I woke up this morning to come downstairs to find a boxed dozen of Dunkin Donuts on the kitchen counter. I was giddy, not at all unlike christmas morning. Ah yes, turns out it wasn't the donut fairy, it was S on his way home from work last night! And, he got me my favorite, the sour creme! For me to expound on the many reasons why I love this donut would result in a rather long drawn out soliloquy so I'll just throw out a few key terms. Crispy fried shell. Cloyingly sweet glaze. Soft cakey innards. Too bad there was only one in the whole dozen. I ended up having a bowl of cereal and the donut.
I don't usually like to espouse in generalizations but today I have to admit that donuts are the ultimate sweet morning food that really hit the spot. Every country in the world has a form of the donut, or a permutation thereof. And more often than not, it's dipped or soaked in a hot liquid, usually sweet, like coffee, chai, tea, or soy-based drinks. In China, our version of coffee and donuts is hot sweetened soymilk (dou jiang) and fried crullers (you tiao or da guo zi). Instead of a ring of dough, you tiao are well over a foot long, and made of a light pockety dough that's easily pulled apart and dunkable in the soymilk. Think puff pastry, but not at all buttery. The combination is perfect on its own, but traditionally can also be accompanied by a variety of sidedishes of cold vegetable salads, congee, potstickers, and shanghai style soup buns (xiao long bao).
You tiao literally means "oil sticks" in Chinese. Yea sounds pretty damn good, and definitely not for the dieters. The best thing is that they aren't extremely heavy, and won't weigh you down like a ton of bricks in your stomach. Mr. S loves them; he once bought a frozen package of them and toasted them, followed by a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon.
Crispy Chinese Crullers (You Tiao)
adapted from Chinese Snacks by Huang Su-Huei
3 cups high protein flour
1 cup water
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
oil, for frying
Place baking powder, soda and salt in a bowl; add the water, stir and let dissolve. Add flour and mix well. Rest for 15-20 min. Take the dough around the edges and punch into the center a few times and rest another 15-20 min. Continue to knead and punch until the dough is elastic and smooth. Turn the dough over, cover with some oil so that it will stay moist and rest 1 hour. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a sheet of plastic wrap; wrap the dough and form into a rectangular shape. Let it stand for 4 hours.
Unwrap the dough. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a long strip (3" wide and 1/16" thick). Crosswise cut the rectangle into strips, 1/3" wide. Put 2 strips on top of each other. Use the back of a cleaver to lightly press lengthwise in the middle of the strips (this will attach them securely to each other). Repeat this for the other strips.
Heat the oil for deep frying. Pick up a strip by both ends, and gently stretch it out, like you are making pasta. Carefully drop it into the hot oil and turn continuously with chopsticks until the cruller expands and turns golden brown. Remove and drain on a paper towel.
Serve warm with sweet or salty soymilk.