Earlier in the year, we were lucky to eat some doughnuts from the famed doughnut shop in Kyoto, called Hitsuji ひつじ. I say lucky, not only because these doughnuts are the best I've EVER eaten, but also because we've attempted to go here a number of times but it's either been a holiday in Japan or a closed day for the shop. They serve a wide range of doughnuts, some made from sprouted rice and some leavened with natural yeast. We were fortunate to eat some warm from the fryer.
In Japan, sweet potato is a common addition to desserts. There are many varieties, but the most common is beautiful yellow type, which is, well sweet! You can also buy them from street vendors, where they have been slow-roasted over coals resulting in a wonderfully chewy skin and a soft interior. Wrapped in newspaper, it was one of my favourite snacks of our recent trip!
These doughnuts use the usual orange variety which is most commonly found here in Australia, although I believe any type would suffice. The dough is rather sticky, but that ensures the end result is super light and not dry! Instead of cutting the doughnuts, you will instead roll them into balls with slightly wet hands, to avoid the dough sticking. I decided to coat these doughnuts in a cocoa mixture whilst still warm from the fryer, as they do at Hitsuji ひつじ in Kyoto. The chocolate coating becomes slightly damp which is what you want and is super delicious without being too sweet.
If you're ever in Kyoto, Hitsuji ひつじ is a must try. In the meantime, these are a fine substitute.
MAKES 10 LARGE DOUGHNUTS
250g sweet potato
125 ml milk
1tsp vanilla extract
7g dry active yeast
50g brown sugar
50ml maple syrup
50ml olive oil
350g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
85g icing sugar
30g cocoa powder
Vegetable oil, for frying
1. Peel and cut the sweet potato into large chunks. Steam until soft and push through a sieve. Set aside to cool.
2. Meanwhile, gently heat the milk, cream and vanilla in a small pan until warm. This should only take 30 seconds. If the mixture becomes very hot, cool it down before adding the yeast. Add the yeast to the milk mixture, gently whisk and leave for five minutes.
3. Whilst the yeast and milk mixture are getting acquainted, whisk together the eggs, sugar and maple syrup in a large bowl. Add the oil and the cooled sweet potato and mix to combine. Add the milk, cream, vanilla and yeast and combine.
4. Sieve over the flour and mix the dough for a few minutes until smooth. You could use the dough hook attachment of your mixture to do the work for you if you prefer. The dough will be very sticky. Set aside in a warm space and allow to rise for 1 hour or doubled in size.
5. When ready, with wet hands, divide the dough into ten pieces and roll into balls. Set aside on parchment paper lightly dusted with flour. Leave to rise again for 30 minutes. If the dough is far too sticky to work with, gently work in extra flour until it is a manageable consistency. The final dough will of course depend on the water content of the sweet potato you are using.
6. Meanwhile, fill a pot or wok with vegetable oil and heat to 170C. While the dough is rising for a second time, combine the cocoa powder and icing sugar in a shallow bowl and set aside.
7. When ready, gently remove a doughnuts from the parchment paper and fry in the hot oil for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until golden on the outside and just cooked in the centre. if the oil is too hot, the doughnuts will cook too quickly on the outside, before being cooked in the centre. If you don't have an oil thermometer, test with a small piece of dough. It should sizzle and float to the top rather quickly. Perhaps doing a test donut for timing is a wise idea also.
8. Remove the cooked doughnut from the oil drain briefly on a wire rack before immediately rolling in the cocoa mixture. Repeat with remaining doughnuts.
Best eaten warm or within a few hours of frying.