Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Zombies -- Quick & easy crullers you will love to eat










Finding a low-sugar gluten-free, rice-free, low sugar donut is about as likely as finding a gold nugget on Main Street in New York City.

For 20 years I never ate a single donut, donut hole, maple or chocolate bar. Honest. Then one evening, about 2 weeks ago, I made onion rings for supper, gluten-free, rice free, and we all loved them. Yummy.

The tasty sensation brought back memories of Mother’s old fashioned cake donuts.

For three days I craved donuts --soft cinnamon sugar-coated cake donuts. I want some!

Maybe I can make them myself with GF flours? But I’m not one to spend my whole life in the kitchen. “Quick and easy” is my way, with nutrition. Hey, how about the electric skillet -- like I used for the onion rings? Yes, that’s it!

The next day, I added the hair-brained idea of squeezing batter through a cake decorator bag into hot oil. Soon after that I made my first batch of, well, Zombies.

Since that day, I’ve made several test batches, searching for the best ingredients and method.

The one essential piece of equipment required is an electric skillet. A regular skillet over a burner is not safe, and a deep fat fryer is too deep.

A few notes about deep frying: 1) Zombies absorb less oil and cook faster, but not too fast, when the oil is between 350 and 375 degrees. 2) Add batter for only two or three Zombies at one time. This prevents cooling the oil too much. Turn Zombies when they are golden -- thirty seconds per side is about right. 3) Cooking for too long dries out Zombies and can toughen them. 4) If oil is too hot, zombies may brown on the outside before the insides cook.

Safety with hot oil: About 43 percent of stove fires begin with cooking oil, so use caution. Do not attempt to make Zombies using a regular skillet over a burner. An electric skillet with temperature control is safe and has multiple uses. Our 11-inch Presto, which we’ve used nearly every day for six or more years, is still sold for a reasonable price. *More safety tips at end of article.

I came up with two recipes – the first with regular all-purpose flour, and the second gluten-free. Both recipes are below. Because there is no rolling out or donut cutting, Zombies can be made in less time than regular doughnuts. A quick finish is to shake them in a bag with cinnamon sugar.

Zombies #1      (This recipe contains wheat)


Time required: First time, probably 90 minutes. With experience, about 1 hour.
Quantity: Makes about 2 dozen Zombies in various sizes.

Prepare equipment: 1) Lay out the utensils you will use. 

Electric skillet, metal tools


Bowls, measuring tools, beater, scissors, plastic zip bag


Wide-mouth funnel, old style or collapsible



2) Prepare a cake decorator bag with wide tip or a plastic zip bag (pint or quart size) by cutting a diagonal opening in one corner. The cut should be 5/8 to ¾ inch in length, large enough for the end of your little finger. Clip the hole shut temporarily with a bag clip or clothespin. A wide-mouth canning funnel will aid to fill the batter bag without mess.

Cut diagonally across one corner of a plastic zip bag to fit tip of little finger



 3) Place a rack for draining Zombies near the skillet. Put newspaper and paper towels beneath the rack to catch oil drips.

Place paper towels & metal rack near skillet. Tongs may come in handy for lifting donuts.


Prepare hot oil: Begin heating oil in skillet at least 20 minutes early. Use a high smoke point oil such as canola, peanut, safflower, or sunflower. An oil depth of 1-inch (about 6 cups oil in an 11-inch skillet) is adequate. Attach a candy thermometer firmly to one side of skillet, if possible. (Try adjusting the thermometer clip.) Set skillet temperature at 400° F. Add the first Zombie batter when the temperature reaches 375° F.

Adjust thermometer clip to hold thermometer securely to skillet. 

Ingredients for Zombies containing wheat

2 ¼  Cups all-purpose flour
½ C. dry milk powder
¼ C. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. salt
1 large egg, beaten
2 T. salad oil, such as canola or olive
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/3 C. milk (1 C. plus 5 tablespoons), warmed to room temperature
Plastic bag containing ½ C. sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon sugar mixture (for shaking cooked Zombies)

Directions:
1. Stir all dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl, beat egg. Add 2 T. oil, vanilla, and 1 1/3 C. milk.
3. Add egg mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring until just mixed (do not beat). Allow to set for 5 to 10 minutes while dry ingredients absorb the liquids.
4. Compare the batter to thin and thick photos below. Batter should be fairly thick, but pourable. If too thin, add 2-4 T. flour. If too thick, add 1 T. of milk.

Batter too thin

Batter too thick
5. Fill batter bag with batter as instructed under “Prepare equipment” above.

Holding the bag and funnel with one hand as while spooning with the other

6. Check hot oil temperature. Begin when oil reaches, or is close to, 375° F.
7. Remove the clothespin from the filled batter bag. Be sure the top is sealed. Squeeze the batter through corner opening into hot oil, swirling this way and that to make interesting shapes. Be careful not to let hands touch the sides of the skillet. When occasionally the batter stream doesn’t separate from the bag, use a table knife in the free hand to break it off. 

Gently swirling the batter stream while squeezing into hot oil
Cook only two or three Zombies at one time to avoid cooling the oil too much. Using a metal turner or slotted spoon, flip when the undersides are golden brown, about 30 seconds.

