Friday, May 21, 2010

New Round of Mini Doughnuts (Donuts?)

I had to try out a few new flavors/toppings for my latest favorite thing to make for group meeting this week. It was a learning experience that's for sure. I decided to make good old fashioned powdered doughnuts as well as chocolate glazed doughnuts. Why must doughnut be spelled two ways and both ways are right? I always write "donut" but that seems so incorrect when compared to "doughnut". Hmmm. Anyways, the powdered were super easy since all you do after you bake them and let them cool is roll them around until coated in a bowl of powdered sugar. What could be easier? Well when I woke up in the morning nearly all of the powdered sugar had absorbed into the doughnut as if they were feeding off the sugar. A little irritated, I coated them again in the sugar and by the time group meeting rolled around the doughnuts had consumed about half of the sugar again. Despite them not looking totally coated they were really quite delicious, probably because of all the sugar additions and subsequence absorption. I ate way too many of them. Why are powdered doughnuts so addicting?

On to the chocolate doughnuts and the issues that came along with them. Instead of using a recipe I thought I could just whip up a simple ganache and that would glaze them nicely. Why wouldn't it look just like a normal glazed doughnut? Why would I have to use a special recipe? One that will actually harden and not remain sticky and wet forever. No I didn't consider any of this and made a simple ganache by pouring hot whipping cream over dark chocolate chips, letting them melt, stirring it until mixed and shiny and then dipping the cooled doughnuts in the glaze. Well, the ganache was far too thin for this sort of job apparently because it just looked like a brown sheen or lacquer rather than an icing. So I mixed in powdered sugar. And more powdered sugar. And more to stiffen it up a bit and by the time it was relatively thick that frosting was so sweet it was insane. And I have a pretty tolerant sweet tooth. The icing stuck nicely to the cake but the problem was is that it never made a shell like normal doughnut glazes. Still good albeit insanely sweet. Also, really messy.

I need to find an actual recipe for this next time. Also, I wanted to make the actual cake part chocolate too. I'll probably just add in a bit of cocoa powder to the normal recipe. I think that will do the trick.

Here's the doughnut recipe:

1 1/4 C cake flour, sifted
1/2 C granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. nutmeg (I don't add this in--unless you're doing some sort of spice cake I really don't think this is necessary).
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 Tbs. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. I use a pastry brush to coat the doughnut tin with melted butter. Works so much better than your fingers (I did this the fist time). Or you could use spray but you wants all those chemicals??

In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add buttermilk, egg, and butter and stir until just combined. Fill each doughnut cup approximately 1/2 full. I pipe it in using a large tip. Makes for even sizing and is far less messy. Bake 4-6 minutes (for my oven, 5 min is perfect) or until the top of the doughnuts spring back when touched. 5 minutes doesn't allow for a browning of the doughnuts, instead it makes them soft and pillowy and since your coating them in a glaze etc. who needs them to be golden brown? Let cool in a pan for 4-5 minutes (again, 5 minutes is perfect) before removing. Finish doughnuts with glaze or sprinkles (mmm sprinkles, why had I never thought of you?! Next time. Next time). Makes 24 doughnuts.

Photos by Collin Monda.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lemon Cake With Lemon Simple Syrup and Lemon Icing

