Austin360Cooks: What can biscuit doughnuts teach us about food traditions?

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on March 28, 2016.

I’ve been thinking a lot about food traditions since South by Southwest a few weeks ago.

The Interactive conference has roots as a technology festival, but it has grown into one that examines culture at large. The SouthBites food programming included about half a dozen panels on the culture, tradition and history of food, some that nudged us only into the past and others encouraging us to bend and twist those traditions into new forms or with a new purpose in mind.

Sometimes that involves a food chemist in Copenhagen working with Rene Redzepi at Noma. Other times, that’s a Tokyo-born chef making brisket ramen in Austin. Some traditional foodways, it seems, are fixed in time and should be left that way. Others are celebrated because they have benefited from the input of technological advances and scientific study.

These doughnuts are made with store-bought biscuit dough fried in canola oil. Photo by Aimee Pruett/@foodbanjo
These doughnuts are made with store-bought biscuit dough fried in canola oil. Photo by Aimee Pruett/@foodbanjo

Where do doughnuts made with canned biscuits come in?

I was thinking about midcentury dishes like this — and green bean casserole and Velveeta-and-Rotel queso — during several of these panels that put Traditions (those with a capital T) on a pedestal, where there’s not much room for those with shorter roots. Some traditions we aren’t as comfortable embracing, like ones that involve processed food or cultures other than our own, such as the Springfield-style cashew chicken consumed so widely in Southwest Missouri.

Whose traditions are whose, and who gets to do the bending, are two questions I’ll be thinking about for months to come, especially when I think about recipes like this shortcut doughnut recipe from Aimee and Josh Pruett, the bloggers behind

Aimee is a photographer who has shot several cookbooks, her skill for which you can see on their Instagram account (@foodbanjo), where they recently posted these rings of fried biscuit dough. “When we were little and would stay at my grandma’s house, we would have these delicious biscuit donuts for breakfast,” Aimee Pruett wrote on the blog. “It makes sense. These are so easy to make, and most of the time she would also be in the process of making a Sunday lunch for over 10 people.”

She makes them now, using store-bought biscuits and tossing them in both powdered sugar and a cinnamon sugar mixture. These were a tradition in her family, just like Shake’N Bake pork chops were in mine.

The flavor chemists who developed both of those products — and the women, like Pruett’s grandmother, who popularized the technique at home — aren’t part of these panel conversations about how our ancestors ate 200 years ago or the socioeconomic dynamics of food deserts and menus.

This is an interesting time to want to celebrate old recipes — and traditions and even entire food systems — while also looking for ways to improve and learn more about them. I don’t have right or wrong answers, but if eating these doughnuts means I’m wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Biscuit Doughnuts

1 store-bought roll of biscuits (homestyle or buttermilk work best, rather than flaky or butter lovers)
1 1/2 cups canola oil, for frying
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

Start heating the oil to a temperature between medium and medium-high in a medium pot. Make sure that the oil covers the bottom of the pan with about 1-2 inches of oil.

Open the can of biscuits. Watch out for that “pop!” Separate the biscuits onto a flat surface, like a cutting board. Using a doughnut hole cutter (or appropriately-sized syrup cap), punch a hole into the center of each biscuit. (Tip: A reader emailed me to say that you can just poke/tear a hole in the center of the dough with your fingers.)

Place the powdered sugar into a bowl or Tupperware that has a lid. In a separate bowl or plate, mix the granulated sugar and cinnamon so that doughnuts can be dipped on each side.

Test the oil by placing one of the doughnut holes into the oil. If the hole does not start cooking right away, increase the temperature of the stove to medium-high. Once the oil starts cooking the doughnuts quickly, start placing them in for about a 30 seconds to a minute per side, until browned and cooked.

As doughnuts come out of the oil, dry onto paper towels briefly before either shaking in the powdered sugar or covering with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Plate and enjoy! Best served fresh. Makes 8 to 10 doughnuts.

