Ever since leaving the US to live abroad donut has become a luxury. Gone are the days when we buy donuts by the dozen and munch on it whenever we liked (once you hit 30’s your metabolism just won’t take that kind of abuse). Having donuts for breakfast is also out, since donut bakeries in Asia don’t open at the crack of dawn, as Dunkin donuts do. This didn’t bother us too much. Although we love a good donut it’s not necessary to have it everyday for obvious waistline reasons.
In Japan there’s a chain called Mister Donut,which sells the cutest mini (by American standard) donuts in all sorts of pretty shapes and glazes. You’d need to eat three to get a full portion but you’d also look like a greedy pig, so I order one and savor it slowly. I used to go for a food styling class once a week at night and there’s a Mr. Donut in the JR station so every week I’d look forward to my treat. We weren’t in Hong Kong long enough, plus I was too busy sampling all the yummy dim sum places and trying the entire menu at Hang Fa Lau (杏花楼) to miss donuts.
In Singapore however, donut is the latest craze. I was in the basement Raffles Place shortly after arriving in Singapore and saw a long line of people. Curious to find out what’s so popular I followed the line to the beginning, only it wasn’t the beginning. The line was so long it had to be broken up into sections and what’s this all about?Donuts! I never even got to see what the donuts looked like because the shop display case was completely empty and those people seem to be waiting for the new batches coming up. I have never seen anything like this except for Japanese ladies waiting to buy a limited edition Louis Vuitton bag on the opening day of the flagship on Omotesando.
I thought, there goes my chance of getting a donut in Singpoare when I want it, but was promptly distracted by other things such as our stupid fridge to think too much about it. Then a couple of weeks later Lynette of Palate Sensations asked me if I wanted to teach a donut-making class because there seems to be a demand for it. Although I’d never made a donut in my life, I thought, how hard could it be and set off to test recipes.
The first recipe I did was a beignet-type donut filled with raspberry jam. That turned out beautifully, although I found out that in Singapore’s high humidity condition it’s not a good idea to coat the donuts in cinnamon sugar unless you plan to eat them on the same day.
I need at least two to three recipes for a three-hour class so the next recipe I tested was a traditional glazed donut. This proved to be more difficult than I thought. For practical reasons I first tried a recipe that require no yeast and rising time. The resulting donuts were so dense it was like eating fried cakes. Then I spent a whopping $1.50 and bought a recipe on the internet which promised to be the best secret donut recipe there is. Despite the hassle of cooking and mashing a potato, this was also disappointing. Next I tried the so-called Dunkin donut recipe. By this time I’m back in the US at my parents house where spring is slowly arriving and one cannot rely on room temperature to proof yeast dough. I let the dough rise for the first time in the fridge overnight and did the second rising in a warm oven. Except I forgot how dry the air is in the US compared to Hong Kong or Singapore and the dough dried out before it had a chance to rise. My fourth attempt was equally disastrous, but that was because I had left out one ingredient from the recipe: butter (not a very smart idea). I’m now on my fifth attempt, same recipe, but with the butter. It’s unseasonably warm in DC today at 80F so the cut-out donuts are rising covered under saran wrap and a wet towel in the second-floor bedroom, next to the window. If this still doesn’t work out, I have my fallback Cook’s Illustrated recipe, which should not disappoint. Then I still have the icing to work out because they tend to run off the next day. And when I get back to Singapore I need to test the recipe again to adjust for the humidity. Gosh it’s a lot of work for a decent donut!