JTF’s Fruity Pebbles Donuts!

In the last few weeks I’ve been sharing some thoughts paired with some of the bangin’ food I’ve been making at home. This week will be opposite — I’m going to share some of the bangin’ food I’ve been making and pair it with a thought. Everyone following along so far?

Some of you may remember this but I joined a non-credit cooking class a few years ago through the Culinary program at the University of Tennessee. Not just any cooking class, mind you … but a donut class.

I was one of about 10 people in a commercial kitchen mixing dough, cutting circles, whisking icing and deep-frying rings of dough as well as the scraps that became donut holes and beignets. It was amazing and my finished product was delicious. When I finished, I came home with about two dozen homemade donuts and an attitude that said I was going to be a donut-making machine!

I then spent the next few years not making another proper donut. Ate a few, but never made another.

This week I decided I’d had enough — it was time to do it again.

Milk, yeast, eggs, butter, sugar, brown sugar, salt, flour, oil. Check.

One of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received was the KitchenAid stand mixer I got for Christmas a couple of years ago. Batching scrambled eggs? Easy. Pizza dough? Simple. Homemade whipped cream? Instant elbow saver. It’s also a great help in making homemade donuts.

These doughnuts come together with a five-part process:

Part 1 is initially making the dough. I took a pretty basic yeast-style donut recipe and added about half a cup of Fruity Pebbles, my favorite cereal. You mix it up, make a dough ball, knead it for a minute then drop it in a greased bowl. Cover it with a damp towel and forget about it. Go do something else.

What did I do? I went back upstairs and worked for an hour because that’s what I was supposed to be doing anyway …

Part 2 involves the rolling out and cutting of the dough. Of all the parts of this process, this one was the most aggravating. I mean, my dough had risen nicely in the hour it was in its bowl and it rolled out beautifully but … I don’t have cookie cutters. I don’t know why but I don’t. And good donuts have the correct donut shape, many being cut with multiple biscuit cutters — one for the overall shape and one for the center hole.

While I was at the grocery picking up ingredients, I also got a cheap strainer spoon thing that would allow me to turn my donuts over in the oil and retrieve them once they were cooked. I figured I’d also get those cookie/biscuit cutters I needed while I was there and of all the kitchen utensils they had, not a single cookie cutter was to be found. They had two or three different kinds of devices intended to cut your kid’s sandwich into fun shapes but not a single round cookie cutter in the house.

So I tried a second store. Nada.

So I tried a third store. Nada.

What the hell? Part of me thought maybe quarantine had people home making hella cookies and they were just sold out but no — these places didn’t even have a place on the shelf where cookie cutters would’ve been. Are we seriously a society that’s grown entirely dependent on the break-apart cookies in the biscuit section? I mean, those are good, too, but come on, guys!

…or maybe we’re all just eating the dough raw in which case, I’m for it.

Fortunately I was still able to make it work. I used a glass from my cabinet to make the doughnut shape and a plastic cap from a water bottle to create my center holes. SMART.*

*This also coming from the guy who didn’t have a rolling pin for more than a decade, choosing to use a nearby wine bottle almost every time something needed to be rolled out.

Once I’d rolled everything out, cut it, re-kneaded, re-rolled and re-cut a few times, I ended up with 15 donuts, 15 donut “holes” and about 3-4 giant “holes” that were made with the leftover dough. These were arranged on a sheet pan, covered again then left in the same spot to rise yet again.

And again, I resumed working. I somehow still remember how to do my job.

Part 3 is what I would say is the fun part — frying! My ex-wife and I had been gifted a deep fryer as a wedding gift and we didn’t use it for almost our entire marriage. It wasn’t until our last year or two that I started using it, preferring to use it over the oven when it came to making legit homemade french fries. I’d never properly deep fried anything up until that point and when I got my first batch of good fries out, I was addicted. I’d later go on to do a Facebook Live stream (with the help of some Cabernet) where I deep fried breaded macaroni and cheese and attempted to make deep-fried margaritas.

I no longer have that deep fryer but I’m still not afraid of the hot oil! Anyone who has followed me on Instagram for more than a few weeks has probably seen my chicken parmesan sandwiches, my Popeye’s style chicken bahn-mi and, of course, the recent chicken-fried venison steak. These were all done using a cast-iron dutch oven my late grandmother gifted me a few years back and it’s worked out perfectly well — it would also work great for these donuts!

Now is when I’ll give a shoutout to my Morpilot Bluetooth Wifi BBQ Thermometer that I usually use while smoking something. I also no longer have a candy thermometer or anything like it so these long probes work wonders in hot oil!