Adding only three Zombies at one time to avoid cooling the oil too much

8. Remove Zombies. Place on rack to drain.

Removing a Zombie with metal tool
9. When almost cool, gently shake Zombies in the bag of cinnamon sugar, or serve without sugar. They are best when warm.
10. Decorating for kids: use colored sugars or small decors and an edible “glue” such as meringue powder, melted chocolate chips or piping gel. Decorating takes extra time, of course, or let the kids do it!

These decor are too heavy for the edible glue. They will soon fall off.

Storage: Zombies freeze well in an air-tight container. Refrigeration is not recommended as they become dry.  

Should I save the oil? Oil that has not been heated to the smoking point is completely safe for re-using. When hot oil has cooled to a safe temperature, strain through cheesecloth into a glass jar. (Cheesecloth is an inexpensive, loosely woven cloth available at most supermarkets in the kitchen equipment section)

Zombies  #2  This recipe is gluten free (please double-check against your personal GF diet)


Time required: First time, probably 90 minutes. With experience, about an hour.
Quantity: Makes about 2 dozen Zombies in various sizes.

Prepare equipment: 1) Lay out the utensils you will use. 
2) Prepare a cake decorator bag with wide tip or a plastic zip bag (pint or quart size) by cutting a diagonal opening in one corner. The cut should be 5/8 to ¾ inch in length, large enough for the end of your little finger. Clip the hole shut temporarily with a bag clip or clothespin. A wide-mouth canning funnel will aid in filling the batter bag without mess.
 3) Place a rack for draining Zombies near the skillet. Put newspaper and paper towels beneath the rack to catch oil drips.

Prepare hot oil: Begin heating oil in skillet at least 20 minutes early. Use a high smoke point oil such as canola, peanut, safflower, or sunflower. An oil depth of 1-inch (about 6 cups oil in an 11-inch skillet) is adequate. Attach a candy thermometer firmly to one side of skillet, if possible. (Try adjusting the thermometer clip.) Set skillet temperature at 400° F. Add the first Zombie batter when the temperature reaches 375° F.

Ingredients:
2 Cups Mixed GF flours (total):   Suggested mixture:2/3 C. sorghum flour,
                           2/3 C. almond flour (meal), 1/3 C. quinoa flour, and 1/3 C.
                           Masa Harina (corn flour), garbanzo, or rice flour.
½ C. dry milk powder
3 T. cornstarch or potato starch (not potato flour)
¼ C. sugar (or artificial sweetener equal to ¼ C.)
1 T. baking powder
1 tsp. xanthan gum
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 T. oil, such as canola or olive
2 tsp. vanilla
1 ½  C. milk, warmed to room temperature
Plastic bag  containing ½ C. sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon sugar mixed (optional, for shaking cooked Zombies)

Directions:
1. Stir all dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, beat eggs. Add 2 T. oil, vanilla, and 1  ½ C. milk.

3. Add egg mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring until just mixed (do not beat). Allow to set for 5 to 10 minutes while dry ingredients absorb the liquids.

4. Compare the batter to thin and thick photos. Batter should be fairly thick, but pourable. If too thin, add 2-4 T. GF flour. If too thick, add 1 T. milk.

5. Fill batter bag with batter as instructed under “Prepare equipment” above.

6. Check hot oil temperature. Begin when oil reaches, or is close to, 375° F.

7. Remove the clothespin from the filled batter bag. Squeeze the batter through corner opening into hot oil, swirling this way and that to make interesting shapes. Be careful not to let hands touch the sides of the skillet. When occasionally the batter stream doesn’t separate from the bag, use a table knife in the free hand to break it off. 

Cook only two or three Zombies at one time to avoid cooling the oil too much.

Using a metal turner or slotted spoon, flip when the undersides are a rich

golden brown, about 30 seconds.

8. Remove Zombies. Place on rack to drain.


9. When almost cool, gently shake Zombies in the bag of cinnamon sugar, or serve without sugar. They are best when warm.

10. Decorating for kids: use colored sugars or small decors and an edible “glue” such as meringue powder, melted chocolate chips or piping gel. Decorating takes extra time, of course, or let the kids do it!

Storage: Zombies freeze well in an air-tight container. Refrigeration is not recommended as they become dry.  

Should I save the oil? Oil that has not been heated to the smoking point is completely safe for re-using. When hot oil has cooled to a safe temperature, strain through cheesecloth into a glass jar. (Cheesecloth is an inexpensive, loosely woven cloth available at most supermarkets in the kitchen equipment section)

*Additional oil safety tips from other websites:

            “Always cook with a lid beside your pan. If you have a fire, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner. Do not remove the cover because the fire could start again. Let the pan cool for a long time. Never throw water or use a fire extinguisher on the fire.” http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/causes/cooking/safety-messages-about-cooking

            “One thing to pay particular attention to is never, ever get a glass of water, a drink, or any other liquid that is not cooking oil where it can spill into the fryer. If it does, it turns into steam instantly, and can violently spray hot oil in all directions.” (http://www.premiersystems.com/recipes/kitchen-safety/fire-safety.html)

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