While I love the idea of a little hand-held, deep-fried ringlet of sweetness, most doughnuts make my teeth hurt and coat the roof of my mouth with a fatty film, so I avoid them, and most other overly sweet desserts. But I do like a challenge, so lately I have been playing around in the kitchen with the idea of a savory take on sweets. This week my inspiration came as I eyed a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips at the corner deli, displayed next to a box of powder sugar doughnuts.
At home I had Vidalia onions, scallions and even some garlic scapes so I toyed with some recipes using all three of these onion relatives plus sour cream to help with the leavening. The result was a barely sweet, cakey, light doughnut that I couldn't stop eating.
Doughnuts, it turns out, are not that hard to make at home. The key is to use a heavy pan with oil that's deep enough and hot enough to hold and fry the doughnut quickly and evenly. Making the dough is a breeze; sure, you could fuss with a raised doughnut recipe using yeast, but the traditional cake-doughnut method is much simpler and offers just as much of that deep satisfaction without the extra time.
Sour Cream & Onion Doughnuts
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup finely diced sweet onions, green onions, or garlic scapes
4 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour (1 pound, 2 ounces)
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cup sour cream
Neutral, high-smoke-point oil such as safflower, canola, or vegetable oil
Confectioners' sugar or Parmesan cheese
Heat the butter over medium in a small skillet. When bubbling, add the onions and sauté for about 4 minutes, until softened. Set aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the sifted flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk, and sour cream. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the onions and melted butter into the sour cream mixture.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the sour cream and onion mixture. Using the rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet until well-combined. The dough should be sticky, but not too wet to handle. If necessary, fold in more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Prepare two baking sheets: one lightly floured and the other lined with a few layers of paper towels or a clean paper bag.
Heat a pot of oil until it reaches 375° F. The oil should be about an inch and a half deep. Obviously, by using a smaller pot, like a 7-inch 2-quart Dutch oven, you will need less oil than if you use a 10-inch skillet. Use a deep fryer or candy thermometer to monitor the temperature. It will take a while. While the oil is heating, shape the doughnuts.
Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured board and with floured hands, pat the dough into a 3/4-inch thick slab. Using the rim of a glass or a round cookie cuter, slice out circles of dough. To make a hole in the center, push a floured finger into the center then twirl the dough around like a hula hoop, keeping it flat on the board. Carefully transfer the shaped doughnuts to the floured baking sheet.
When the oil reaches 375° F, use a slotted spoon to carefully slip one doughnut into the hot oil. It will sink then slowly rise to the top. Once it rises to the top, cook it for about 20 seconds, until nicely browned, then flip it over and cook another 20 seconds. Remove the doughnut from the oil allowing the oil to drip off into the pot before moving it to the paper-lined baking sheet.
Let the doughnut sit on the paper for about 10 seconds then flip it over onto a fresh part of the paper, the back again, essentially blotting off the oil.
Repeat with the remaining doughnuts. If you are comfortable with the process you can cook two at a time instead of one.
To serve, top with a light dusting of confectioners' sugar or finely grated Parmesan cheese.
Wine Recommendation from Mary Gorman McAdams This could seem like a tricky dish to pair with wine, because you have the strong onion flavor and also a light doughnut texture. I immediately thought of something bubbly, not too sweet, but yet aromatic to contrast the onion. My choice swayed toward Prosecco, the Brut style which, is drier than the Extra-Dry. Another good alternative would be a German or Austrian Sekt, also Brut style.
• Castelir Prosecco Superiore Brut, NV, Valdobbiadene, Veneto, Italy $17 - Delicious creamy mousse, refreshing with subtle floral and citrus and stone fruit flavors - elegant
• Szigeti Sekt Grüner Veltliner, NV, Austria, $17 - A really pretty and tasty Austrian Sekt, made from the Austrian Grüner Veltliner grape - Crisp, fruity with flavors of peach, apricot and hints of spice and freshly baked bread
Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant.
Related: Savory Oatmeal Cookies
(images: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan)