Parsnip Parsimony- A vegan baking and science blog.

“You’re crazy, Susie!”

Aromatic Rings!

Posted by Susie on May 19, 2008

Last Friday in my organic chemistry class, there was a take home test about benzene chemistry due. I, for the first time in memory, had finished the test a day early. So, instead of staying up all of Thursday night in order to finish my test, I made the decision that there was going to be a donut party in class the next day. This is a food pun which I have been resisting since the end of gen chem, and I simply could not hold back any longer. So I whipped out my kitchen notebook, reviewed some of the literature, and began planning my synthesis. I was going to make some aromatic rings!

Don’t you feel like you could go furan aromatic ring right about now?


I based my donut dough on this recipe, which was posted on Vegan Hedonism about a year ago. I always use some variation of it whenever I feel like making donuts. I left out the “egg replacer”, and used all cold soymilk instead of the mixture of water and warm rice milk called for by the Vegan Hedonism folks. The dough was mixed around 8 pm Thursday, fermented it in the refrigerator until 8 am Friday, then sectioned into 3.5 oz round balls of dough, placed on a floured pan, covered, and returned to the fridge to rest/proof. When I got back from my tech writing class at 11 am, I removed the pan from the fridge, and let the dough warm up while I prepped my icings and started heating my oil. When the oil was 375 Fahrenheit and the dough was sufficiently spongy, I stabbed each dough ball through its center, and pulled it out into a nice donut shape. Into the hot oil they went, two at a time. They fry on one side for 90 seconds, then get flipped with a skewer, and then fry on other side for 90 seconds before lifting them out with the skewer onto some waiting paper towels. I like to throw in the next two donuts at this point to get them started, then glaze the first ones while I wait for it to be time to flip the new ones. I glazed half of the donuts right out of the oil, and left the other half to cool so I could dunk them in the thicker frostings. I was in a bit of a hurry when I was frying and decorating these, so I didn’t record the weights of the glaze and icing ingredients I used. I will have to make donuts again some day and document it as a tutorial for you all.

(Transition state)


Despite the horrible/awesome mockery of my beloved “food science”, there WAS some real live aromaticity going on in these donuts. All of the icings contained your favorite and mine, 3-hydroxy-4-methoxybenzaldehyde, AKA “vanillin”, the major molecule responsible for the flavor of vanilla


The pink icing was spiked with benzaldehyde (which is what makes bitter almond extract taste like bitter almond extract).


I’ve always been more interested in using food science to affect the structure of bakery foods, rather than the details of flavor chemistry, but now that I’m almost done with this school year of O-chem, flavor chemistry is starting to seem more interesting to me- probably because I can understand parts of it now. Two years ago if I looked at these funny stick drawings, I kind of spaced out. Now, my mind fills with thoughts of resonance, sterics, functional groups, and pKa values. I tentatively think this is kind of cool, but I guess I will have to get back to you on that…

Look! Shiny!

So, all in all, I think its safe to say this synthesis was a success. The yield was 100% and the solvent was able to be filtered and reused, so these are some pretty damn green donuts, yknow?

And the best part is…. Theres only 50 kilocalories[1] per 6.022×10^23 donuts! … And they are “organic”! [2]

[1] About 50 kcal down to cyclohexene, and really I do not feel like going and remembering how to calculate the rest of the C-C and C-H BDEs. So lets just say 50 kilocalories because I’m sleepy. I had a physics test this morning, and have already done all the thermodynamics I feel like doing thankyouverymuch.

[2] Sorry. That wipes out my pun quota for at least a month, right?

14 Responses to “Aromatic Rings!”

  1. mesohuangry said

    i just finished organic chem as well, yay! what a class. but i had never though about donuts as aromatic rings! very clever 🙂 and they look darn tasty, mmm.

  2. raddish (from the ppk) said

    Duuuude! Those are great! Lovelovelove!

  3. dreabook said

    Wow, I didn’t really think of donuts with science like that. I thought it was just about the food, and fat you put on you. Man, plus, they look really good to eat!

  4. emily said

    I have a question for you. I don’t have a food science degree, but I’ve been reading a friend’s textbooks as he goes through. I thought vanillin was definitively worse than vanilla, as it is not only a small piece of the whole flavor pie of real vanilla, but also one of the least prominent pieces. Why would you intentionally use it in a recipe?

  5. Susie said

    Hi Emily,
    Thanks for the question! Except… I should point out that I don’t have a food science degree either. Thats only my partially completed goal for the future!

    The vanillin molecules which I referred to as being in my donuts though, came from my bottle of natural vanilla extract – where they were mixed with quite a few other types of molecules. I don’t know specifically which other flavor molecules are found in vanilla extract and which contribute to the flavor of vanilla. However, I did include the one I do know, vanillin, in my blog post, because it is an aromatic ring and thus fit the theme.

    To be more explicit: I did not use the cheap-o substitute for natural vanilla extract which is sometimes known as “vanillin”. I used natural vanilla extract, which contains – among other things – vanillin the molecule.

  6. emily said

    It’s pretty awesome to have found someone else who’s into baking and science. I hope I didn’t come off as a jerk, as I was genuinely curious. Thanks for the response!

  7. Romina said

    So much talent you have! Beautiful donuts. =)

  8. These are so cool. I’m inspired to make donuts now. I just wish there was a way to make them without deep frying them.

  9. Susie said

    Vivacious Vegan- well, I HAVE seen baked round things with holes touted as “donuts”… but really, it seems like they are more “baked round things with holes”.
    My preferred way of dealing with the nutritional issues posed by donuts is to make them only once in a while, and either in very small batches or just enough to give away.
    You should totally make some though, because a fresh deep fried donut that has just been glazed or tossed in cinnamon sugar really is an experience which has no equal.

  10. kittee said

    dearest susie,
    i have read and reread this post a few times. you’re donuts are beautiful, and you’re scientific approach is adorable. do tell, what did you frost them with? just Xsugar and Xmilk? the chocolate glaze was just cocoa and sugar and corn syrup??

    i might make some!

  11. Michael said


    I know it’s been a while since you posted, but I’m hoping you’re still out there… I’m a fellow vegan who loves to cook (when he gets the time… med school is a lot of work!), and I’m learning a bit of baking. I just looked around the internet for a vegan pate a choux, but couldn’t find any recipes that looked like the real deal. I’m under the impression that if anyone can do such a thing it’s the author of Parsnip Parsimony 😀

    Any chance you can help me on my quest for vegan French dessert goodness?

  12. O…M…G. I am a huge chemistry nerd and your blog is orgasmic.

  13. melisser said

    Oh my word, they look perfect!

  14. B.A.D. said

    These are amazing~! how did you get the nice thick glaze on the coconut ones?

Leave a Reply to Vivacious Vegan Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: