Friday, May 25, 2012

Who Wants Donuts? (Or Doughnuts)

My dad is ending his two week visit to my house. He goes home tomorrow. For some reason, he loves the heck out of doughnuts. Not just any doughnuts, cake doughnuts.  What is the difference between a cake doughnut and any other type of doughnut, you ask? Glad to give you the 4-1-1. All my work experience at Dunkin' Donuts those many moons ago is coming screaming back to me now.

There are two types of doughnut dough: yeast and cake. The difference really boils down to the kind of leavening used in the dough. Yeast dough is of a fluffier, more airy consistency and the doughnuts are easily filled and frosted after they are cooked, but they take a lot longer to make due to letting the dough rise, rest, and rise again (also known as "proofing".) Usually, yeast doughnuts will take about 3 hours to make from  from start to finished product.

Cake doughnuts usually use baking powder or baking soda as  leavening and require no proofing time at all. They just go right from the mixer to being rolled out to the fryer. The resulting doughnut is a lot denser, with a crispy outside. They are more difficult to fill because of their texture, so they are usually either glazed, frosted, or dipped in powdered sugar/cinnamon sugar. If you want to get very creative, you can also dip them in glaze and then roll them in some coconut or chopped nuts and let them dry.

My family is divided on the type of doughnuts they like. Hubby prefers yeast doughnuts filled with custard and topped with chocolate frosting (AKA the Boston Creme doughnut). Daughter enjoys both but prefers yeast doughnuts with homemade chocolate frosting, and Dad loves those Old Fashioned doughnuts -- hence, the making of the cake doughnuts.

And you know I would normally post a picture, BUT.... can you believe they ate them all already? And I only just made them 2 hours ago. I guess he doesn't get to take any home with him. Heck, I'll just send him the recipe.

Now, I know you are saying "Doughnuts are not healthy cooking", and you'd be correct. However, I believe everything in moderation is always a good thing and a doughnut every once in awhile isn't going to kill you. Eating the entire batch, like my family just did, might though.

The recipe I'm about to post was passed down to me from my grandmother and it makes a helluva good cake doughnut. I experimented with them some time ago, and if you want to cut some of the fat in them, then opt for the baking directions.

Without further ado, here's the recipe:

Old Fashioned Doughnuts (yields 8-12 doughnuts plus Munchkins... ahem... doughnut holes

1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp melted butter (you can also use canola oil instead of butter if it's faster or easier)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
6 cups Canola oil for frying*

Preheat oil to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients and roll to 1/2" thickness. Cut with doughnut cutter, setting aside doughnut holes for frying as well. Fry doughnuts and doughnut holes to golden brown on each side and set on paper towels to absorb excess grease. Let cool completely and use toppings of your choice. Or eat them plain.

* If you want to bake the doughnuts and you have a couple of doughnut pans, reduce the flour by 1 cup and pour the dough into lightly oiled pans. Bake 8-10 minutes at 325. They won't be as crispy as the fried doughnuts, but still good.

** If you don't have a deep fryer and you do have a wok, you can heat the oil up over the stove in the wok over medium heat and then check it with a candy thermometer.

If you want to make a simple glaze for topping, use 2 cups confectioner's sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tbsp butter, and start to beat with a wire whisk or mixer. Add 2 tbsp milk and continue beating. Keep adding milk gradually until the consistency of the frosting is not thick, but rather runny and the lumps are gone. (It should probably take 3-4 tbsp milk total to get it there). Dip the doughnuts in and let drip dry on a cooling rack with paper towels underneath.

OK, the pizza dough is now calling me from the bread machine, so I gotta run and get it going. If you like the doughnuts, post a comment and let me know :-)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It's Meringue Day!

Don't mind Remy in the picture... he saw the way the pie came out and had to come down to investigate and beg for a piece.

Yes, it's meringue day at my house today as my father is visiting and it's his birthday. He specifically requested a lemon meringue pie instead of a birthday cake. And the minute my child heard the word "meringue", she begged me to make her some meringue cookies. I will be posing recipes for both at the end of this narrative. P.S. These are recipes you just can't modify to make healthier, because Splenda is a vile substance and it won't incorporate into the meringue properly anyway.

Lots of people I speak with are totally intimidated by the thought of making meringue. I think it gets a bad rap. Honestly, it's really not too hard as long as you treat the meringue carefully. By using the tips below, I get a perfect meringue every time.

