out of the things that didn’t require me to worry about anything but the thing right in front of me.” Since you have been following the blog for I while and you read for more than just the recipes (those people have already skimmed to the bottom), I think its fair that you know the whole story.
Before I went to college, I had no interest in cooking. My parents bought me a tiny pressure cooker and taught me some basic dals to make with rice and for a whole year that cooker lay under my bed catching dust. Over the summer, I took up a job on campus that paid me good money but since the campus was technically shut, we had no college meals to live off of. This was when I had to start cooking for myself. I began by making basic sandwiches, which turned into more complex sandwiches with hummus and grain mustards. I learned how to boil pasta and make a bowl with shrimp and readymade pasta sauce. The highlight of that summer was me learning how to make Aglio e olio. I distinctly remember my then girlfriend spending the weekend with me and me trying to be romantic by cooking her meals. I genuinely tried hard, but I cringe at what I was making now that I think. She ate everything I made and I love her for that but I apologise for making her go through that phase!
That summer started my love with food. I was intrigued by how ingredients can come together to make something so beautiful and filling at the same time. I wasn’t fascinated by fancy food. I didn’t watch Gordon Ramsey yelling at cooks that were incapable of making the perfect foie gras but rather videos of Brothers Green making quick ramen in their dorm room kitchens. Soon enough, I began cooking whenever I got the chance. From helping at dinner parties to making quick meals for friends. Slowly, it became a fun pastime and a way to do something fun for the weekend. My last year of college is when I actually began to live off of what I made. I had meal plans, recipe lists, ingredient runs, and tasting pre-games where friends would bring the alcohol and I would serve a meal before going out for parties. This is also when the love for taking pictures, making them look good, and eating slightly healthier meals started. If I look back now, I don’t think I did justice to the opportunity that I had. With the amount of vegetables, proteins, and access I had— I rarely moved away from the bowl, pasta, salad template. But nothing taught be more about camera angles and how light bounces over objects that college and I think that was a great learning. It was also the first time I looked at food as an avenue to decompress from the day. I would listen to a podcast and just make food with no other worries primarily because of how much focus was needed just doing the two things I was preoccupied with (cooking and listening to podcasts).
Why I cooked has changed with time. From just something fun to do; to making meals as a healthy alternative to diner food; to now— a way to be creative and meditate. Cooking can be so peaceful if done at the right time and with the right mindset. My house has been very busy the past couple of months which reduces the amount of time I have to really make a mess in the kitchen. So for these donuts (along with a bunch of other recipes) I woke 4:30 in the morning just so that I would be done by 9 before the breakfast shift begins. I did this because I wanted a clean, quiet kitchen where I could listen to music, hear the sounds of me working with the dough and really meditate. These donuts are hard to make no doubt but they are totally worth the effort because of the diversity of things you can do with both the yeasted dough and the creme patté. So, find 5 hours of the week that you can donate, and just make these. It’s a much needed therapy.
Glimpses from all my cooking adventures
For Yeast Donuts
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon granulated sugar (for the yeast)
1 packet active dry yeast (7 grams)
350g all purpose flour
75g white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
3 large egg yolks
Additional sugar (optional for coating)
For Coffee Cream Filling
3 large egg yolks
1 whole egg
85g white granulated sugar
30g corn starch
Dab of vanilla paste
1 tablespoon of instant coffee powder
2 cups whole milk
Start by heating some milk in a bowl to 43 Celsius (110°F) and then add 1 tsp of sugar along with 1 packet of active dry yeast. Stir to combine and set aside for 10 minutes.
In a large bowl combine 350 grams of all purpose flour with 75 grams of white sugar, and 1 tsp of table salt. Whisk to combine.
In the same bowl add 3 large egg yolks and the milk and yeast mixture. Using a wooden spoon or your hands, mix dough together until it forms a large shaggy mass. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 8 minutes. Once dough is smooth, add to an oiled bowl, cover, and let sit for about an hour or until it’s doubled in size.
Turn dough out onto a floured work surface, pat with a little bit of flour, and then roll out to about ½ inch thickness. Then use a cookie cutter dusted with flour to cut the dough into donut rounds and place them on a rimmed floured baking sheet. Cover and let rise for 45 minutes.
Heat up vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet to 350°F.
Add donuts to the oil and cook for about 45 seconds per side. Remove from oil and place on a wire rack to let cool. Before the donuts cool completely, coat them in sugar.
Once cooled, make an entry point with a paring knife and add coffee vanilla creme (see below for method)
Coffee Vanilla Creme Patisserie (Filling)
Combine 3 egg yolks, 1 whole egg, 85 grams of sugar, and 30 grams of cornstarch. Whisk until smooth and creamy, and then add some vanilla paste and coffee powder.
Bring 2 cups of milk to an almost boil and SLOWLY add to your egg mixture whisking while combining.
Add entire mixture back to the saucepan and whisk over a medium low heat for about 5 minutes or until thick.
Transfer mixture to a bowl and add plastic wrap directly onto the cream and chill for at least 2 hours.