— Aimee and Josh Pruett,

Show off your chili at Lone Star Vegetarian Chili Cook-Off on April 17

The 27th annual Lone Star Vegetarian Chili Cook-off will take place on April 17 this year. Photo from the Lone Star Vegetarian Chili Cook-off.
The 27th annual Lone Star Vegetarian Chili Cook-Off will take place on April 17 this year. Photo from the Lone Star Vegetarian Chili Cook-Off.

Another big food weekend awaits us on April 16-17.

Yesterday, I posed about the Austin Food Blogger Alliance Colossal Curry Cook-Off and the East Austin Urban Farm Tour, and today, here’s the scoop on a long-running vegetarian chili cook-off in Round Rock.

The 27th annual Lone Star Vegetarian Chili Cook-Off will take place from noon to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, April 17, at the Lakeview Pavilion at Old Settlers Park, 3300 E. Palm Valley Blvd., in Round Rock.

It costs $35 to enter a vegan chili in the cook-off, and first place wins $1,000. Entry to the event is free, but it costs $10 for a tasting wristband ($5 for kids ages 6 to 12).

You can find out more and register a team at

Austin Food Blogger Alliance to host first curry cook-off on April 16

12794901_1143419185669885_7609847582794901955_oThink you make a good curry?

The Austin Food Blogger Alliance wants you to show it off.

The nonprofit, which — full disclosure — I co-founded and am currently a member of, is hosting a curry cook-off from 2 to 4 p.m. April 16 at Shangri-La, 1016 E. Sixth St.

Home cooks are invited to compete by submitting a curry, any curry. It’s free to enter, but if you’re not submitting a curry, you can attend with a $15 ticket (or $20 at the door).

Want to compete? Send an email to Find tickets and more info at

East Austin Urban Farm Tour returns for 7th year on April 17

Stephanie Scherzer of Rain Lily and Carol Ann Sayle of Boggy Creek are two of the hosts for the East Austin Urban Farm Tour, taking place this year on April 17. Photo from the East Austin Urban Farm Tour.
Stephanie Scherzer of Rain Lily and Carol Ann Sayle of Boggy Creek are two of the hosts for the East Austin Urban Farm Tour, taking place this year on April 17. Photo from the East Austin Urban Farm Tour.

It’s been seven years since Rain Lily Farm, Boggy Creek Farm, Hausbar Farms and Springdale Farm joined forces to host a springtime open house so visitors could tour their East Austin farms.

The East Austin Urban Farm Tour, whose hosts have weathered many ups and downs in the past seven years, will return from 1 to 5 p.m. April 17 to raise money for the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance.

Tickets cost $55 and include food and drinks from local restaurants and bars at each of the farms. You can start (and pick up tickets) at any of the four farms, which are close enough together to walk or bike from farm to farm.

Free breakfast tacos, anyone? Whole Foods at the Domain hosting kid-friendly SXSW event Saturday

sxlospadresIf you think it’s been a busy week with South by Southwest, try juggling kids who are on spring break, too.

There are lots of fun ways to enjoy SXSW with kids, and if you’re trying to avoid downtown, there’s another option this year.

Whole Foods at the Domain, Hat Creek Provisions and Hat Creek Burgers are teaming up for a kid-friendly SX Los Padres event from 8 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning that will feature live music from Raina Rose and free breakfast tacos and Cuvee coffee.

The event is free and open to the public.

From 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the rooftop of its flagship store, Whole Foods downtown will host the final day of a Southwest Invasion music showcase.


Year of Baking: You, yes YOU, can make cream puffs

TINA PHAN/AMERICAN-STATESMAN. 2/29/16. Statesman food writer Addie Broyles makes cream puffs in the Statesman studio on Monday, February 29, 2016. Broyles pipes out the pate a choux dough on a baking sheet using a star tip on a pastry bag.
Pate a choux dough is used to make cream puffs and cheese puffs, as well as eclairs. Photo by Tina Phan.

