Bread of the Month: Dabbling in doughnuts and dumplings

Long ago, my heart fell into a doughnut hole — I have yet to retrieve it. I don’t want to. We are meant to be lost to some passions.

My love for doughnuts began as a child or, perhaps before. I was the daughter of a man whose first job was to glaze the doughnuts. He, too, claims he was helpless to such sugary powers.

Who can resist a doughnut? Well, my late maternal grandfather certainly took a pass when offered, calling the goodies, “girlie food.” Perhaps his resistant dismissal was more akin to discipline than disdain. My own schooling in such behavior modification was yet to come.

My hard times with doughnuts hit a high/low point in my twenties when I was downing them at such a regular and near-ridiculous level I earned the moniker, “Doughnut Queen.” I took the whole thing too lightly, lived and ate recklessly. My love of doughnuts once took me — in one day in fact — to nearly seven different doughnutteries throughout the Los Angeles area, until I waved a white flag from my doubled-over position.

A hard lesson was learned. Health became a concern. I thought I would have to give them up completely. I did not. And I still return, albeit daintily and occasionally — to the girlie food unto which I had once overindulged. As we settle into life, appreciation overcomes our greed. I love doughnuts no less, just less often.

But until recently, I had never made a doughnut. Flipping through a magazine this spring, a pretty pink doughnut caught my eye. This was truly a girlie doughnut and boy howdy, did it look delicious. And, according to the recipe, it was somewhat healthy. Strawberry-Buttermilk Baked Doughnuts, from the pages of O, The Oprah Magazine
. How scrumptious — a strawberry doughnut? This follows the trend I’ve seen of late of designer doughnuts made with unorthodox ingredients. Forget mere colored sprinkles. What about doughnuts like Lemon Pistachio, Maple Bacon Apple, Chocolate Rose…just a few of the imaginative flavors on the menu of San Francisco’s Dynamo Donuts . Folks are getting mighty creative with the holy one, and I was not to be left behind.

To make a baked doughnut, one needs a pan. I was fortunate enough to piggyback on my friend Elaine’s coupon from King Arthur Flour to acquire such a specialty item. It was a beauty, but I was longing for more than six cavities at a shot — it would take a while to produce the doughnuts, particularly since I had already decided to double the recipe. If it all turned out well, I would get another pan.

The recipe looked simple…pretty much a cake/muffin type batter. However, I took pause over a single ingredient, or lack thereof. I had eaten enough cake doughnuts to know that one spice made a cake doughnut taste like a cake doughnut — nutmeg. So I decided to ad both nutmeg and cinnamon to the recipe. I believed it would only improve what was potentially a delightful flavor. The recipe employs vinegar, baking soda and buttermilk, promising a light and tender doughnut. I was salivating as I put it all together. Easy girl, your taste time will come.

I readied the doughnuts in the pan, lightly coated with cooking spray, ever antiquating how they would bake up. They plumped up beautifully, rising in even orbs from each predestined cavity. Dumping the warm doughnuts from the pan, one inexplicably rolled to the floor. This one one must not be served to anyone other than the baker. Darn! Oh, boy, a warm doughnut is a good thing (Krispy Kreme cashed in on that concept)…in fact, I would wager than a warm doughnut beats a cold one any day. This was no exception…light, moist, fluffy, with juicy bits of red strawberry. It was not yet glazed, but it did not matter. My first homemade doughnut (by me, anyway). It did not disappoint.

The pretty glaze, made pink by more chopped berries, imparted beauty and more flavor to an already tasty doughnut. I could have eaten all two dozen, but, remembering my dark days of doughnut infamy took on my new motto of sharing. The doughnuts went to work with me, where they vanished quickly. I managed to steal one, and eating it I knew that, at anytime, a doughnut would always steal my heart.

Strawberry-Buttermilk Baked Doughnuts
From O., The Oprah Magazine (April 2012);

“This recipe, adapted from Waylynn Lucas, pastry chef and co-owner of Fonuts in Los Angeles, uses a doughnut pan, which is available at home goods stores. You can also bake the batter in a muffin tin.”
Serves 12

2 cups flour
1 cup cane sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup canola oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 tsp. vinegar
3/4 cup finely chopped strawberries, divided
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, stir together oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and eggs, then add to dry ingredients. Stir just until combined, add vinegar, and mix thoroughly. Fold in ½ cup strawberries. Lightly grease a doughnut pan (if your pan has 6 holes, work in 2 batches). Fill molds three-quarters full and bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, make glaze: Whisk together remaining ¼ cup strawberries, powdered sugar, and 1 Tbsp. water, adding more water if necessary. Place doughnuts on a cooling rack set on a sheet tray and spoon glaze on tops. Let dry 5 minutes before serving.

