David Chang’s Best Dessert in the World

An effortless dessert that's mind-blowingly good.
An effortless dessert that’s mind-blowingly good.

Do yourself a favor: Buy a glazed yeast doughnut. Or two. Pronto.

Now, resist inhaling them in the morning. Instead, save them for the evening.

Then, spend a mere few minutes to transform them into the “Best Dessert in the World.”

That’s what Momofuku’s David Chang calls this uncanny creation.

Given how stupid-simple it is to make and the sheer bliss it provides, I’d have to agree that his multi-named “The Only Dessert I’ll Cook at Home (Doughnuts Cooked in Butter with Ice Cream)” definitely ranks right up there.

It’s from his new cookbook, “Cooking at Home: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Recipes (And Love My Microwave)” (Clarkson Potter), of which I received a review copy. Chang co-wrote it with New York Times food writer Priya Krishna.

It might be best described as the anti-cookbook. Meaning that it’s more like one of those no-recipe cookbooks of late. There are no precise measurements for ingredients. Sometimes, there aren’t even specific ingredients listed. The idea is to trust yourself more, to season to your own personal taste, and to use what’s in your pantry without dashing to the supermarket for obscure items all the time just to make one dish one way all the time.

For some, this approach might be intimidating. For others, quite freeing.

There are recipes to make dishes completely in the microwave, others that make valuable use of frozen vegetables, and still others that have you cook a large protein that can then be utilized in more dishes during the week.

In short, it’s the way that Chang and Krishna — and so many of us — cook at home, adapting and learning all along the way.

For instance, they teach you to cook a brisket, then use the meat for sandwiches or fan slices on top of a version of Chinese beef noodle soup made with the rich brisket broth.

Chang lets you in on how he keeps batches of seasoned ground meat in his freezer, then pulls one out the night before to defrost in the fridge to make meatballs, dumplings or dduk galbi (a giant Korean meat pancake).

He shows how he makes Asian rice porridge in the microwave with whatever broth he has on hand, and how he can season the comforting juk with cumin or garlic, tomato paste and saffron for a whole ‘nother taste sensation.

Chang readily admits he doesn’t do dessert. But he learned this doughnut hack from another chef whose personal client would only eat this particular dessert.

Place the doughnut in a hot pan with melted butter.
Place the doughnut in a hot pan with melted butter.
Flip it over once the underside has gotten very deeply browned.
Flip it over once the underside has gotten very deeply browned.

When the chef made it for Chang, he writes in the book, “I remember that it was easily one of the best bites I had ever had — it was like a fluffy pastry, but covered in sugar that had gotten all caramelized and toffee-like — but I couldn’t tell what the hell it was.”

All it is is a glazed doughnut pan-fried quickly in a pan with melted butter. You want to brown the doughnut deeply on each side so the glaze gets crackly-crisp, with a burnt-caramel or burnt-toffee taste. Then, serve with a scoop of ice cream on top to cover the hole. That’s it.

The taste and texture is hauntingly of pain perdu or very rich French toast — without the need to soak anything in eggs and milk or cream.

The exterior is crisp and buttery, with that lavish burnt-sugar taste. The interior is tender and fluffy.

I used glazed yeast doughnuts from Santa Clara’s iconic Stan’s Donut Shop because, heck, it’s hard to top those babies. I tried the technique both with a fresh doughnut and one left out uncovered overnight. Either way works fine. I also tried it with a doughnut that had been frozen, then defrosted overnight in the fridge. While it still tasted delicious, the glaze had melted in the freezing/defrosting process and the texture of the doughnut had compressed more, leaving it a little too pasty soft, especially at the center, once cooked in the pan.

The recipes in the book are not written in the traditional format of ingredients in columns, followed by precise directions. Instead, they are loose narratives. So, I’ve copied and amended the doughnut recipe below in a way that hopefully makes it as clear-cut as possible.

But honestly, you don’t even need a real recipe to make this, because it’s so ridiculously easy.

Just grab a doughnut and get to it.

The crackly burnt-sugar crust gives way to tender and almost custardy.
The crackly burnt-sugar crust gives way to tender and almost custardy.

The Only Dessert I’ll cook at Home (Doughnuts Cooked in Butter with Ice Cream), aka The Best Dessert in the World

(Serves 1)

Butter

1 glazed doughnut

Vanilla ice cream

In a small pan on medium heat that is coated with a thin layer of melted butter (unsalted or salted — your preference), pan-fry a glazed doughnut on both sides until deeply browned. Transfer the doughnut to a plate, and then add a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the center hole. To upgrade this even more, microwave some more ice cream until it melts, and then drizzle that on top , like a creme anglaise.

From “Cooking at Home” by David Chang and Priya Krishna

More David Chang Recipes to Enjoy: Clam Juk

And: Cherry Tomato & Tofu Salad

And: Momofuku Ssam Bar’s Sichuan Pork Ragu

And: Momofuku’s Pork Buns

Plus: A Vintage Q&A with David Chang

And: The Verdict on the New Momofuku Instant Noodles

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7 comments

  • What an interesting dish! Sounds wonderful — and it’s SO easy. The cookbook sounds excellent, too — that’s just the way I often cook. Thanks!

  • OMG, Carolyn; you are such a pimp for the carbs! This sounds amazing. My daughter-in-law will lose her mind if I put one of these in front of her (and you can bet I will do that ASAP!) I am imagining that it would not be entirely terrible to nestle a spoonful of warm apple pie filling in the center of the hole prior to topping with the ice cream.

    And your photos just keep getting better and better. I can see the flecks of vanilla bean in that ice cream!

    One question: will it be even remotely possible for me to go to a donut shop and buy just the one donut required for this fabulous presentation? Not likely. (Sigh)

    That cookbook looks great. Thanks (I think) for posting this!

  • Hi Carroll: LOL I AM a pimp for carbs! And a carb addict. I can’t help myself. You, your daughter-in-law, and grand-kids are sure to love this dessert. It’s a true winner. πŸ˜‰

  • As soon as I read “doughnut” I thought “no better than Stan’s” – at least, not ’round these parts!

  • Hi Brett: Stan’s is THE best! Especially when you snag one still warm. Taste of heaven. πŸ˜‰

  • Ooh, I just happened to check out this cookbook from the library. Looking forward to reading it, especially if the recipes (or non-recipes) are as good as this one. I didn’t know it was possible to make a Stan’s donut even better!

  • Hi Joanna: It’s a very fun, quirky, and enlightening book. I don’t know if this recipe necessarily beats a fresh warm Stan’s donut right out of the fryer, but it definitely is close. πŸ˜‰

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