Mr. Alpenglow has a healthy fantasy life. Unable to go in the flesh, he imagines eating at restaurants around the country — perusing on-line menus, soaking up the reviews, Google Image-ing particular dishes. In this way, he’s visited many fine establishments without paying a dollar: Chez Panisse (Berkeley), Manresa (Los Gatos), Le Pigeon (Portland), Blackberry Farm (Tennessee), and Gwynnett St (Brooklyn) among them. Ever since he caught wind of their Dried Porcini Doughnuts, Mr. Alpenglow has been making repeated trips to Rich Table (San Francisco). Last night, the pretending reached a critical threshold and the doughnuts just had to happen. They were every bit as magical in reality as they were in fantasy.
for 16-20 doughnuts:
1 cup whole milk, warmed
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large egg whites, room temperature
peanut or vegetable oil for frying
for the powder:
2 ounces of dried porcini mushrooms
(smell before buying; they should be very pungent)
1 teaspoon white pepper
kosher salt to taste
Batter: Place warm milk in a large bowl. Add sugar and yeast; whisk to dissolve sugar. Cover with a warm, damp kitchen towel and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Add flour and salt; whisk until smooth. Whisk egg whites in a medium bowl until frothy, about 1 minute. Add to batter and whisk until smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl, allowing batter to pool at bottom. Cover bowl with a damp towel. Let stand at room temperature until batter begins to bubble, at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours. Stir.
Powder: Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a food processor or blender and pulse to create a powder. Transfer the powder to a bowl and season with white pepper. Taste it. Add just enough salt to bring out the mushroom flavor.
Frying: Heat approximately 4 inches of oil in a heavy cast-iron pot on medium-high flame. Just as the oil beings to smoke, reduce the heat. Spoon the doughnut batter into the oil, one at a time, working to create round doughnuts. Turn the doughnuts over in the oil to achieve a deep golden brown color all around. Remove the doughnuts with a mesh sieve and let them drain on a wire rack. Working quickly, roll the doughnuts in the porcini powder and serve immediately.