The People’s Choice

 

Congratulations to Maines’ Corporate Chef, Chef Jonathon Merrick, CEC, on winning the People’s Choice Award at the second annual California Giant Berry Farms Chef Invitational. Held in Monterey, CA, the Chef Invitational features six corporate chef finalists competing to impress a panel of judges and 120 guests in attendance with berry-inspired recipes. Chef Jonathon’s Blackberry-Filled Mochi Donuts with Blueberry Glaze captured the crowd’s attention, dominated the People’s Choice votes, and were sold out by the end of the contest.

There are countless ways to showcase berries, but Chef Jonathon wanted to tell a story while keeping the berries in the spotlight and respecting their natural qualities. The inspiration for this award-winning dessert stemmed from one of Chef’s childhood memories of picking wild blackberries and using them to create homemade donuts. After researching and experimenting with donuts in the kitchen, he paired two top culinary trends – mochi (a Korean-inspired treat made with rice flour) and a street-style concept to give this timeless dessert a trendy twist. Serving an Asian-inspired offering using a street-style approach made the donuts more identifiable and inviting to diners, helping Chef reinvent his nostalgic donut-making experience while captivating the hungry audience.

Chef Jonathon described the atmosphere of the competition as, “Just like the TV show, ‘Top Chef.’” He said, “It was exhilarating and surreal to step out on the patio overlooking stunning California views with multiple grilling and sautéing stations set up outside. One of the most memorable moments was splitting the first warm test donut with my sous chef, taking a bite, and giving each other a look that said, ‘We got this.’”

The unique combination of flavors, textures, and aromas weren’t the only elements about the donuts that mesmerized the crowd; they were also in complete shock when they discovered the donuts are naturally gluten-free. Chef said, “These donuts aren’t gluten-free by sacrifice; they’re gluten-free by nature. The ethnic donut I chose happened to use gluten-free ingredients, which gave it another alluring factor.” It was clear these gluten-free donuts weren’t lacking in flavor, as several guests enjoyed more than one sample. Diners don’t typically associate the term “gluten-free” with donuts, and this variation creates the opportunity for chefs to change the perception of gluten-free items.

Chef Jonathon plans to bring back compelling takeaways from the competition to help Maines’ customers innovate, evolve, and succeed. He said, “The idea was to utilize familiar products like berries in unconventional ways. Berries make you think of parfaits and desserts, but there are so many avenues you can take when working with them. Other competitors featured berries in barbeque sauces and taco shells, and that inspired me. I hope to collaborate with our customers to help them think of how they can transform ordinary ingredients with inventive, profitable approaches.” He also wants his donuts to inspire customers to try on-trend preparations, such as “Korean mochi street-style,” and realize how easy it can be to execute unfamiliar methods. Another critical concept is utilizing diverse approaches when presenting these prized donuts; they can be topped with ice cream and fresh berries, featured in a cone as a shareable item, paired with mocha sauce, skewered street-style, or served to-go in an eco-friendly bag.

Using minimalistic methods, highlighting the natural essences of fresh produce, and infusing trends into a timeless offering can help you deliver a nostalgic dessert that’s sure to be a true crowd favorite.

 

Blackberry-Filled Mochi Donuts with Blueberry Glaze
Gluten-free Korean street-style mochi donuts with a blackberry filling and blueberry glaze.
Servings
18donuts
Servings
18donuts
Blackberry-Filled Mochi Donuts with Blueberry Glaze
Gluten-free Korean street-style mochi donuts with a blackberry filling and blueberry glaze.
Servings
18donuts
Servings
18donuts
Ingredients
Mochi Donut Dough
Blackberry Filling
Blueberry Glaze
Servings: donuts
Units:
Instructions
Mochi Donut Dough
  1. In a mixing bowl, add the eggs, sugar, butter, and milk. Whisk until light and aerated. Add all of the remaining dry ingredients and mix well with a spoon. This mixture will be very sticky so at this point keep rice flour on hand to coat the spoon and your hands and transfer onto a board covered in rice flour. Gently kneed, adding rice flour until a very soft dough forms.
  2. Coat again with rice flour and roll into a 1½-inch log and cut 20g coins, coating in rice flour as needed. Roll them in your rice flour-covered hands and press flat into coins. Place on a rice floured baking sheet to let rise.
  3. Heat oil to 330°F and fry for 1 minute on each side.
Blackberry Filling
  1. In a medium sauce pot, simmer berries until liquid releases and thickens to a nape (holding a line on a coated spoon.) Add lemon juice, zest, and sugar.
  2. Puree and pass through a fine chinoise. Place in a metal vessel and cool on ice. (Keep in mind this will thicken more once cold, but should still be thick while hot.) Store in a squeeze bottle for filling donuts.
Blueberry Glaze
  1. In a small sauce pot, simmer blueberries until liquid releases and reduce until slightly thick. Strain through a fine sieve or chinoise and cool.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the berry sauce with the powdered sugar until a glaze forms. If it is too thick, add milk; if it is too thin, add more powdered sugar. Reserve in a vessel.
To Serve
  1. After frying donuts, gently pipe blackberry filling in the center and dip in blueberry glaze. Finish with powdered sugar.

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