TINLEY PARK, IL — Bakers who attended the Retail Bakers of America presentation, Gourmet Doughnuts with Chef Jesse Jackson III, CMB, learned more than just donut-making techniques. They also gained insight into how to think about flavor combinations and garnishes, how to make evenly shaped donuts, and the importance of creating a signature mark.
Chef Jesse prepared his signature mango and white sesame donuts with sesame brittle and angel food cake for the virtual audience.
“In my first job after I graduated from Culinary Institute of America, the pastry chef I worked with loved working with different, unusual flavor combinations,” Jackson shared. “One time, she made a sesame brittle as one of the components of a dessert we were unveiling for our fall menu. I tried a little bit of it and fell in love right away. That flavor compound has stuck in my brain ever since, and I’ve used it periodically throughout my career.”
In fact, his fine dining experiences inspired many of the flavor profiles and combinations he’s used in his gourmet donut creations, including blueberry and cucumber, Black Forest with pistachio, and even a sushi donut with salmon, white sesame and Nori.
“Some of the combinations are common; others not so common,” Jackson said. “I try to pair things you normally wouldn’t use or think of. As long as you put flavors in there that customers are familiar with, they will dabble. They will try it … and then they’ll fall in love with it.”
He acknowledged his mango and white sesame donuts are an uncommon flavor combination, but noted it works because the sweet and acidity from the mango and the wheaty, umami flavor of the sesame balance each other
“The sesame in the brittle is toasted, which adds another layer of flavor,” he added. “The angel food cake garnish is for texture, and it adds a pretty note.”
Fixing the donut curve
Jackson prefers a perfectly shaped donut and shared his trick for making sure finished donuts are uniformly flat on the top and bottom.
“When you cut dough, you create a lot of surface tension,” Jackson said. “Pressing down on the dough creates a little bit of a curve on the very top. That curve tends to stay like that during frying. I prefer to flip the donut over and let gravity do the work for me. As the donuts are proofing, gravity flattens everything, so my donut will have a nice flat top and bottom.”
Garnishes are just for show
The donuts Jackson made for the RBA audience were garnished with pieces of sesame brittle and angel food cake, and as he topped each piece, Jackson shared his advice on how to use garnishes.
“We’re in the day and age where everything is ‘Instagramable,’” he said. “A lot of things you see online are more just for show. Do garnishes travel well? Not really. Do they eat well? Not really. The feasibility is something you need to think about. How is your customer going to eat it? How are they going to perceive it? Is it small enough to fit in their mouth? Is it too firm to fit in their mouth? Is the caramelized glass sugar on top going to break their teeth? Think about your final product in relation to your customers.”
Make a mark
Jackson closed out his demonstration by encouraging viewers to create a signature mark for their baked goods. His is a thin white stripe of glaze on the ends of his donuts.
“There’s a lot of donut shops around,” he noted. “You want to have some sort of signature that signifies, ‘This is my product.’ You want everyone to know you are the originator.”