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The Best Way To Bake

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For our July story, "The Year of the Pastry Chef,"  we had the honor of featuring some incredible desserts from some of the country's best pastry minds, including Christy Timon and Abram Faber of Clear Flour Bread in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who gave us the recipe for their amazing airy baked doughnuts. A model professional baking recipe, it used baker's percentages and required an accurate scale and instant yeast, two things that aren't often found in home kitchens, but make for more reliable results. In the magazine, we adapted the doughnuts for home cooks, swapping in easier-to-find active dry yeast, scaling back the portions, and converting weights to cup measures, but Timon and Faber were rightfully concerned that our version wouldn't be as fail-safe. We think we came pretty close, but were we right? For the sake of comparison (and for those who prefer scales), the bakery's original recipe comes after the jump. Which would you rather use?


Baked Currant Doughnuts
Christy Timon, Co-Owner of Clear Flour Bread
Adapted from Robert Jorin, Team leader for the Baking & Pastry Program at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone
Yield: 1998 grams = 16 large doughnuts

INGREDIENTS                
290 grams dried currants (baker's percentage: 33 percent)    
200 grams unsalted butter (23 percent), plus more for melting  
13 grams SAF dried Gold Yeast* (1.5 percent)
875 grams all-purpose flour (100 percent)
73 grams granulated sugar (8.5 percent)
1 gram cinnamon (.07 percent)                    
3 grams nutmeg (.34 percent)                
404 grams whole milk at 55˚F (46 percent)
122 grams eggs at 45˚F (14 percent)
17 grams salt (2 percent)  
    
*SAF Gold Yeast is specially designed to work with sweet doughs, so that it's not slowed down by the extra sugar and it keeps the product from overbrowning at the bake. It is not as widely distributed as the Red Label, but is available at kingarthurflour.com.

DIRECTIONS
At least 4 hours before mixing the dough, cover the currants with lukewarm water. Drain immediately in a sieve, shaking off the excess water. Cover the fruit and let stand at room temperature. This will prevent the fruit from making the doughnut dough dry; it also leaves all the natural sugars in the fruit.

Using a French rolling pin, soften the butter to a pliable stage by placing it between two sheets of plastic wrap and pounding it flat.

Weigh out all the other ingredients. Just before you are ready to begin mixing, in a small bowl, soften the yeast with 26 grams of water at 75 to 80°. Stir gently until it is thoroughly creamy.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, stir the flour with the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the milk, eggs and half of the softened butter.Mix on low speed with a dough hook to combine and moisten all the ingredients. Mix in the softened yeast, and then add the salt. Raise the speed to develop the strength of the dough. When the dough begins to peel away from the bowl and you can stretch a small bit of the dough into a smooth thin sheet, lower the speed and add the remaining butter in walnut-size chunks. Mix until the butter is incorporated. Fold in the currants. The ideal dough temperature should be 75 to 77˚.

Let the dough rise in a rounded shape in a covered container for 1 hour, in a place warm enough to maintain a temperature of 75 to 77°. The dough should be domed. Punch down the dough and form a soft round. Let it rise 1 more hour if making doughnuts directly or chill the dough overnight to shape and bake the following morning.
 
Shaping: On a lightly floured surface, cut the dough into 120-gram portions, then form into rounds; flatten them slightly. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.

One at a time, press out each round to a 4-inch diameter. With a cookie cutter, cut out the center holes and place the doughnuts on a greased baking sheet for their final rise. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400˚ and bake the doughnuts for 12 to 15 minutes. The doughnuts should be brown, but soft under the crust. While hot, brush with melted butter: Turn over all the doughnuts on the tray and butter the bottoms, then quickly flip them over and do the tops. In a medium-size bowl, dredge the warm doughnuts in granulated sugar. Serve.

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