I worked in batches of three, letting the oil heat back up between batches. Sounds like a long process but if your oil is hot enough, this will go by QUICKLY!

The inspiration I used in making these showed a chef draining the donuts on a wire rack but I later read that it’s better to drain the donuts on a thick layer of paper towels because it will soak up more of the oil than would drip off on a wire rack. Unsure of which method to use, I did a hybrid and layered paper towels on a wire rack. WHAT!?

Part 4 was the part I figured I’d screw up — icing the donuts. I love to bake and make and cook and smoke and whatever else you want but when it comes to decorating, I certainly get Viking hands. I’m unsteady, I’m impatient and I frequently destroy. I just don’t enjoy the decoration part of making treats. There, I said it.

Anyway, the icing on these babies was a pretty straight-forward powdered sugar + milk formula that I whisked up with my trusty KitchenAid. Nothing fancy but A) If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and B) the icing was not supposed to be the star of the show anyway. After icing, I sprinkled on another bit of Fruity Pebbles.

May the gods bless American because these were dynamite. Though I’ll admit that even though these were tasty, my favorite part of this process was scraping the icing / Fruity Pebbles off the sheet pan and just eating that.

Part 5 was arguably the best part — gifting. During these freaky quarantine times, it has been hard for me to not be able to hang out. I miss hanging with my friends even though I’m not a big drinker anymore and I don’t stay up very late. I still miss and love my people and not being able to see them face-to-face very often has been heartbreaking to say the least. Fortunately I had a group of friends (4 total) who were willing to risk breaking the 6-foot rule for the sake of donuts. Fortunately for them all, I also deliver.

There are a few things I’d keep an eye on next time:

  • I fried my first batch for about 3 minutes per side and felt like they were over-cooked. The rest of the doughnuts were cooked at 1 minute per side and I was happy with the results.
  • I modified the below icing recipe so that it will be enough to cover what this recipe yields but the recipe I followed left me with three donuts that didn’t get iced. So I whipped up another batch by eyeballing it. This resulted in more of a glaze than an icing — that’s why three in the above photo appear glazed unlike the others.

Anyway, if you want to give these a shot, my modified recipe follows. Please share with your bros!

JTF’s Fruity Pebbles Donuts!

The Need (Donuts)

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2.5 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 3tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 cups AP flour
  • Frying Oil (1.5-2 quarts worked for me)
  • 1/2 cup Fruity Pebbles

The Need (Icing)

  • 2-1/4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 3TB milk
  • 3tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup fruity pebbles

The Deed:

  1. Heat 1 cup of milk to 90-100* then add 2.5 tsp instant yeast.

  2. Whisk 4 cups of AP flour with 3TB sugar, 1.5 tsp salt and 1TB brown sugar. Pour half into a separate bowl.

  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add first half of flour mixture, eggs, yeast mix and 1/2 cup melted, cooled butter and mix on medium-low until incorporated.Slowly add rest of flour mixture — add another TB of flour if it’s too sticky — then add 1/2 cup Fruity Pebbles

  4. Turn out onto a clean, lightly floured surface and knead for a minute, ball it up and drop it into a greased bowl it. Cover it with a damp towel for 1 hour.

  5. Again, on a clean, lightly floured surface, roll the dough into 1/2″ thick slab and cut out the donut shapes with your cookie/biscuit cutters or apparently just whatever you have on hand that will work.

  6. Flour up a baking sheet (or use mats) and arrange all raw donuts, cover with a towel and let rise again — this time for 45 minutes.

  7. Heat your oil to 360* and fry the motherfuckers. It’s hard to say how long, just keep an eye on them. I fried my first batch for about 3 minutes on each side and felt like they were overcooked for my taste. The rest of my donuts were cooked for 1 minute per side. Drain on wire rack … or stack of paper towels … or both!

  8. Let the donuts cool completely before icing. Mix up frosting ingredients, dip top of donuts in and finish by sprinkling with pebbles.

The Bachelor Chronicles: Best Life! Level Up!

Today I woke up with another cervicogenic headache. It happens from time to time, though it’s been happening more frequently over the last couple of months. I think it has something to do with the way I sleep on my very deflated pillow.

Regardless, I still had a damn-near magical Sunday morning. I woke up 30 minutes before my alarm, started a playlist of Norse-Pagan-inspired folk music, opened my upstairs balcony door and did a 10-minute yoga flow while my coffee brewed downstairs. I spent a short amount of time in prayer with the gods while resting in Lotus Pose. I opened my eyes to the sun coming through the window, birds chirping all around, fresh coffee downstairs and a full heart in my chest.