I conquered another baking project!

As part of our ongoing Year of Baking series, I made cream puffs from pâte à choux, a word I’d never heard of until I was well into adulthood.

To learn the technique, I took a pâte à choux class at Make It Sweet, which is one of their most popular, I was surprised to find out.

In today’s food section, you can read about about why cream puffs and eclairs are making a comeback and how you can make them at home, even if you don’t consider yourself an expert baker.

I’ve been hearing from lots of readers who loved our brownie recipes from last month, as well as others who have tried the cherry wheat germ muffins from January. Next month, we’re making quick breads, but let us know what other kinds of baking projects you want to learn about!



Austin-based Fitppl launches line of plant-based protein, superfood powders

fitpplIf you make a lot of smoothies and are always on the hunt for ways to sneak in even more nutrients, you might want to check out a new Austin-based product called Fitppl, which launched last fall. It’s a line of powdered mixes made with plant-based ingredients, including brown rice protein, yellow pea protein, pomegranate, monk fruit, goji berries, acai, cranberries, blueberries and spirulina, as well as oat, barley, alfalfa and wheat grasses.

The idea is that you can mix these powders with water or a nondairy milk to create a vegan shake, but you could also add a spoonful to whatever smoothie you’re already whipping up. The protein powders have about 16 grams of protein per serving, and the superfood powders are packed with vitamins and minerals.

Founder Patrick Schecht is currently selling three mixes: vanilla and goji, cocoa and blueberry and a greens and reds superfoods mix, which start at $39 for about 18 ounces online. The products are also available at Wheatsville Food Co-op, Fresh Plus, Peoples RX, Crush Fitness and City Surf. Schecht is working on his next product, a grain-free energy mix. You can find out more about the products, as well as Schecht’s mission about reducing the use of plastics, at

Tacos for lunch, but what is Obama eating for dinner?

Urban Roots employee XXX harvests garlic chives from its East Austin farm on Friday morning ahead of President Obama's dinner in Austin. Photo from Urban Roots.
Lea Scott, Urban Roots farm director, harvests garlic chives from its East Austin farm on Friday morning ahead of President Obama’s dinner in Austin. Photo from Urban Roots.

We saw President Obama stop by Torchy’s Tacos earlier today for three tacos (that cost $18.40, a factoid that our friends in San Antonio will surely find amusing), but what will the president be having for dinner?

Quincy Adams Erickson, chef/owner of Fete Accompli, is catering the private dinner tonight, and though I don’t have details of the menu yet, we know at least one thing that will be on the menu: Garlic chives, harvested this morning at Urban Roots‘ farm in East Austin.

The local nonprofit tweeted that they were harvesting the chives this morning for the meal.

UPDATE: Zhi Tea owner Jeffrey Lorian reported on Saturday that his tea blends were also on the menu during one of Obama’s stops yesterday.

Erickson said that she also used produce from Phoenix and Johnson’s Backyard Garden to make a four-course menu, and for dessert, she served macarons from La Patisserie and chocolates from Maggie Louise Confections.

WATCH: Barbecue at South by Southwest, in all its slow motion glory

I stopped by the 7th annual BBQ Crash Course at Brush Square Park earlier today and decided to honor the fatty, glistening brisket, ribs and sausage with a slow motion video.

Try not to drool on your phone, OK?


Twizoo searches tweets for restaurant advice

twizoowebEven with so many review sites such as Yelp, many of us are more likely to post our opinions about a restaurant on social media instead of submitting an official review.

The London-based Twizoo, one of a handful of local apps we’re featuring in next week’s food section, pulls in tweets from Twitter and analyzes them for sentiment, context, credibility and influence. You can then use your location or type of food you’re looking for to search tweets to find both recommendations and places to avoid.

The service is available in a number of cities, both as an app and at