The Asian in me was instantly drawn to the adorable donut-critters known as Doubutsu Doonstsu (Japanese for animal donuts). Animal donuts are the invention of Ikumi Nakao from Floresta Bakery in Tokyo. The Japanese have an uncanny ability to turn everything they touch into an irresistible cartoon version of itself...it was only a matter of time before the donut got this Japanese-style makeover. Pictures of these incredibly cute donuts have made their internet rounds and have captured the hearts of both foodies and Asiaphiles alike.
As I set out to make my own animal donuts, I imagined ending up with a troop of donut friends just like those pictured above. Those darling little pastries looked so easy to make. As it turns out, looks are deceiving...
My donut creatures (above) turned out misshapen, with an uneven coating of icing, crooked eyes, and oddly shaped features. However, they were a labor of love and I was quite fond of them despite their imperfections. Besides, it is what’s on the inside, not what’s on the outside, that counts…right? These homemade cake donuts had a subtle nutmeg flavor and crispy exterior that gave way to a delicate, cake interior. The thick coating of chocolate (cat) and icing (frog) gave these donuts a pleasant sugar rush.
I had a blast making these donuts and they were even more fun to eat. And with a little practice, I know I can get them to look as good as they tasted.
Makes 18-20 donuts
Recipe from Joy of Baking.com
2 large eggs
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and freshly ground nutmeg.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer), beat the eggs and sugar until thick and a pale yellow (about five minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture (in three additions), with the milk and melted butter (in two additions), beginning and ending with the flour (the batter will be quite soft). Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature about 30 minutes (or until batter is firm enough to roll).
Place the dough on a floured surface, and with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch (.5 cm). Cut the dough into 3 inch (7 cm) rounds, using a lightly floured donut cutter or cookie cutter (will need a smaller cookie cutter to cut out the center "hole"). Place the donuts on a lightly floured baking sheet, lined with parchment or wax paper. Gather up the scraps, roll, and cut out remaining dobuts. If you like, you can keep the donut holes to fry separately. Let the donut sit at room temperature while you heat the oil.
Clip a candy thermometer to the inside of a large, deep, heavy bottomed saucepan (Dutch oven), and at medium-high heat, bring about 2 inches (5 cm) of oil (canola, vegetable, peanut, or corn) to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Carefully place the donuts into the hot oil, about 2 to 3 at a time depending on the size of your saucepan (do not over crowd). Fry each side until golden brown, about 60 seconds per side. The donut holes will only take about 30 seconds per side. Carefully remove the donuts from the hot fat with the end of a wooden spoon, tongs, slotted spoon, bamboo chopstick, or Chinese skimmer. Place on a baking sheet lined with clean paper towels. Let the oil return to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) before adding more donuts. After the donuts have cooled about a minutes or two, you can roll them in granulated white sugar. Or let cool completely and then they are ready to decorate.
I cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or any flavor extract you like)
1-2 tablespoons milk
2 - 5 drops of food coloring
Mix the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and milk until smooth. You want the consistency to be fairly thick (like Elmer's glue). If it is too thick, simply add a little more milk. If it is too thin, add a little more powdered sugar. Add whatever color food coloring you like, depending how you want your animal donuts to look. I would just start with 2 drops, then add more depending on how intense you want the color to be.
Put 1 1/2 cups milk, dark, or white chocolate chips into a microwave proof bowl. Microwave on high heat for 1 minute. Mix the chips, and microwave again for 30 seconds if not completely melted. If still not fully melted, microwave in short 15 second increments until completely melted.
To create the animal donuts, I first made all the icing colors I wanted for the different animals I planned on making (I made white, green, and yellow). Next, I melted the chocolate. I dipped the cooled cake donuts into the icing/chocolate.
Next, I cut a small sliver of donut from the side of an un-iced donut. I shaped the cut donut piece into an ear (half-circle). I then dipped the donut 'ears' into the icing/chocolate and attached them to the top of the donut (the icing or chocolate should make the ears stick).
I put some melted chocolate into a zip-lock bag and cut off a tiny bit of the tip of one corner of the bag. Be careful not to make your hole too big. I piped the animal features (eyes, nose, smile) with the melted chocolate. Get creative and have fun! Don't worry if they don't turn out perfectly because they will taste great either way.