Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Panini Press Goes Wild

As a cook, I learn new tricks regularly and I'm always on the lookout for more. I like combining new ingredients and using kitchen devises in ways that they weren't exactly intended for, in a non-Darwin award winning sort of manner anyway. I think maybe observing Alton Brown's "only one uni-tasker in the kitchen is allowed, and that's the fire extinguisher" philosophy has encouraged my adventurous nature and has made me more willing to approach things with a little more creativity.

However, I somehow doubt that the makers of my panini press had the idea of how I'd be making use of that devise, and I again have Alton Brown to thank (or blame.) While I was in Nashville at the Food & Wine Festival, he told our little group about an interesting use for a panini press. "Take some day old Krispy Kremes," he said, "and put them on the press. It's a great way to use up those old donuts you'd toss and it is really good!"

Hmmm. Leftover doughnuts? What is this he was speaking of? Oh, this is for those people who don't eat all the doughnuts the instant they get them! What a novel concept...

So one weekend shortly after the festival, it was time to give this a try. Since I live in a town not graced with the presence of a Krispy Kreme but we do get them delivered in by truck to local grocery stores, my friends arrived at our house with a box of semi-fresh donuts in hand. Into the kitchen we went, firing up the press. A little warm-up time later, we dropped a few doughnuts on the press and closed the lid, waiting to see what happened.

What emerged from the grill about 45 seconds later was an entirely new taste and texture experience and I can't begin to compare it to any other food I've had so far. It was this caramelized sugary pastry goodness that was really the anti-doughnut. It no longer had that melt-in-your-mouth lightness, it now had some resistance to bite. They were still sweet, but that sweetness transformed from a sugary coating to an almost caramel or toffee flavor. It sounds bizarre and tasted really great. To make sure we were getting the most bang for our panini press buck, we tried two other versions besides the classic glazed doughnut; cinnamon bun donuts and chocolate covered donuts (both varieties are here). The cinnamon bun type did well while the chocolate ones just melted the chocolate frosting right off the top.

To really put the icing on the cake, we gave them a finishing touch of just a bit of vanilla icing dolloped onto the still hot doughnut. As if the now flattened, caramelized treats weren't sinfully good enough on their own, the icing simply pushed them off into their own category of deliciousness.

In fact, the only downside I can find to making these is the cleanup. My panini press thankfully has one amazing non-stick coating and while there's plenty of sugar bits left to clean up after, it's not some arduous task. Since this first trial was such a success, we've gone back for more which has been met with equally good results and just as many smiles.

Now to go ponder more uses for the panini press, since I can no longer relegate it to being just a sandwich taskmaster anymore.