Last week we were tinkering with a new doughnut. This weekend we were able to share the doughnut with our audience. We made a few more modifications to our pate choux base. We increased the salt and dialed in the vanilla.
When we add something new to our repertoire, like our Curiosity Cruller, it often means that something old has been altered. The search for new allows us to explore ideas and paths we have not taken. We are looking for something that positively impacts our world. In the land of doughnuts we are looking at the landscape and experience. That includes the steps from production to the customer. Not only does a new doughnut have to be amazing to eat, it has to be efficient to produce. We're still working on that part of the equation.
Aki made a small adustment which became an avalanche of ideas. Chewy ginger cookies and gingerbread are both reliant on molasses for flavor, structure and nostalgia. Aki created a variation substituting boiled apple cider for the molasses. The result was a more delicately flavored cookie with an acidic note from the fruity cider concentrate. She coated and complemented the apple notes with a ginger and cardamom sugar on the outside. The new cookie is fresh, appley and fragrant with ginger and cardamom. The cookies are moist and chewy. But it was that one small adjustment that has me reeling with ideas. The substitution of boiled cider for molasses. What if we used pomegranate molasses? What about using caramel sauce in the cookies? What if we used and made other types of molasses? And how would they impact and flavor and allow us to create cakes, cookies, pies and beyond? What is molasses, what role does it play, and what else is similar that we could use to dramatically alter and improve the results?
Knowing our starting point allows for development and observation of the results. It also allows us to build flavors, a creative pastime. Refining and cataloging our broth was the first step. The broth is a neutral and flavorful foundation. It is delicious on its own but is designed to be built upon and to carry flavors.
The first idea with the broth was to make pork rib ramen. But I was looking for a naked truth version that could have flavorings added to individual tastes. We started by salting a rack of ribs a day before cooking. The following day we cut the rack into individual ribs and brought the broth to a simmer. We slid the ribs into the broth and put the pot into a 250°F oven. We cooked the ribs for 2 hours. The ribs become tender, fall off the bone style. The broth became enriched, adding a layer of pork and succulence to the rick aromatic notes we started with. The initial plan was to broil the ribs and cook up some noodles to nestle in the broth. Unfortunately hunger got the best of us. We broiled the tender ribs and crushed them with hot sauce. The broth is waiting for its next leg of our journey.
We are working on a base broth. What is the difference between stock and broth? With knowledge comes confusion. For us we were looking to to create a universal building block that was a full flavored foundation that could easily be utilized and built upon. Half of my brain felt we were looking for stock the other half an idealized version of chicken noodle soup base. I wanted to be able to make semi-large quantities of the broth without a massive pot sitting on the stove. My initial notes had me exploring a variety of paths from a traditional flavor profile to one with more aromatics and leanings towards Asia.
I have recently enjoyed cooking and spiking dishes with variations of kimchi. As I pondered our path I wondered if we could use the elements of kimchi to make a broth. That is the direction we took. We put sliced cabbage, onions, ginger, and a jalapeno into our hotel pans. We added white wine for acidity and soy sauce for seasoning. We used chicken legs for meatiness. We covered the ingredients with water and put them into a 350°F oven. We cooked the broth for 6 hours. At the 6 hour mark the meat and vegetables were still firm and full flavored. We were looking to get a full extraction of flavor. We topped each pan with water and turned the oven down to 200°F. We cooked the broth for another 12 hours.
In the morning we opened the oven and were treated to an aromatic, slightly caramelized near crystal clear broth. We let the broth cool on the counter in the pans, removed the aromatics and strained the finished liquid. The broth is delicious, easily repeatable foundation. Now we need to build upon it.
Rye flour is underutilized. It is associated with rye bread and the flavors of sour and caraway, two key characteristics in lots of rye bread. But the flour itself is more subtle. It has a perceptive earthiness with a malty chocolate undertone. Aki was inspired to understand what the driving force is behind the cult-like trend of rye brownies. She adapted her brownie recipe by simply using rye flour instead of oat or all-purpose. I asked for caramelized white chocolate inclusions. The result was a moist and chewy brownie with a long chocolate flavor and sweet, caramel notes. The combination of the rye, dark chocolate, and caramelized white chocolate was just complex enough to be incredibly crushable.
We had spiced pumpkin bucatini for sale. We had nduja butter for sale. A customer asked if we would make a dish of the two. My first reaction was that the idea was absurd. But our model was that our pastas, sauces, and accompaniments were interchangeable parts to be mixed and matched. I paused, mentally tasted the combination, and realized it was brilliant in its simplicity. The gentleman wanted cacio pepe done with the elements on hand. They had invented a new classic using the flavors of the season: pumpkin, cinnamon, cayenne, nduja. I learned two things. Interchangeable parts and ideas are essential to creating and developing something new. Something new is built upon what has come before, whether we like it or not.
The third lesson is that nothing is absurd, rather it is unknown and not clearly thought through.
I need obstacles to overcome and mountains to climb. The land of doughnuts continues to provide these stimulating challenges. Though it takes conversations with others to point out new challenges. One such conversation was with Wylie. He asked why we didn't have a cruller on our menu. My response was that I had plans for it, but had not gotten around to making them. I had shelved the idea until it was ready to kick me in the rear. His query accelerated my thoughts (kicked me in the the rear) on crullers and their place in our world of doughnuts. Thinking back, I realized that I had spent some time working on crullers before we had even considered opening a doughnut shop. I had looked at a hybrid doughnut blending pate choux and cake in our Everyday Doughnuts. I had forgotten all about it until this morning. I have always enjoyed the melting decadence of eating a glazed cruller. The light as air interior texture hidden behind the delicate shell of the fried choux is ethereal.
I went to our recipe folder and pulled out our most delicious pate choux. Not our "almost delicious" or "just okay" pate choux, our most delicious. I made the base, omitting the ginger-lemongrass infusion and adding vanilla in its place. After making the base I refrigerated it overnight. The following day at Curiosity Doughnuts I piped rounds of the dough onto parchment and started frying. The pate choux needed to be fried longer than our traditional doughnuts. Once I figured that out I was treated to light as air, eggy, and moist doughnuts. We now have a baseline to build upon. Piping doughnuts one by one onto parchment and frying them is a painfully slow process. While I do like doing things the most difficult way possible, we are looking into upgrading our equipment game and getting a depositor.
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