I had made donuts a couple of times at home. However, they didn’t always turn out as light and fluffy as I hoped for. Sometimes they deformed horribly, other times they just didn’t taste like a real donut.
Since there’s always something new to learn, I decided to take a donut bootcamp class at the Chopping Block, a cooking school & store in Chicago. It was a lot of fun and I learned a ton of new tips and tricks on making my own perfect donuts!
The day itself
On the day of the course I arrived a little before 10 am, ready for 4,5 hours of donut making! In the downstairs store I got to browse the store a little before we all moved upstairs where they have a beautiful spacious kitchen for workshops.
After a warm welcome of the hosts (chef + two helpers who clearly know how to make a donut as well) we were all guided to our own tables which we shared with 3-4 people per table. Since the tables were large and since there were always several jobs to do at once, everybody really got to try their hand at donut making.
4 donut types to make
We got started quickly after that because we had a lot of work ahead of us. We were going to be making 4 different donuts made with 3 different doughs, 3 glazes, 1 filling and a topping! It sounded like quite a lot, but was totally feasible.
Yeast donut dough
We started with the doughs of course since two of them needed resting/proving. The yeast dough was the first one we were going to tackle. Since a yeast does needs time to proof we needed to get it going quickly so it would have ample time to puff up. We got some good visual guides as to making the dough.
Tip 1: The yeast dough we were making would be one where we would cut out the donut shapes. Of course, we don’t want them to stick to any trays. Therefore, when making this dough, ensure that you make the dough dry enough so it doesn’t feel sticky anymore after it’s been kneaded well.
Cake donut doughs
Next up: two cake donut doughs. They really took the effort to teach us how to make pretty different types of donuts. Besides the yeast donuts we were making two cake style donuts, but with two very different recipes and structures (a cookie dough & scooping style). This way, you walk away with a decent donut repertoire!
Tip 2: When you make a cookie dough style cake donut, be sure to chill it well before you cut it and spray well with oil to prevent any sticking!
On to the fillings
After that it was time to head over to the filllings and toppings for our donuts. We were making a lot of different donuts so again all of us were kept busy. We made three glazes, two of which were pretty simple, I was the lucky one to make one of these. Al we had to do was mixing the glaze ingredients together to form a smooth paste. The other glaze involved melting of chocolate and we got some good tips on how to prevent your chocolate from burning (heat the dairy, not the chocolate and pour it over the chocolate).
As a filling we made a nice custard, thickened with both egg yolks as well as corn starch to make it pretty much foolproof and it did indeed turn out great.
A quick lunch break
They didn’t let us get hungry during the bootcamp. The chefs themselves prepared a nice lunch for us while we were busy, a good mac & cheese and some salad. It was a good opportunity to talk to some of the other bakers and relax the donut brain.
Time to fry!
After our lunch break we had another 1,5h of bootcamp left which we literally spent with full time frying. That sounds more boring than it is though. Since we all took turns in frying, and since every donut needed a slightly different type of fry there was enough to learn. Also, once those donuts came out of the oil it was time to finish them of. Fill the Bavarian donuts with custard, dip them into their glazes and coat them with a generous dusting of cinnamon sugar.
Time literally flew by during this time and the amount of tips and tricks was endless.
Tip 3: When frying a cookie style cake donut, the dough will initially sink to the bottom (because of its high density). However, it will float up once air bubbles start forming. It is ready to turn once it has floated to the top and when you see cracks forming in the top surface.
At the end we each ended up with plenty of donuts to take home and share out. None of them looked awkwardly deformed and all tasted great. It was a lot of fun and I managed to learn quite a few nice tips and tricks along the way.
My only slight disappointment? Being European, I bake in weights, weighing all ingredients instead of using cups. It’s faster, more accurate and easier to split and dive recipes. All the recipes we got though were in volume. I understand most American bakers use those, but it would have been nice to at least include the weight versions for those like me (of course, I solved the prolbem easily, by just converting them at home, but still).
The course = A bootcamp
The course I took at the Chopping block is what they call a bootcamp. These are classes that go just a little deeper than your regular cooking class. They don’t pre-weigh your ingredients or do half the steps for you even before you arrive. Instead, you have to do most of the work yourselves, which I think is best to really learn something properly. They also took plenty of time to explain certain concepts in some more detail (like gluten formation).
Keeping that in mind, this course really is most suited to the slightly advanced baker. You certainly don’t need any donut frying experience, but you do get most out of it if you bake once in a while.
Interested in taking the class yourself? You can find more on the class on the Chopping Block website.