Blogger’s Note: I added about 1/4 teaspoon each of nutmeg and cinnamon to the dry ingredients in this recipe.

Of dumplings, I have less experience, but only slightly less affection. I believe “dumpling” just might be the cutest word in the culinary vocabulary. And who can argue against dumplings? Drop biscuits, boiled to plumpness in simmering stew…heavenly!

There is something old-fashioned and comforting to dumplings, the notion of chicken and dumplings in particular. You certainly don’t have them every day nor even every year. And why not? Perhaps because making them requires a little effort, and they don’t come in a kit or a box or a bag. Homemade is the only way. I knew of no one who had ever ventured an attempt at making dumplings other than my mother, who has always ventured attempts (successfully) in the kitchen bravely, boldly and hungrily. Her chicken and dumplings were amazing, like most of her food was and still is. Prepared simply and heartily, with love.

Dumplings came back on my radar and moved me to my stew pot recently when I saw an episode of Tyler Florence’s “Tyler’s Ultimate,” on the Cooking Channel in which he not only made chicken and dumplings, but apple brown betty. Yowza!

As he prepared the chicken and dumplings (made with buttermilk and chives!), I found myself helplessly mesmerized, wanting to jump through the TV to join him. Now, Tyler Florence is cute, but I truly wanted in there for the chicken and dumplings.

I would have to make them myself. Tyler made the whole process look as swift and easy as whipping up scrambled eggs. Making chicken nd dumplings is not a super difficult ordeal, but it does take more time and preparation than a cooking show (with a staff and all ingredients at the ready) would lead one to believe. Still, such a rarity on the dinner table would be worth the effort.

First you stew the chicken with seasonings in order to make a stock. Unable to find anything less than a five-pound chicken, my cooking time was a little longer and my pot needed to be a little larger.

Once the stock is made and strained, the chicken removed, cooled slightly and pulled into pieces (it really does fall off the bone nicely after all that stewing), one prepares the dumplings.

Thicker than pancake batter, thinner than drop biscuit dough, dumplings have the basic elements of both of the aforementioned batter breads. This particular dumpling included chopped chives, of which I had growing just outside my kitchen door. Once the dumplings are made, the stew is put together by cooking a roux-based sauce and adding the homemade chicken stock, carrots, celery, bay leaves (also outside my door), cream, peas and pearl onions. The stew sufficiently bubbling, but not at a high boil, the dumplings are dropped into the hot liquid, one and a time, using two spoons.

The whole thing was certainly creating a most homey and intoxicating aroma in my kitchen. The dumplings plumped most becomingly in the pot. I could barely stand to let it cool long enough to eat a bowl of it. Those dumplings, as light and delicate as little clouds, bursts of buttery elegance in the hearty, creamy stew. I kept the chicken in large pieces. A manly stew topped with a divine drop bread. My mother, more than anyone, knows a good thing comes from one place — the kitchen.

Chicken and Dumplings
Recipe by Tyler Florence (

Chicken and Stock:
1 (3 to 31/2 pound) whole organic chicken
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme
4 to 5 black peppercorns
1 head garlic, split through the equator
2 tablespoons salt

Buttermilk-Chive Dumplings:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup chopped chives
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups chicken stock
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen pearl onions
1/4 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish
Chopped chives, for garnish

For the stock:
Place the chicken and all stock ingredients in a large Dutch oven and cover with water. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 1 hour until the chicken is tender. Skim the surface of fat and scum as it cooks.
When done remove the chicken to a cutting board. Strain the stock and shred the meat into big pieces – the stock will be used for the sauce and the chicken will be folded into it.

For the dumplings:
Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, using a whisk, lightly beat the eggs, chives and buttermilk together; pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently fold. Mix just until the dough comes together; the batter should be thick and cake-like.

To prepare sauce: In a Dutch oven, over medium heat, add the butter and oil. Add the carrot, celery, garlic, and bay leaves and saute until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour to make a roux. Continue to stir and cook for 2 minutes to coat the flour and remove the starchy taste. Slowly pour in the chicken stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add frozen peas and pearl onions.

Let sauce simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Stir in heavy cream.

Fold the reserved shredded chicken into the sauce and bring up to a simmer. Using 2 spoons, carefully drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the dumpling batter into the hot mixture. The dumplings should cover the top of the sauce, but should not be touching or crowded. Let the dumplings poach for 10 to 15 minutes until they are firm and puffy. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season with freshly cracked black pepper and garnish with chopped chives before serving.

Bloggers Note: I added one chopped onion to the stock ingredients.

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