August 12, 2013
Mignardise
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beignets d’Okinawa
(Okinawan donuts)
Auntie Miyoko’s andagi are the best, or so my wife claims. I haven’t had Auntie Miyoko’s andagi for almost 30 years. I guess I’m more partial to Mrs. Tomashiro’s, but since she died a number of years ago, there’ll be no andagi shootout.
Andagi are balls of fried dough, similar to a plain cake donut, that originated in Okinawa. There they are formally called sata andagi (サーターアンダーギー). They are quite popular among people of Okinawan descent in Hawaii, and most other people who try them. Each Mom had her own recipe. Part of the mystique is that they are made by squeezing a handful of dough between the thumb and index finger of a closed fist. Even though the andagi start as a lump of dough, they end up as perfect spheres, sometimes with a cute little tail.
I’ve had Mrs. Tomashiro’s recipe in my to‑do pile for many years, but never attempted it because it called for an ingredient I didn’t want to buy: Bisquick. It’s not that I have anything in particular against a premade biscuit mix. I just don’t know what I would do with all that was left over. Plus, it doesn’t make any sense in the recipe. Bisquick is a combination of flour, shortening, salt, and baking powder; all of which were present separately in Mrs. Tomashiro’s recipe. When I checked with my mother‑in‑law, her andagi recipe also used Bisquick. I just couldn’t get away from the stuff.
So as I continued to make excuses why I didn’t want to make andagi, I continued to enjoy eating them whenever the opportunity arose. One sister‑in‑law always serves them on New Year’s Day. I always eat more than I should. When we’re back in Maui for the Obon festival at my in‑law’s Buddhist Temple,  the congregation sells andagi along with pig’s feet soup and chow fun during the Bon dance. We always buy a bag and eat them on the spot. The best andagi, in my opinion, are made by Jun, one of my wife’s Okinawan dance buddies. He works at a small Japanese restaurant in San Jose, and they always have his fresh andagi for sale at the counter. The bag never makes it home full.
Now that I’m always looking for ideas for mignardise, andagi seem like a natural item to miniaturize. The best part of andagi is the crust. By making them smaller, I can increase the crust to crumb ratio. So, I started to search for a recipe. I knew I didn’t want to use Bisquick. I also knew I didn’t want to use condensed milk, a depression‑era or war‑time substitution commonly found in many recipes. So I looked at as many recipes as I could easily find, many purporting to be from Okinawa, and evolved my own.
The first attempt worked pretty well, but I had problems with my deep‑fryer, and I used some‑long‑past‑pull‑date‑but‑still‑smelling‑okay buttermilk. For my second attempt, I was out of all‑purpose flour and buttermilk so I substituted cake flour and heavy cream. These andagi almost exploded when they hit the hot oil. The outsides split and the insides came rushing out. Cake flour wasn’t a solution. For my the third try, I replenished my all‑purpose flour stock and continued with the cream. That seemed to be the ticket.
1
extra‑large egg, well beaten
60 ml (14 c)
heavy cream
14 t
vanilla extract
112 t
baking powder
pinch
fine salt
125 g (58 c)
granulated sugar
160 g (118 c)
all‑purpose flour
1. In a deep bowl, whisk the egg and cream together. Add the vanilla, baking powder. and salt. Whisk to combine. Add the sugar, and whisk to combine. Add the flour, and stir with a wooden spatula or spoon until the batter is smooth, stiff, and sticky.
2. Cover the bowl with plastic film. Set aside for at an hour or two.
3. Heat some vegetable oil in a small saucepan to 182 °C (360 °F). A depth of about 5 cm (2 in) is adequate.
4. You’ll need a dessert spoon and a glass of room‑temperature tap water to help in forming the dough for frying. You’ll also need a small plate covered with absorbent paper, a slotted spoon, and a wire cooling rack for draining the cooked andagi.
5. Assuming that you are right‑handed, dip the tips of the index finger and middle finger of your right hand into the water, and dab your palm and thumb of your left hand with the water. Use the dessert spoon in your right hand to pick up a small chunk of dough. Scrape the dough off the spoon with the thumb on your left hand, transfer it to the palm of the same hand, and roll it into a ball with the index finger and middle finger of your other hand. The andagi should be about 12 mm (12 in) across. It’s okay if it’s not a perfect ball. Use your right hand to lower it into the hot oil.
6. Repeat the step until a dozen andagi are in the hot oil. Be sure to monitor the oil temperature. Keep it as close to the prescribed temperature as you can.
7. The andagi should fall to the bottom of the saucepan, and then rise to the surface as the crust begins to form on the outer surface. They should also naturally become spherical in shape. The oil should gently cook the andagi. As the andagi cook, they should turn themselves over as the first side becomes brown. If not, nudge them along with the slotted spoon.
8. One by one, when the surface of the andagi becomes medium brown, remove the balls, draining as much oil back into the saucepan as you can. Initially place the andagi on the paper to catch the extra surface oil. Then transfer them to the wire rack to finish cooling. When they come out of the oil, they will be soft. The surface crisps up as the andagi cool.
9. Replace the absorbent paper and add oil to the saucepan as needed.
10. When all the andagi are cooked and cooled, store them in a bowl, open to the air. They should keep fine for a couple of days. Freeze to store longer.
Yield: About 100 mini‑andagi.

© 2013 Peter Hertzmann. All rights reserved.