Cortina d’Ampezzo is a chic mountain resort in the Italian Alps where the jet set (wouldn’t you like to know who came up with “jet set”, probably at a time when flying was still a luxury for the few?) canoodle in winter, where dinner will set you back a fortune pretty much everywhere but where the mountains are glorious.When I was little, I had no idea Cortina was ritzy – it was just a place I would go to with Mom and Dad, who had friends over there. We would rent two rooms from an old lady, just outside of town and away from the chaos of Corso Italia. The rooms were austere and had the bare essentials but were above the kitchen of a commercial bakery – now, don’t imagine anything fancy, just a small kitchen where, at 3 in the morning the never too be seen bakers would start baking blueberry tarts and fry doughnuts. It was the best wake-up call I can remember.
At the time, the doughnut (or krapfen as it’s called in the Italian Alps thanks to the German cousins just on the other side) only came in one variation, filled with jam and rolled in powder sugar, although rolled is too strong of a description- it was more of a dusting similar to the snow gracing the ski slopes outside. That is where I first fell in love with doughnuts and to this day I don’t care for any fancier flavors. It’s like pizza – it was created with tomatoes and mozzarella so why go mess it up with pineapple people??
Italian doughnuts are different from their American counterparts – the dough is less spongy, a bit more “cakey” in texture but as light as a feather. I actually found an Italian doughnut shop at the San Francisco Ferry Building whose doughnuts came fairly close to what I am attempting to describe.The recipe here is the easiest you will ever find – it doesn’t need a starter and it proofs in a couple of hours. If you have a fryer, you will probably get much better, lighter results. If not, try to use a thermometer and canola oil.
In the meantime, I am on a quest to find a great doughnut in Los Angeles and I will keep you posted. Any recommendations, please pass them along. Right after my search is over, I have vowed to start my yearly cleanse – will probably need it by then..
16 oz Water (warm)
3/8 oz Dry Active Yeast
1# 4oz Bread Flour
12 oz Pastry Flour
1/2 oz Baking Powder
2 oz Sugar
1/2 oz Salt
3/4 ts Cinnamon
2 oz Powder Milk
6 oz Vegetable Shortening
4 oz Eggs
1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add them to the water/yeast mixture and mix.
3. Add eggs and shortening and mix thoroughly – if using a mixer, attach the paddle attachment.
4. Remove the dough from the mixer (it should be a bit sticky) and let it rise, covered with plastic, in a warm spot, about a couple of hours.
5. Roll out the dough about 1″ thick and use a round cutter (about 2″ in diameter) to cut the doughnuts. Use a small cutter if you wish to cut holes.
6. Fry immediately and roll in powder sugar or cinnamon sugar.