At World Market, I spotted a Mini-Doughnut pan for about $10.00. I must have picked it up and set it back down several times. King Arthur Flour sells them for $15.95, plus shipping...and I had a coupon. I gave in, and it came home with me. This is the time of year when many of us try to lose those extra Thanksgiving and Christmas pounds. Still, a baked treat can't be all that bad. Can it? I settled on making a recipe for baked doughnuts that I found on the King Arthur Flour Recipe Website. I carefully read the reviews, many of which were positive. Whenever someone writes a negative review, I try to figure out what might have gone wrong and what can I do to improve it. I have a bag of Arrow Mills Organic Pastry Flour, so I decided to use that instead of cake flour. According to their website site, "it is made from soft wheat berries grown each Spring in the fertile San Luis Valley of Colorado, Arrowhead Mills Pastry Flour provides a finer texture and lighter consistency with low gluten content. It's perfect for flaky and delicate pastries and cakes." I keep 1% buttermilk on hand, so I decided not to use buttermilk powder.
Since the doughnuts won't be deep-fried, I read that it's important to heavily grease use a non-stick spray-- even though the pan is non-stick. Done.
The pastry flour is unbleached (and I never buy bleached flour). Though it has whole grain, it's milled very fine.
So, here are the dry ingredients-- pastry flour (you can use unbleached all-purpose, but pastry flour is supposed to yield a tender cake), nutmeg, cinnamon, baking powder and sugar. For the wet ingredients, I used 3 Tablespoons of 1% Buttermilk, and 3 Tablespoons ofcanola oil (instead of vegetable oil).
I believe I've mentioned my addiction to the King Arthur Shopping Website, and I'm not paid to say so. I've also touted my fondness for their Buttery Sweet Dough Bakery Emulsion. I can best describe the aroma as smelling like yellow cake batter. Trust me, you want to drink it, but I add a teaspoon of this to most of my baked goods. (Otherwise, I recommend adding 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.) I've been using their Cake Enhancer with great success. I don't fully understand the chemistry behind why it works, but it does-- it makes my cakes stay extra-moist, for several days. Pour the liquid ingredients all at once into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
I gently folded the batter, but didn't work up the gluten. (That makes for tough pastries, ya know). You can see the wheat in the flour, because of the dark brown color. There is pastry flour that has less wheat it in it, so use that if you prefer. Some reviewers suggested pouring the batter into a ziploc bag (I was too
lazy busy to dig out my pastry bags).
I was cautioned not to overfill each well, or the "whole" would fuse together and it won't look like a doughnut. I think you could spoon these in just as well.
I decided to go with cinnamon-sugar. Since the doughnuts weren't fried in oil, I decided to spritz them, lightly, with some water (rather than melted butter).
That did the trick! I brewed a cup of coffee and decided to give these a taste test.
VERDICT: At first bite, I thought the doughnut was less than exciting. I questioned my wisdom in using a whole wheat pastry flour. They were tender, yes, but I wasn't digging the wheatiness of the flavor. I was underwhelmed, as was my husband. But, wait! The very next morning, something magical happened when I tried them again. The doughnuts were stored in an air-tight container, the night before. The flavor had changed, and to the better! In all honesty, these baked doughnuts won't fool any kind of doughnut connoisseur. But, with a cup of hot coffee these remind me a bit of Mexican Churros (without the grease).
I see possibilities with this recipe, and I'll try them again. Next time, I'll use regular pastry flour, or a mixture of whole wheat and all-purpose. Rather than glazing these, or dipping them in melted chocolate-- I'll just make the real thing if I'm going to spring for a fat and sugar-rush of that caliber. Sometimes, you just have to indulge in a traditional doughnut and I plan to make traditional doughnuts, in the future-- just so I can say I learned how to do it. This recipe is certainly quick to put together, and a lot less messier than heating oil. They're also easier on the arteries and waistline, and that's a good thing. On a scale of 1-5 for flavor, I give these 3 1/2 stars. With some tweaking, next time, I think these could earn an extra star or two.