For a coworkers birthday instead of making the usual chocolate cake I made a Lemon Cake since the recipient doesn't like chocolate. I know. Crazy. Actually it was kind of nice to not make the same old chocolate cake again. I've made it about 10 times in the past couple months. It's a good one and a definite crowd pleaser but it was getting a bit tired of making so many appearances, and so was I. I don't think I've ever even posted that cake. Reminder that I must do that. It's the best chocolate cake recipe I've ever had that isn't insanely rich and puts you into a food coma. It's especially delicious in cupcake form. But what isn't better miniature? So with chocolate out of the picture I kind of floundered a bit. So many options. What to make? What's the opposite of chocolate? Fruit? Someone suggested lemon and I was sold. I wanted to redeem my last lemon cake which was admittedly very dry (it happens....). I also added poppy seeds which I don't think it needs. Better to be smooth and sugary and lemony. No crunchy bits. Anyway, I scoured the internet (taste-spotting) and found one that looked particularly good and the blogger who made it said it was the best she had ever tried so I figured why not see if I agree? It's an Ina Garten recipe which gives it some credentials (recipe: . I'm not sure I trust her so much with desserts let alone cakes but I was willing to give this a shot especially since the recipe had you pour a warm lemon simple syrup over the cooling cake. That's a good enough reason for me. Dry-cake problem solved.

The recipe was the usual. Nothing fancy. Had you alternate buttermilk and flour mixtures which I think always makes for a good cake. Why? I have no idea. The batter was incredibly mousse-y for a lemon cake so that was a good start. I baked it in a bunt pan which I love doing because it's instantly fancy and much easier than making layered cakes. After you remove it from the oven and let it cool for a bit upside down (cake part up) you pour a simple syrup made with lemon juice over the cake. The recipe was a bit confusing at this point so I just slowly poured it over the cake and let it sit in the pan while it cooled. I thought this will either end up wonderfully by having the syrup soak in all over the cake or this could end horribly with the cake turning into a mush and slopping all over the place, simple syrup flying as I try to turn the cake over and out of the pan. It ended up like the former which was a relief. It seemed also the the syrup mainly absorbed at the bottom of the cake and didn't really do much at the top even though it soaked in. Strange.

Once the cake it cooled all the way you pour on a lemon juice icing. Which is just powdered sugar and lemon juice. Amazingly good. So simple. To get it looking like you spent hours carefully spooning it back and forth to create the little streams of frosting down the sides? Spend about 2 seconds and pour the frosting just on the top of the cake and let it do it's own streaming. Trust me. It looks great and requires no stress or time.

If you're looking for a good lemon cake this is definitely one to make. Enjoy!

Photos by Collin Monda

Friday, May 14, 2010

Whiskey Apple Pie (Now With More Whiskey!)

While religiously reading Ms. Humble Pie's blog ( and wallowing in jealousy I came across a contest she was throwing (?? what's the proper verb here?) and with the prize of having your blog plugged in addition to a sweet little something from Morrocco (where she will be traveling soon) I decided I had to make something. And I knew that I had to make the best pie I've ever made, which is the Whiskey Apple Pie. Admittedly, I'm not a huge pie person. And as a result, I don't make pies that often (so selfish...) so this really is the best pie I've ever made. I happen to like it a great deal and the whiskey addition is just a little treat. Why not right? So here is the recipe again if you care to try it out. It's simple and tasty. Not over the top sweet, or rich, just a nice little snack or dessert. Or breakfast item? (Collin...)

Here is the recipe adapted from Joy of Baking: (

Pate Brisee (Short Crust Pastry):
2 1/2 cups (350 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon (30 grams) granulated white sugar
1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1 inch (2.54 cm) pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup (60 - 120 ml) ice water
2 1/2 pounds (1.1 kg) apples (about 6 large), peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 8 cups sliced) (about 900 grams sliced)
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
1/4 cup (55 grams) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (15 grams) cornstarch (corn flour)

I tend to not follow the recipe and just use the ingredients. I think my way is so much simpler and really turns out well. Instead of letting the apples macerate at room temp for 3.5 hours, I simply combine all of my filling ingredients and cook them down for about 5 minutes in a couple tablespoons of butter in a large skillet to soften them just a bit and let them release some of their juices so it doesn't boil over in the oven. 

I then remove the apples from the pan and place in a large bowl and add 3 tablespoons of whiskey (when I first made this recipe I added one tablespoon, the next time I added two, and I now I add three, but I'm convinced more whiskey is always a good thing so really you can add as much as you like! It doesn't affect the quality of the pie, just adds more whiskey flavor!) and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to thicken it a bit. 