An Australian trainer I follow sent out an email early this morning (my time) that hit pretty hard.

“There are some parts to this whole world lockdown I like.
For instance, FOMO doesn’t really exist right now, does it?
Hardly eyeing up someone else’s life in lockdown wishing you were there.
All year round people follow people on the gram wishing they had their physique and their lifestyle in lavish living, but it’s all stopped and we’re all just chilling.”

-James Smith

He goes on to try to sell his online training program because he’s an online trainer and that’s just how you do business but what a damn good observation.

It’s kind of a cool thing for me in this very strange time in my life. It’s killing me being newly single and not being able to go do any of the things I haven’t been able to or allowed to do for the last two years due to finance or relationship obligations … but it’s cool because nobody else seems to be doing those things either.

It’d be a different story if the concepts of social distancing and non-essential business closure weren’t our reality. If I were sitting at home looking at Instagram and seeing my friends going out, seeing shows, drinking beer or lazily passing the time at Target or Market Square while I sit at home doing nothing …

And I’m hesitant to think that very many people are obsessing over others who are quarantining better than they are … or trying to out-quarantine each other, though I’m sure it’s happening somewhere out there.

James would go on to say “Doesn’t matter if you’re a billionaire or a student, Netflix still has the same things to watch right now. YouTube is the same and a board game is the same. We’re all grounded to the same level …”

So even though I’m unable to take on all the projects and trips and social events I’d love to be taking on right now due to a worldwide pandemic, I’m also not being inundated with posts and stories about others who are going out and doing it. This allows me to focus entirely on my brand, if you will — what I want and why I want it. Where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. All with very little distraction or outside persuasion.

Years ago I discovered a site called NerdFitness that was started by a man named Steve Kamb. Steve developed a super unique concept that combines fitness and nutrition with nerd culture — particularly of the video game and RPG variety. His site details his concept of creating a Dungeons-and-Dragons-style character sheet for this fantastic version of yourself you envision.

For those who don’t know, when you create a character in Dungeons and Dragons, one of the first things you establish is your character’s class and race. Classes include Barbarians, Druids, Monks, Rangers, Paladins, Wizards and a variety of others; races include Tieflings, Elves, Dwarves, Dragonborns and more. Choosing your class and race will determine what baseline skills you have, what your ability modifiers will be and will greatly determine the storyline of your character as the game progresses.

A great thing about this is that these baseline characteristics are so dramatically different that each character is going to be unique — a Tiefling Druid and a Half-Orc Barbarian are going to have vastly different abilities, after all — very much like how your goals and abilities are drastically different from mine.

And so with Steve Kamb’s Level Up Your Life concept, our character sheets are all going to be vastly different from anyone else’s. He encourages everyone to create their own character sheet as well as a list of accomplishments we wish to pursue in our lives — specifically achievements that will raise our Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma scores.

Did I lose anyone yet?

Cool.

In his book named after his program concept — Level Up Your Life — Steve encourages the reader to develop their list of achievements and name it something meaningful. He then goes on to suggest some possible headlines for various achievement lists such as Physical Goals, Mental Goals, Fun Goals, etc.

I named my list Donuts on Valhalla’s Table and my headlines are:

  • Physical Donuts (things I want to achieve with my physical fitness)
  • Mental Donuts (things I want to learn)
  • Fun Donuts (things I want to try for fun)
  • Work Donuts (related to my jobs, this was broken down into two categories today)
  • Adventure Donuts (getting out and going places, taking risks, etc.)
  • Courage Donuts (Stepping outside of my comfort zone)
  • Freedom Donuts (Breaking the metaphorical chains that are holding me down in a variety of ways)
  • Master Donuts (Seemingly impossible goals that are always worth visualizing)
  • Gratitude Donuts (Ways I want to give back)
  • Legacy Donuts (Ways I want to make a name for myself)
  • Concert Donuts (Bands I want to see in concert)
  • Completed Donuts (Goals I’ve already achieved from this list)

I find it really important to revisit this list with some regularity and this morning I decided it was my time again. I moved some items down to the Completed section, removed items that were no longer relevant or wanted, then added a few extras that have come up since my last edit. My list is highly personal but I figured I’d share a few highlights below:

