I baked doughnuts this week until they were coming out my ears, or at least covering the counter, kitchen table and even the living room coffee table. I have arrived at a recipe that makes beautifully browned, moist doughnuts covered with crackly glaze, all redolent of vanilla. To top it off, they are low fat and made with whole wheat flour, which no one would guess in a million years.
The recipe I had (which was a hybrid of several recipes and the result of past experiments) was supposed to make six doughnuts, but I always ended up with extra batter. So I had to cut the ingredients back and make sure those amounts worked for six doughnuts. It took a few batches, but I figured out that part. Then I had to double it all and see if that worked to make twelve. So far, so good.
I also wanted to give a muffin option, in case you don’t happen to have a doughnut pan. If you have any interest at all, though, pick up a doughnut pan. When you make muffins, you miss out on the crispy outside edges and the increased surface area to soak up glaze. The pans are pretty cheap and widely available. You can get by with one, and just bake two batches of six, if you are making the full recipe. But if you don’t want to bother, or don’t have the space to store another pan, the batter makes very tasty muffins.
Again, experiments to see how best to bake only six muffins in a standard twelve muffin pan – use every other cup instead of baking them in one end of the pan. Then I needed to bake a full recipe to see if twelve muffins baked in the same time as six – the times were very close. Now I had doughnut muffins to add to the array.
Bear with me for some baking chemistry to explain why I had to bake a few more batches. The recipe I was working from (the recipe of mysterious origins) called for cream of tartar, baking soda and buttermilk. Baking soda is a base (remember high school chemistry) and needs an acid to react with to make the carbon dioxide bubbles that make the doughnuts rise. Buttermilk is acidic, as is cream of tartar. I figured the recipe didn’t need both, so I tried cutting out the cream of tartar. At the same time, I baked another half batch of six with baking powder to see what would happen. Baking powder already contains an acid and a base, so I technically didn’t need buttermilk, but I didn’t want to change more than one thing at a time. Scientific method does have a real world application!
Both batches rose just fine, but the baking powder batch was noticeably paler than the baking soda batch.
The texture of the baking soda batch was just a bit finer and I liked it better – it got spongier, in a good way, after it soaked up the glaze. Baking soda won out, and cream of tartar went back into the baking cabinet. I was so happy with the baking soda results that I decided not to try any other experiments with baking powder. I was already swimming in doughnuts and was a little tired of being in the kitchen.
Rich’s co-workers and my fellow church choir members benefited from the baking frenzy. I have to say that I am thoroughly tired of the aroma, taste and sight of vanilla doughnuts, at least for a day or two. Now another flavor would be a different story…
Vanilla Doughnuts or Muffins
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 12 doughnuts or muffins
If you don’t have a doughnut pan, you can bake these in a standard muffin pan.
½ cup all-purpose flour*
½ cup white whole wheat flour*
6 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
6 tablespoons buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
*These work perfectly fine with 1 cup of all-purpose flour if you prefer.
1 teaspoon butter (basically a pat of butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons water
Grease two 6-well doughnut pans or a 12-cup muffin pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, mix together butter, vanilla, buttermilk and eggs. Add egg mixture to dry mixture and stir gently until no dry pockets of flour remain. Do not beat. Fill doughnut pan, using 3 small (size 100) cookie scoops of batter per well, or about 3 tablespoons batter. Evenly space the three blobs of batter around the center post of each well. Or fill muffin cups about half full. Bake 8-10 minutes or until doughnuts (or muffins) are just golden on top, golden brown on the bottoms and bounce back when touched.
While doughnuts are baking make the glaze. In a small bowl, melt the butter and add powdered sugar and vanilla. Add a tablespoon of water and mix in as much powdered sugar as possible. Add another tablespoon of water and mix until you have a smooth, thick glaze. Add the last tablespoon of water to make a very thin glaze. It will seem like all the water will not mix in, but keep stirring until it does. Adding the water gradually helps to avoid lumps – don’t be tempted to add it all at once.
As soon as doughnuts (or muffins) are done, remove them from the pans one at a time and dip the tops in the glaze. Move to a plate to cool. If any glaze remains when all doughnuts are dipped, use a spoon to drizzle over the doughnuts. As the doughnuts cool, the glaze will dry to a clear finish. If you are doing muffins, you might want to poke a few holes in the tops and drizzle on additional glaze. They don’t have as much surface area as the doughnuts and need a little help to absorb more glaze.
As with all doughnuts, these are best the day they are made, but they are still pretty tasty the next day. You might want to warm them for 10 seconds in the microwave if you are eating them the next day.