My Meringue Pointers:

1) Let your eggs come to room temperature before you separate them. Not only will it make separation easier, but the meringue will come together faster.
2) If you have a copper pot in which to whisk the meringue, all the better - the chemistry of the copper also allows the meringue to come together faster.
3) Separate the eggs one at a time, and pour the whites for each egg into a bowl immediately after separating. That way, if you screw up on egg white separation number 5 and some yolk gets in there, you don't end up wasting the other 4 whites.
4) Add the sugar gradually.... and whisk it for one minute in between additions. That gets all that sugar dissolved and incorporated.
5) If you want to use cream of tartar, you can... it's optional. The cream of tartar can provide extra stability to the meringue when finished. It's not a requirement, though.
6) The whites are ready when stiff peaks form. If you are not sure what a stiff peak looks like, it is when you can turn your whisk over and the whites are standing up straight and pointy from the whisk.
7) If you can use a mixer to do this, it will save you a lot of time - one of the many reasons I love my KitchenAid.

That being said, on to the pie recipe.

Lemon Meringue Pie

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
6 tbsp melted butter

Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter, until well blended and press into an 8 or 9 inch pie plate.
Bake at 375 degrees for 7 minutes and let cool completely.

For the filling:
2 packages My-T-Fine lemon pudding mix
1 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups water (separate)

Combine pudding mix,1 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup water in saucepan. Beat with a whisk and add egg yolks and an additional cup of water. Keep whisking and cook over medium heat until boiling. Remove from heat and leave in the pan, stirring once. Pour into crust and let cool completely.

For the meringue:
4 egg whites
6 tbsp sugar
pinch cream of tartar (optional)

Beat the egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, continually beating the mixture. Add cream of tartar while beating. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.

Spoon meringue over pie and cover completely, sealing the edges. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
Cool pie for 30 minutes on wire rack and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours to set.

Meringue Cookies

2 egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
(Note you an substitute different flavored extracts to make the cookies any flavor you like. If you want to make chocolate chip meringue cookies, fold in 1/4 cup crushed chocolate chips at the end before you spoon onto baking sheets).

Preheat oven to 350. Beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form and meringue is shiny. Fold in extract and any chocolate chips.

Drop with spoon onto foil lined baking sheets. Place in the oven and turn oven OFF. Leave cookies in for a minimum of 4 hours. Peel off foil when done.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Muffins, Muffins, Muffins!

Sorry that the picture of the actual results is a bit dark - I have to mess with my camera some more.

I've been on a search for awhile, looking for the perfect raisin bran muffin to make for the family. I had to modify this one to get it exactly perfect. Who am I kidding? I'm a constant recipe tweaker!

My husband loves bran muffins and takes them to work as snacks. He will eat them plain, which is something I can't do - I prefer mine heated or toasted, cut in half, with a little bit of butter on there.

Bran muffins were actually one of the dishes that Le Spouse made before we got married. The only things he knows how to cook are: pancakes, spaghetti, and raisin bran muffins. The problem with his raisin bran muffins was that he made the recipe that was printed on a box of Kellogg's Raisin Bran. And the muffins that resulted from that recipe were small, inedible, rocklike lumps that I couldn't stand to eat. No offense to the people at Kellogg's, but their recipe needs some serious updating.

I found this recipe from my go-to website, When I want to make something I've never tried before and I'm not quite sure how to go about it, this is the place I go to first. And I always, always find what I'm looking for. I found recipes for arepas (a Venezuelan corn cake that is stuffed with meat and served hot), churros (a Mexican doughnut that is made with a lot of egg, rolled in cinnamon sugar, and served warm; preferably with a cup of hot chocolate), dumplings, apple pie, and even fortune cookies. Yes, I get around in the kitchen; why do you ask?  I just believe that there is nothing that we can't make, and the internet is a great resource to find out how, if you don't know. My mother in law, for some reason, thinks that this is awesome of me. But she hates to cook.

Here is the recipe for these guys... they take a lot of prep time up front, but it's totally worth it in the end.

I'm breaking the ingredients up into groups as they are combined and used differently.

1) 1 cup flour
3 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt

Combine all of the above in a mixing bowl and set aside.

2) 3/4 cup milk. Put this in a microwave safe bowl and heat it up for 1 minute. Then add:
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla and whisk it. Then add:
3/4c raisins

Let this sit covered for 10 minutes. Then:

3) melt 8 tbsp of shortening or butter and add it to the milk mixuture. Stir in:
2 cups bran (I shred regular bran flakes for the bran and it works).

Let this sit covered for 10 more minutes. Then:

Take the flour mixture and stir in the bran/raisin/milk mixture. While mixing, add:
2 eggs
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp corn syrup

And mix til moistened. You can make giant muffins (6) or a dozen small ones. Make sure you grease the pans first!

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes. (20-25 minutes for the dozen smaller ones, 25-30 minutes for 6 huge ones). They are done when a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove to baking rack and cool for an additional 30.