Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Cake Doughnuts

I started seeing an acupuncturist recently, which is a really interesting experience.  I don't know why it is that having needles shoved into your ears and forehead is relaxing, but trust me, it is.  Anyway, one of the first things she told me was to think about going gluten-free and dairy-free.  So what did I do?  I went home and thought about it while I made doughnuts.  After taking my first bite, I decided I had thought about it enough.  Honestly, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't even know how to eat gluten-free, but I know for sure it means no doughnuts.  To which I say, no deal.

Our ancestors LOVED them some doughnuts.  Like, really loved them.  At least, I assume they did because almost every single old book in my collection has a minimum of one doughnut recipe.  Most have more than one including at least one cake doughnut recipe and one yeast.  (By the way, if you're wondering why I'm spelling it doughnuts as opposed to donuts, it's because all my old recipes spelled it that way, so it's my homage to those early 20th century cooks.  Ah, the good old days before laziness had even invaded the way we spell things.)  As visual proof of the plethora of doughnut recipes, here's a picture of all my books open to the doughnut page, and this doesn't even include the recipes on my computer from the books that I scanned before I returned them to their rightful owners.

This picture also gives you an idea of where I start with each recipe I work on.  (Recipes from my Grandma are the exception because I just take her original and go from there.)  But generally I get all my old books out and find as many versions as I can of what I want to work on and start cherry picking my favorite ideas from each one, and that was what I did here.  It's especially helpful with these old recipes to have lots to work with because so many of them are so vaguely worded that it really helps to be able to compare them against each other when one calls for "an amount of butter the size of an egg," or to "mix in enough flour to make a stiff dough."  I'm a scientist!  Give me measurements, dammit!  I'm still trying to figure out what it means when they say, "mix all ingredients as for a good cake."  I see that more often than you'd realize.  What do they mean?  Did they ever mix up bad cakes?

There's certainly no bad cake here.  Up to this point, the only doughnuts I had ever made on my own were baked in a doughnut pan with a Stonewall Kitchen mix.  While they are very good, I don't exactly consider them homemade.  They are homemade in the same way that Hamburger Helper is "making dinner."  (Marc can tell you that I laugh sarcastically every time we see that commercial and the people act like they are heroes for throwing some ground beef in a pan with a packet of powdered cheese.)  Stonewall Kitchen's tasty mix notwithstanding, I've now come to the realization that it's really hard to beat a light, cakey doughnut hot out of the oil with a little bit of a crusty exterior.  And given that they are so easy to throw together, why not make your own?

Homer Simpson once asked, "Doughnuts: is there anything they can't do?"  They sure can't make me want to give up gluten.

Cinnamon Sugar Cake Doughnuts

This recipe as written makes about 6 or 8 doughnuts.  I was afraid to make any more than that because I knew Marc and I would have eaten all of them, no matter how many there were.  It should be very easy to double if you want to make a full dozen.  Also, the dough keeps very well in the fridge.  Marc and I made 3 to split for breakfast one morning, then fried up the remaining dough the next day.  There was no difference in the ones that were made from fresh dough and the ones that were made after the dough had been refrigerated.

1 1/2 cups flour, plus a little extra as needed
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbs. melted butter, cooled
1/4 cup buttermilk


1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Set aside.  Mix the topping ingredients together in a wide, shallow bowl and set aside.  Begin heating about an inch of oil in a Dutch oven.  Put it on a low heat while you mix up the dough.

In a medium sized bowl, beat the egg.  Whisk in the sugar, melted butter and buttermilk in with the egg.  Stir in the flour mixture.  If the dough is very sticky, add more flour, 1 Tbs. at a time, and stir into the batter until it is not too sticky to roll out.  This amount will depend on how much moisture is in your flour and your kitchen in general.  It ended up being 2 Tbs. in my case.

Lightly flour a work surface and pat the dough out into a circle about 1/4" thick.  Remember to occasionally check to make sure it's not sticking to the work surface; add flour as necessary.  Use a doughnut cutter or a couple biscuit cutters to cut out doughnuts and holes.  I used a 3 1/2" biscuit cutter for my outer circle and about a 1 1/2" cutter for the hole.

Boost the heat up on the oil until it reaches 350 degrees.  Carefully pick up the cut out doughnuts with a spatula and slide into the oil.  Fry the doughnuts until golden brown on both sides, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per side.  Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.  Immediately roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

If you took all the old cookbooks I have in my collection and vowed to make a different quick bread recipe from them every day until you ran out of variations, you'd be making nut bread until the day you dropped dead.  Banana bread, date bread, nut bread, muffins of every flavor you can imagine, and possibly some flavors you can't imagine (I saw one version that contained salt pork), there is virtually no end to the way our ancestors threw together flour, baking powder, sugar, etc.  I'll probably get around to trying some of the nut breads some day, but in honor of fall, this time I decided to try my hand at pumpkin bread.  I found two pretty old recipes from my collection and one from my mom's Betty Crocker cookbook circa early 70s that I used as my inspiration.  That said, I didn't really use any of them even close to as-is.  I took my favorite ideas from all of them and pulled some ideas out of my own strange little brain and out came this beauty.  Not that I want to be responsible for encouraging you to eat any raw egg at all, but I'm not gonna lie, I licked the hell out of this bowl and the batter was divine.

 Just as a side note, one of these days I'm going to have to post some of the recipes I just don't feel like I can "save," because some of them are hysterical.  In the course of paging through some of the old books while researching the next recipe I'm hoping to do (also known as doughnuts) I was reading some things out loud to Marc as we were alternately laughing and trying not to vomit.  Let me just say, people in 1909 ate some nasty sounding crap.  Think cold fish layered with sliced hard cooked eggs and thick white sauce (whatever THAT is) and served over lettuce.  Or watercress, depending on your taste.

But put that yucky stuff out of your mind right now.  There's pumpkin bread waiting....

Pumpkin Bread

This recipe makes 2 loaves but you could probably cut in half without much trouble.  I suspect you could substitute greek yogurt for the sour cream, but I haven't tried that yet, so it's just a hunch.  I put 1/3 cup of chopped, toasted pecans in one of the 2 loaves.  Two of my three inspiration recipes contained raisins but that didn't interest me one bit.  But if you want them, about 1/3 cup per loaf ought to do it for that, too.  Personally, I like it best plain with no nuts or anything extra in there.

3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
4 eggs
2/3 cup oil
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup sour cream
1 lb. canned pumpkin
nuts, 2/3 cup if you want nuts in both loaves, 1/3 cup for one loaf (optional)
raisins, 2/3 cup if you want raisins in both loaves, 1/3 cup for one loaf (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.  Whisk together the flour, salt, soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger in a medium sized bowl.  Set aside.

Whisk sugar, eggs, syrup and oil in a large bowl until well combined.  Add pumpkin and sour cream and stir together.  Stir in dry ingredients until just combined.  Spray two 9" x 5" loaf pans with vegetable oil.  Or you can do like I did and make a parchment paper sling and line the pans that way.  Evenly divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the top with and offset spatula.  Bake for about 50 to 60 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.  Cool in the pans for 10 minutes.  Remove from pans and place on  a wire rack to cool completely.