Saturday, July 16, 2011

Doughnuts! On a Stick!

Some of my readers may have deduced that I have a small cookbook problem (one that leads to a large cookbook collection). I never say no to a new cookbook, and while I don't cook from all of them, I get endless pleasure from reading and consulting them. Fads come and go in my house, but there are some stalwarts, many of which can be found on my little Amazon guide to the right of these sage words.  Being on a somewhat limited budget, I try to limit cookbook spending. However, despite the library and self-imposed waiting periods, I do purchase a good many. And sometimes, someone sends me one for free! 

That is exactly what Matt Armendariz and the good people at Quirk Books did. They let me have my very own review copy of On A Stick: 80 Party-Perfect Recipes. That was very very nice of them, and it's perfectly shameful how long it has taken me to actually review the book. But here, at long last, it is, with a bonus section by guest blogger Miriam.
Armendariz's doughnut holes.
Armendariz's book is built around a simple concept, that (yes, good guess) everything tastes better skewered. While he pushes the point to or over the edge of absurdity (there's really no need to impale fish and chips), his overall enthusiasm and expert photography make it possible to withhold snark and just take the book on its own terms, as a kind of entertaining thought experiment. On or off the proverbial prong, Armendariz's recipes are solid, and his expertise really comes out in the dipping sauces and marinated meat section. My expertise, however, is in desserts, so the recipes that I wound up trying came from that chapter. 
Our doughnut holes--via Matthew Korahais.
I made the doughnut holes (p. 145) and the fudge pops (p. 154). Both were good, the recipes simple and clear. Perhaps in reaction to the pristine book photography, my efforts were large, unwieldy, and messy. I eschewed sprinkles and glazes and the stick in my fudge pops was a spoon. I'm sure I'll be back for more, especially as the book kind of screams 'group project' or 'baby-sitting activity.' In the meantime, thanks to Matt and to Eric at Quirk for making this review possible. All photos except the (upcoming) one of my monster doughnut holes, are from the book, and copyright as such. Please contact Quirk for permission to republish.
Wonderful dessert composite. The composite shot of different skewers is also excellent.
A few unconnected other thoughts about On A Stick:
  •  Serving sizes--unusually small. Each recipe is intended to serve a few bites to roughly four people. I got only two large popsicles out of my efforts, though the doughnut yield was much larger.
  • Best photos are the composite photos. I love seeing all the sauces/skewers/dishes lined up in rows. 
Below is another version of the story, from Miriam, who's coming back to New York after all these years. My comments are in brackets.

"Saturday was really great. After five years of living in New Haven, and one week of stressing out over the Brooklyn rental scene, I found an apartment I wanted to live in! Then I celebrated at Chavella’s with Katya and Catherine, where Catherine mused on the merits of gazpacho while Katya and I discussed when sweet things are “dessert.” Later, sitting on Katya’s roof, we tried to figure out which recipe from “On A Stick” was most important to make right away. We almost went with cake pops, because Katya had some leftover buttercream and ganache, but a dark horse candidate--doughnut holes on a stick--won the day.

Downstairs in the kitchen, I dumped ingredients into a bowl while Catherine stirred and Katya exuded calm and expertise. Then Katya took over and stirred some more. Then we let the dough rise. (While we made butterscotch pudding. And also ate rhubarb custard pie. And were apparently too elderly to hear “The Office” on netflix from two feet away.) The dough practically doubled! After rolling it out in a generally flattish but not too flat way, we cut circles out of it and arranged them on a baking sheet with some dish towels to rise the second time. (Katya called this “proofing.” I think.) We also made a video of Katya and me, fully clothed in the bathtub, thanking Polybe’s donors and getting wrong the name of the play we’re working on. Sometime around this time was the moment when I did not notice it was the rising doughnut holes that I was plopping a stray tote bag on top of, and I fully squished the little babies. [she did, but they were overproofed anyway, and failed to hold their shape at all as they were scooped off of the tray--so they were shaped any which way]

That did not seem to matter once we had them in a wok of hot oil, with Katya frying, Catherine sugaring, and me skewering them two to a stick, even though they were significantly larger than the tasteful popem-size doughnut holes in the book. They were delicious, so delicious, that we had to set an upper limit of three as a reasonable eating amount. And as Katya remarked, they actually did taste better on a stick. Later that night, Catherine texted me to ask whether Katya knew how to make sopaipillas." [I don't, but perhaps I will soon. Catherine is persuasive.]


Luke said...

Best Guest Blogger ever!

Marie said...

I just read about his spaghetti and meatballs on a stick--I think I prefer the idea of doughnuts on a stick.

Catherine said...

I am a label!

And everything was delicious and I was happy to be a part of it and I was impressed by how little oil you needed to use to fry them in.