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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Culinary School - Session 72: Beignets, Bomboloni, Churros, Fritters... and Napkin Folding

Culinary School: Session 72 (02.09.15)

Beignets, Bomboloni, Churros, Fritters... and Napkin Folding

"I didn't say they couldn't, I said you shouldn't..."

Or so were the wise words of Marge Simpson when Homer had his shirt deep fried at the Springfield County Fair.

Absurd? Perhaps... but in the age of deep fried Twinkies, Oreos, Ice Cream, Butter (yes, deep fried Butter), is fried clothing that much of a stretch?

Regardless, fried foods are undeniably delicious. And fried desserts? Well, speaking for all of humanity, they're nearly perfect.

Assorted Fried Desserts including Beignets, Bomboloni, Churros and Fritters

What is it about fried desserts that is so appealing? 

When it comes to frying, there are several things at play:
  • Temperature. A warm dessert is a happy dessert. There is a naturally comforting quality to warm foods. What's more, heat releases flavor, which is why ice cream that has been allowed to temper tastes better than an extremely cold scoop.
  • Texture. Frying should result in a dessert with a crisp exterior. And while it may be hard to believe, there have been studies confirming that people prefer crispy foods. Call it the potato chip effect.
  • Contrast. Hot and cold. Crisp and soft. Contrasting characteristics are complementary in a well balanced dessert. Think of Fried Ice Cream: a warm and crisp coating surrounding a cold and creamy center. It's a perfect match.

And because practice makes perfect... particularly in pastry...

A couple of free hours before class was a great time for an extra practice session in cake layering, squaring (i.e. applying icing with painful geometric exactness) and fondant.

Please excuse the Barbie-Pink Buttercream. It was all that was available (my retinas are still burning).
Cake Layering Practice

Cake Squaring Practice

Cake Fondant Practice

- Ingredients Running Tally -

Ingredients used to date (02.09.15):
  • Flour: 24,130g
  • Eggs: 14,850g (297x)
  • Sugar: 18,120g
  • Butter: 15,275g
  • Milk/Cream: 15,115g
  • Chocolate: 2,780g (since 01.12.15)

    - The Recipes -



    These are not the Beignets of Café Du Monde in New Orleans - those powder-sugar blanketed puffs of yeast dough. These Beignets are deep fried pieces of fruit in a yeast and meringue batter. Given the heavier batter and the heat from frying, firmer fruits, such as apples, work best.

    Focus Techniques:
    - Coating Fruit in Corn Starch: Many frying techniques call for using a batter. However, a loose batter will have a hard time sticking to many foods, particularly moist fruits. Coating items in corn starch before applying a batter often helps the batter to adhere.
    - Using Beer in a Frying Batter: Beer can bring flavor to a batter, and as a carbonated product, it helps to leaven the batter.



    Some foods seem to appear in the cuisine of every culture. The Donut is one such food. In Italy, they're known as Bomboloni. Made from enriched, leavened bread dough (such as Brioche), these bite-sized rounds are often served with a curd or cream filling and may also be rolled in cinnamon or powdered sugar.

    Focus Techniques:
    - Altering Frying Temperatures: It is a commonly held belief that everything should be fried at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. That's just wrong. Denser products, like Bomboloni, take longer to cook. If the standard 350F - 375F temperature assumption were applied to Bomboloni, they may appear cooked on the outside but remain raw on the inside. Bombolini should be cooked at a lower temperature (~325 degrees Fahrenheit) for  a longer time.
    - "Actively" Frying: Frying is not a passive process. You cannot simply place food in a fryer and walk away. First, individual items may fuse together, particularly if the items are battered. Second, larger and heavier products, like Bomboloni, have a tendency to flip to one side, turning back to the side where they first came into contact with the oil. Actively moving items helps mitigate both issues.
    - Filling Products: In all cooking, special tools are often helpful but are rarely essential. When filling Bomboloni, a special Bismark Tip - a long, metallic tube that can be jabbed deep into a pastry - is often the tool of choice. However, a pastry bag fitted with virtually any tip will also work. In fact, you could even make a small hole in the Bomboloni with a paring knife and then use a pastry bag without a tip for filling. 

    Frying Bomboloni

    Fried Bomboloni

    Lemon Curd Filling for Bomboloni

    Filled Bomboloni with Passion Fruit Coulis and Chocolate Ganache Dipping Sauces



    Long, cinnamon and sugar dredged tubes of crisp, fried dough.

    Focus Techniques:
    Using Pate a Choux Dough: Pate a Choux, the dough of choice for making Cream Puffs and Eclair, is perfect for Churros. The mechanical leavening action from the egg-dense dough is ideal for creating the hollow tubes of the Churro.
    - Portioning Batter: The easiest way to portion Churros is to fill a pastry bag with dough and "slice" portions from the bag. While squeezing dough from the bag, a hot knife is used to cut portions. Alternatively, the dough can be piped onto sheets trays and frozen. The frozen dough can be placed directly into the frying oil, although the overall cooking time will be longer. 

    Frying Churros

    Cinnamon Sugar for Churros

    Cinnamon Sugar Coated Churros



    Chunks of assorted, dried fruits mixed into a thick, leavened batter... and a bit of a disappointment.

    A bit too dense and definitely lacking in flavor, these Fritters are why we make Chocolate Ganache Sauce!

    Focus Techniques:
    Quenelle Portioning: A dense batter like the one for these Fritters can be portioned using the two-spoon quenelle method. The dough is rotated between two spoons to form an egg-shaped quenelle. The resulting Fritters locks that shape when it hits the hot frying oil.

    Assorted Dried Fruit for Fritters


    Napkin Folding

    There is a wide array of techniques for folding napkins for presentation. Nothing says "You're going to pay for this meal" like Donuts served from starched, white linens.

    Simple Flat Pocket Folded Napkin

    Lobster Claw Folded Napkin

    Lobster Claw Folded Napkin

    Lily Folded Napkin

    Next - Session 73: Crepes Suzette and Chocolate Mousse Crepes

    Previous - Session 71: Chocolate Molten Cake, Cheesecake and Fruit Galette

    Take a look at the full syllabus

    Questions? Comments? Send me an email or leave a comment.
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