  • Physical Donuts > Get down to 12% body fat
  • Mental Donuts > Take piano lessons and play someone a song
  • Fun Donuts > Go Kayaking
  • Work Donuts (Regarding JTF Strong) > Launch the Viking Army Online
  • Work Donuts (Regarding TITLE) > Organize TITLE’s first-ever running club
  • Adventure Donuts > Have my photo made with two peace-sign-throwing girls in Japan
  • Courage Donuts > Take 5 portraits of strangers on the street
  • Freedom Donuts > Buy a house
  • Master Donuts > Start and operate a food truck called The Number of the Feast selling “Hella Good Burgers and Donuts”
  • Gratitude Donuts > Leave 3 $100 tips this year
  • Legacy Donuts > Finish my Paps memoirs
  • Concert Donuts > The Specials
  • Completed Donuts > Buy a Motorcycle

There are around 50 donuts total on my list, not counting the ones I’ve already achieved. And the list is always growing. Right now my favorite thing about this list is it’s all things I want to accomplish because of genuine curiosity and passion — not because I’m envying others living their “best lives” on Instagram.

If you ask me, I’m kind of living my best life as we speak. Even if I am mostly locked down.

Anyway — you know how I do. If Cooking was a D&D ability, my score would be close to the top by now. Tonight I took out a venison roast I had thawed out and cooked this delightful Nordic-Braised Venison Roast with Bacon-and-Goat-Cheese Potatoes.

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Level Up: Achieved.

Ever onward, fellow heathens.

-JTF

 

The Bachelor Chronicles Returns! (aka: Go Fast, Don’t Die)

Wakey, wakey, little boggy woggy.

You read it right — the Bachelor Chronicles are back after a nearly two-year hiatus. And it couldn’t come at a more chaotic, yet creatively fertile time. The dreaded COVID-19 virus has had me working from home for two weeks now — an arrangement that will likely last until mid-summer at least. The virus has also temporarily closed down normal operations at my beautiful gym, forcing us to move to streamed classes and social-media-only engagement, which is breaking my heart. Oh, and then there’s the obvious implication that comes from using the title Bachelor Chronicles.

It’s confusing, heartbreaking and downright scary to not be able to go to the office, to see my TITLE members or be in a relationship anymore, yet I find it’s something else that’s difficult to get my head around: while nothing is under control presently, I feel somehow as though I have more control over the future than ever before.

I’m very fortunate to have a full-time job that lets us work from home and continue to get paid for that work. I hate that not going to the office every day has disrupted my routine so violently but it’s also a great time to create new habits and practice new disciplines that can then become part of my normal once homeostasis is restored.

Not being able to see my clients and TITLE Members is truly crushing to my soul but I’m really taking to this online presence we’re being forced to run with. We’re keeping our members engaged, staying relevant in our community and building a new, stronger foundation for both our social media presence as well as our overall reputation in the industry.

And not being in a relationship anymore can for sure be heartbreaking and lonely but anyone who knows me knows that I’m extremely independent and self-sufficient. I also love having alone time — and believe me, I’m getting plenty of it with this damned quasi-quarantine going on. This has allowed me to focus more of my time and efforts onto the above initiatives, however. I’m already saving a great amount of money in such a short time and this will allow me to make bigger moves in the near future.

There’s a motorcycle lifestyle brand out there that’s been following me around on social for months now called Go Fast, Don’t Die. After the breakup, I did what I usually do during that time and treated myself to some things I wouldn’t have been able to afford previously — this included a shirt and hat from that brand.

Go Fast, Don't Die

Go Fast, Don’t Die

Now I didn’t purchase these items with philosophy in mind and I swear I don’t think I’m trying to force this connection but the more I’ve thought about it, the more Go Fast, Don’t Die seems like a great metaphor for this new chapter in my life. While the brand is referring to potentially reckless behavior on motorcycles, I like to think of it as my way of saying that I’m going to start taking more chances, pursuing my passions with more fervor and trying a lot of new things (going fast) while refocusing my workout and nutrition practices to achieve the success I want, all while prolonging my life (not dying).

Is that cheesy? Kind of, I guess.

Anyway, expect to see / hear a lot more about what I’m working on, wanting to work on, wish I had worked on a lot more frequently here since I have a lot more time to do so now. There are so many cool things I want to do and I’m more motivated than ever to do them.

Until then, here’s a photo of what I cooked for myself (no shame) for dinner last night — homemade chicken-fried venison steak over homemade garlic-and-goat-cheese mashed potatoes and a simple black-pepper gravy.

Ever onward fellow Heathens,

-JTF