Also, great tasting whiskey really helps. If you wouldn't drink it, don't put it in the pie. I then fill the pie with the slightly cooked apples/whiskey and top with a lattice. While the pie is baking, I cook down the juice mixture from the skillet to a carmel sauce and drizzle over the pie when cooled. 

Serve with vanilla ice cream. Next time I think I might up the whiskey factor by making a homemade whiskey vanilla ice cream. The whiskey flavor in the pie is nice and subtle so it could handle something like this as a topping. Now I just have to buy an ice cream maker. But more importantly, find the space to put it!

Fingers Crossed about the contest!

Photos by Collin Monda

Monday, May 10, 2010

First Thursday Cupcakes

For a friend's First Thursday art showing I was generously allowed to bake a couple things for people to enjoy along with the art. I wanted to make the Rogue Chocolate Stout cupcakes that I've made many times in the past and something new. I happened upon a lime cake recipe adapted from Martha Stewart that looked pretty good after Collin suggested making margarita inspired cupcakes. I added a bit of buttercream made with tequila and lime juice and voila: A margarita cupcake.

Here's the lime cake recipe:

We tried a bit of fleur de sel too and it was a bit too strong. Already kind of a savory cake. At least in comparison to my usual baked goods. But never the less, the salt would have made it a bit more margarita-y. The Rogue cupcakes are one of my favorites. The combination of rich chocolate stout and sour cream make these cakes super moist. I was going to do a Bailey's buttercream on these but at the last moment in a weak moment of auto pilot I made chocolate buttercream which I'm convinced I could make in my sleep now. Along with any other buttercream for that matter. Sooooo they turned in to Rogue Chocolate Stout Cupcakes, instead of Irish Car Bombs. Still good. And still a crowd pleaser.

The margarita cupcakes were definitely different. They had a distinct sour flavor from the lime juice and the buttermilk and although this doesn't happen to be my personal preference in flavors, it seems that many people really enjoyed them. Even preferred them. For the frosting, I did a simple buttercream but instead of adding vanilla, I added about 3 tablespoons of tequila and about the same of lime juice and enough whipping cream to make it nice and smooth and combined. I rarely use a recipe for buttercream. It's nice to just wing it. If you're using good flavors, you really can't mess it up, at least in my experience. 

Aside from the fact that I made way too many mini cupcakes, they seemed to be enjoyed and the people at my lab seemed to enjoy them even more so the next day. The rogue cupcakes are a for sure winner and the margaritas might just stick around and make another appearance, even though it wasn't my favorite. Still nice to test out new and interesting flavors. I'm always surprised at how different people's preferences are in sweets. It's definitely a good thing though. If we were all the same, I'd be making millions of of coconut cakes (my fav) and that would get quite boring after awhile, even for me. 

Photos by Collin Monda. 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes read that correctly. I put chocolate chip cookie dough inside a cupcake. I know. I may have gone too far. But only (s)he who gone too far knows what is enough (or something like that). For me, I think I went too far and realized I could probably handle these better without cookie dough, but others seemed to love the cookie dough and since it is more of a novelty cake I may leave it in. Just for fun. I have to say though, the cake in the cupcakes is AMAZING. So much better than any plain cake (i.e. vanilla etc.) I've ever made. I love them!! When you hollow out the cupcake to make room for the cookie dough you're left with a little ball of cake like a donut hole and since I made about two dozen of these, I've been enjoying the cakes holes (?) all week long. The cake has a richness to it like a cookie would. A subtle molasses depth from all the brown sugar. The frosting too is rich and flavorful and anything but simple or plain. I was hesitant to make the frosting since it diverted so much from my buttercream but decided to stick with it and was the opposite of disappointed. It was brown sugary and thick, yet light and mousey. The frosting contains flour which is why I was resistant but I'm glad I gave it a try, I may start using it on a lot of things.

