Bread of the Month: Spicing up a baked doughnut

image_2I know that I’m not the only one who associates doughnuts with Halloween, although I suppose I could associate doughnuts with anything, given a chance. Sunset magazine also pondered the connection between the traditionally fried treat and our favorite fall holiday. In an online article, Sunset reminisced on issues of the magazine from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s that connected doughnuts to Halloween, offering recipes and suggestions for serving. It was posited that from the early handing out of “soul cakes” as an Irish tradition, to the harvest being a time of apple cider and extra lard (from butchering) for frying may have led the bread to be considered a Halloween treat.

image_4I connect doughnuts and Halloween for that very reason — doughnuts seem the ultimate treat…to give others or yourself and would seem the most welcome addition to any Halloween gathering. I remember Halloween bonfires at my rural elementary school where hot dogs took the main stage, but hefty raised and glazed doughnuts were the much revered finale of the night.

Homemade doughnuts, while delicious, are not always practical, particularly if they are fried. Large pans of hot oil are needed, along with some considerable sweaty tending, and the doughnut that is cooked in oil does not have a long shelf life (not that it is needed). But with the advent of doughnut pans and baked doughnuts, a homemade version is much easier, maybe healthier, and a mere few simple steps away.

These baked doughnut recipes, if you’ve checked them out online, lend nearly as much versatility in flavors and adornment as there are Halloween costumes. For fall doughnuts, I’ve seen apple cider and caramel apple versions, those spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, and Halloween renditions made to look like spider webs, eyeballs and vampires.

image_3And, of course, there is pumpkin! Pumpkin finds its way into everything this time of year, including doughnuts. My own grocery store features a delicious pumpkin cake doughnut with a swirl of cream cheese frosting in its hole.

But making your own pumpkin doughnuts is as easy as making a batch of muffins — in fact, with this recipe, if you don’t have doughnut pans, you can make these in muffin tins. But then you wouldn’t have doughnuts, and why would you not want to have doughnuts, so if you have any affection for doughnuts or inclination toward making them, get yourself a doughnut pan. You may even be lucky enough to find some at thrift stores, as I was lucky enough to have a friend who found me two pans this way!

image_5This recipe, from King Arthur Flour, employs two assurances of moistness in its ingredients — oil and lots of canned pumpkin. And the sweet thing about this recipe — outside of the sugar — is that it’s a one-bowl wonder. Everything, including the trio of fall spices — cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg — is stirred together first, then the flour is added for a rich batter-y dough.

The most challenging aspect of doughnuts made in these pans, I’ve discovered, is spreading image_6the batter in the pan. It’s a bit of a messy endeavor to scoop and spread the batter and make it even without getting on the pans edges, etc. I haven’t tried it, but the suggestion of loading the batter in a piping bag and circling each doughnut cavity would likely work well, if you want to go that route. I appreciate that this recipe gives you an amount — 1/4 cup — of batter for each doughnut in order to somewhat keep uniformity here.

These bake up in a jiffy — about 18 minutes, and pop out easily after a few minutes of cooling. While still warm, they are rolled or tossed in a simple cinnamon-sugar coating to add extra spice.

If you can wait a few minutes for them to cool, you will then have a beautifully flavored fall treat.

The doughnuts are a beautiful orange color, tender, moist and spiced just right. Those on their daily pumpkin-spice latte runs would do better to remember that doughnuts and Halloween will always come first.
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Pumpkin Cake Doughnuts
From King Arthur Flour (www.kingarthurflour.com)
Makes 12 doughnuts or 15 muffins

1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 to 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée (canned pumpkin)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus heaping 1/4 teaspoon each ground nutmeg and ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

For coating:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans. If you don’t have doughnut pans, you can bake these in a standard muffin tin; they just won’t be doughnuts.

Beat together the oil, eggs, sugar, pumpkin, spices, salt, and baking powder until smooth.

Add the flour, stirring just until smooth.

Fill the wells of the doughnut pans about 3/4 full; use a scant 1/4 cup of batter in each well. If you’re making muffins, fill each well about 3/4 full; the recipe makes about 15, so you’ll need to bake in two batches (unless you have two muffin pans).

Bake the doughnuts for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. If you’re making muffins, they’ll need to bake for 23 to 25 minutes.

Remove the doughnuts from the oven, and after about 5 minutes, loosen their edges, and transfer them to a rack to cool.

While the doughnuts are still warm (but no longer fragile), gently shake them in a bag with the cinnamon-sugar. If you’ve made muffins, sprinkle their tops heavily with cinnamon-sugar.

Cool completely, and store (not wrapped tight) at room temperature for several days.

Blogger’s Note: For a lower-sugar option, you may use as little as 1 cup of sugar for the doughnut batter.

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