Happy almost Valentine’s Day everyone! Tomorrow is the big day and I thought it would be really fun to share something that is easy to make and entertaining to eat … spicy, gingery mini doughnuts that you can dip in spiked hot chocolate – and if you want even more fun, feed them to each other!
A hot cup of cocoa is always delightful in the cold weather, but when you add a touch of brandy or other alcohol of your choice, it suddenly becomes something special. My personal favorite addition is peppermint schnapps, which always reminds me of the incredible times I had skiing at Lake Tahoe with my friends. What great memories!
For those of you who do not care to imbibe or if you are serving this to kids, that’s no trouble, just leave the alcohol out. The hot chocolate is absolutely delicious all on its own.
When you are going to have a special occasion, make it even more memorable by setting a beautiful table, using your best dishes, and lovely glassware to make your evening remarkable. As my mother used to say, you can serve the most boring and mundane food, but if it arrives at the table on beautiful plates and the drinks are in crystal stemware, everything seems elegant! Serving the hot chocolate in something other than your mismatched mugs will make it taste even better – I swear, LOL.
Today’s little doughnuts are absolutely heavenly. Piping hot with a crunchy, sweet coating, I could eat dozens of them. It is a good thing I don’t make them often! If ginger isn’t your favorite spice, you can certainly make them with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, etc. If you don’t use the crystalized ginger, you will want to add a couple of pinches of sugar to compensate.
The secret to anything you fry is to make sure the oil is hot enough to sear the outside of the food before it has time to absorb the oil and become greasy, but not so hot that it browns the outside before the inside has a chance to cook through. Also, remember that every time you add something to the oil, it will cool off temporarily. When cooking in batches, like today’s doughnuts, make sure you give the oil time to come back up to temperature before you add the next round.
I know that this isn’t the fanciest dessert and probably not something you would necessarily think of for Valentine’s Day, but that’s what I like about it. It is a bit surprising and much more casual, which is what I prefer. But again, when served at a beautiful table, even this whimsical dessert can take on magical properties!
Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Chocolate Monday !!
- Hot Chocolate
- 2 tsp cornstarch (or more if needed)
- 1-1/2 cups whole milk, divided
- 1/2 cup water
- 10 oz fine-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (50% to 60% cacao), finely chopped
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, optional
- 2 tbsp brandy (optional), or to taste
- Mini marshmallows, optional
- Ginger Doughnuts
- 4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1-1/2 tsp salt
- 1-1/2 tsp ground ginger, divided
- 1-3/4 cups sugar, divided
- 2 oz crystalized ginger, coarsely chopped (1/3 cup)
- 3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
- 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 large eggs
- 12 cups vegetable oil
- Special equipment
- 3/4-inch round cookie cutter
- Deep-frying/candy thermometer
- Make Hot Chocolate: Whisk together cornstarch and 2 tbsp of the milk in a small bowl; set aside.
- Bring water to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then reduce heat to moderately low and add chopped chocolate and a pinch of salt, whisking until smooth.
- Add cream and remaining milk (1-1/4 cups plus 2 tbsp) and increase heat to moderate, then cook, whisking occasionally, until mixture is smooth and heated through. Taste; for a deeper chocolate flavor, whisk in cocoa.
- Re-whisk cornstarch mixture, then add half to chocolate mixture and simmer, whisking, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Add brandy (if using) and remaining cornstarch mixture to thicken if desired, then simmer, whisking, 1 minute. If needed, you can dissolve additional cornstarch in a bit more water and whisk in. Bring to a boil to thicken the mixture.
- If you like, you can serve this in the traditional way, with mini marshmallows, or you can make the ginger doughnuts, dip them and feed them to your Valentine!
- Make Doughnuts: Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set next to the stove. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 3/4 tsp ground ginger. Set aside.
- In a shallow bowl or pie plate, whisk together 1 cup of the sugar and remaining 3/4 tsp ground ginger. Set beside stove.
- Pulse remaining 3/4 cup sugar with crystallized ginger in a food processor until ginger is finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in buttermilk, butter, and eggs by hand until smooth. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and stir until a dough forms (dough will be sticky).
- Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface and knead gently just until it comes together, 10 to 12 times, then form into a ball.
- Lightly dust work surface and dough with flour, then roll out dough into a 13-inch round (about 1/3 inch thick) with a floured rolling pin. Cut out rounds with floured cutter and transfer to a lightly floured baking sheet. Gather scraps and reroll, then cut out additional rounds. (Reroll only once.)
- Heat oil in a wide 5-quart heavy pot or Dutch oven until thermometer registers 375°F. Working in batches, carefully add 7 or 8 rounds, 1 at a time, to oil and fry, turning over once, until completely golden brown, 1-1/2 to 2 minutes total per batch. Make sure you return oil to 375°F between batches.
- Using a slotted spoon or wire strainer, transfer doughnuts to paper towels to drain. Cool slightly, and then dredge in ginger sugar.
- Make Ahead: Doughnuts can be fried (but not dredged in ginger sugar) 4 hours ahead and cooled completely, and then kept in an airtight container at room temperature. Reheat plain doughnuts on a baking sheet in a preheated 250°F oven 10 to 15 minutes, then cool slightly and dredge in ginger sugar.
- Yield: about 2-3/4 cups cocoa and about 42 small doughnuts