The recipe itself was pretty straightforward but a little involved. The author recommends making the cookie dough a day ahead but I ended up doing it all on the same night and it was fine. The cookie dough does need to refrigerate though, so plan accordingly. Once you've made the batter (which has a whopping 3 sticks of butter, even puts me to shame) and baked and cooled the cupcakes, you take a knife (I used a grapefruit knife and it worked beautifully) and carefully cut out a good round chunk for the cookie dough to sit just beneath the frosting. Take little chunks of cookie dough after it's chilled an roll in into roughly a ball and place in the hollowed out cupcake. After you've whipped up the frosting, you just pipe it on over the cookie dough and then add some mini chocolate chips to the top for decoration. Those mini chips were hard to find and after much searching I found them in the gluten free section....weird, but whatever, they worked.

Link to the recipe:

A couple final thoughts about these cupcakes: 1. I don't think the actual cake needs the cup of chocolate chips. Even though only a couple chips end up making in to each cake, I found it a bit much with everything else that was going on. 2. If you try to make chocolate chip cookies from the cookie dough for a cute little decoration like the author did, they don't bake very well fyi. They are hard as a rock (because there are no eggs?) and burn easily. 3. Save the cake holes (?). Delicious. 4. The cookie dough is safe to eat because of the lack of eggs even though I've probably eaten my body weight in raw eggs over the course of my life...and I'm fine.

Here's the grapefruit knife I used. Worked so well since it's curved. Works well on grapefruit too I suppose. More of a reason to buy it.

Photos by Collin Monda

Mini Baked Donuts

A couple Saturday's ago I happened to stumble into Sur La Table and found the coolest new piece of baking equipment: A mini donut tin. Of course I had to have it and also had to make donuts that very day. Irresistible. It just so happened to be a good friend's birthday party that evening so I decided to make a couple different varieties of mini donuts to test out on my hopefully willing audience. I used the batter recipe that came along with the tin (I had no idea what was involved in donuts batters and didn't want to mess it up since they were baked instead of deep fried). So really these are "healthy donuts" and certainly acceptable to eat handfuls at a time if so inclined (which normally I am). The recipe was one of the easiest I've made. Just flour, a bit of sugar, a bit of butter, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. So easy. No mixing involved except with a spoon until just incorporated. The first time I made these (they are quickly becoming my favorite thing to make mainly because they are so easy and so very disproportionately good for how easy and quick they are) I just used a spoon to put the batter in to the tiny molds and then use my finger to smooth them. This was tricky and very messy since the batter is almost like a yeast dough in stickiness. The next time I made these (this past weekend for Mother's Day) I put all the batter in a pastry bag with a large circle tip and just piped a long strip into the molds forming a circle. Worked so well. Will never do it any other way again.


The donuts bake for about 5 minutes at 425 and then cool in their tin for another 5. It's amazing how quick they are. You can whip up dozens of them in no time! After they've cooled on a wire rack you can frost them or glaze them, etc. For this batch I did half coconut and half cinnamon and sugar. I made two batches of simple icing (powdered sugar and milk) and made it fairly thin (more milk) so that they would glaze the donuts. I put coconut extract in one and left the other plain. I dipped half in the coconut so just the tops were covered and then put them back on the wire rack so the glaze would move down the sides and then dipped them in some shredded coconut. For the other half, I dipped in the plain icing and then after the glaze coated them, I dipped them in cinnamon and sugar. Afterwards I put them all in the fridge for a bit to stiffen up so I could package them in bags.


This last weekend I did the coconut again as well as a lemon. I used the simple icing but instead of using all milk I did about half milk half lemon juice and then sprinkled a bit of lemon zest on each.

If you can find the donut tin somewhere I highly recommend these little treats. They are delicious and one of the easiest things I've ever made. Really.

(like here for example:

Photos by Collin Monda