Trying Something New: Making Donuts

Eight jars of blueberry jam cooling on a kitchen towl.

To set the stage, I should mention that this whole thing started because we went blueberry picking this year and walked away with 8 lbs of blueberries. Most of this went directly into jars as jam, some of it was baked into bread and some of it stared at me begging to be put to good use. That’s when it hit me, blueberry donuts.

Making donuts without a fryer isn’t too difficult, in fact you “just” need a donut pan and a good cake donut recipe. If I had focused on making the blueberry donuts that I had set out to, they would have come out delicious. Instead, I found myself taking on the monstrous task of attempting to make jelly filled donuts without a mixer (I mean, come one I had so many jars of blueberry jam!).

To the book’s credit, the recipe itself was easy to follow. If I’m being honest with myself, I know exactly where things went wrong. For starters, we don’t have a microwave. This means that microwaving ingredients for 15 seconds (or whatever it was) needs to be done on the stove, which would have been easier if a temperature had been given. Next, there’s no way that I mixed the dough enough. My hands got tired and I didn’t have someone else around to delegate the task to. On top of that, I opted to double the recipe so that there would be enough to share with the local fire station, which means that I was attempting to hand mix more dough than a standard batch. When you combine those things together, there’s no way that the first prove was successful.

Pale and flat donuts or failed jelly donuts.

And yet, I diligently completed the next steps of rolling and cutting the dough before allowing it to prove for a second time. In reality, I knew when I put them in the oven that I would not have airy donuts in the end… but I still put them in the oven.

The final product? Weird tasting biscuits scone things. Weird as in you could taste the yeast, but they were almost ok if dunked in some blueberry jam (I at least lacked the pride required to fill the failed donuts with jelly). We threw them out, unsure if even the animals in the woods behind our home would want them. These would not do well on Great British Bake Off, I’d probably get an under proved and over done comment.

Will I make jelly donuts again? Yes, but I will probably borrow someone’s mixer first!

Trying something new: Meringue Cookies

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Second Batch, made with chocolate chips 

Well, it happened. Again. My partner and I watched enough Great British Baking show that I had to try a new cookie recipe (just like when I made my own fig bars). This time, I was inspired by all the meringue being used on the show and Mary Berry tapping the top of the structures to see how solid they were.

To be completely honest, I’ve had the recipe that I used since high school when a friend of mine was taking baking and I sampled one of her cookies. Though they look fancy, they don’t actually require a ton of crazy ingredients and, once you’ve figured out what’s supposed to happen, are easy to make.

 

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First batch made with semi melted chocolate, these spread more because the eggs weren’t initially whipped enough

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 3/4 cups of sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar (I used about 1/2 a teaspoon of white vinegar as a substitiute
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 bag chocolate chips

What you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 300F.
  2. In a bowl, combine egg whites, cream of tartar (or vinegar in my case) and vanilla. Whip aggressively or use a mixture on medium. You should see your mixture form a lot of bubbles and begin to form “soft peaks” (that’s what the recipe says and I can’t really think of a different way to describe it).
  3. Add sugar in slowly while you whip it into the batter.
  4. Whip. It. Good. No seriously, if you don’t have a mixer you’re going to be mixing it for a while. The batter is going to become stiff but light and you should be able to pull the whisk out and have the batter stand stiff. If your mixture is too runny, add a tiny bit more cream of tartar (vinegar) to help stiffen it up. According to the Great British Baking Show, it’s very difficult to over whip the batter.
  5. Fold in chocolate chips. All of them, the first time I made these cookies I thought there wasn’t enough dough only to find out that when they were done there wasn’t enough chocolate.
  6. Line a cookie tray with parchment paper and drop cookies onto it. I’ve gotten about 12 both times, but you could probably get more if you make yours smaller.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Note: You have to let them cool completely before removing them from the baking tray, otherwise they’ll collapse in on themselves.

All in all, I’m happy to have learned a new skill and am definitely planning on gifting tins of cookies around the holidays this year.

Just in case I didn’t do enough baking this month, I also made banana muffins for the first time tripling a recipe promising to be the easiest banana muffins. They were fun to make, but I don’t think I’ll be putting as much sugar in them next time – the bananas made the batter sweet enough.

on Baking Dairy-Free Berry Bread

Sliced cranberry bread on a plate.It’s been a little while since I’ve been diagnosed with a dairy allergy, but not long enough that I’ve figured out alternatives to a lot of my favorite bakes or meals. That being said, I’ve finally found a way to update my mom’s berry bread recipe that doesn’t taste dry.

It took a few attempts to get it right and may continue to evolve over time. For example, one of my next attempts may be to try coconut cream. (I worry that it will alter the flavor so have been too chicken to give it a try)

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 tbs Stevia (or 1 cup of sugar)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 butter alternative (I like Earth Balance)
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of berries (I recommend blueberries or cranberries — frozen or fresh!)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt nutmeg, and cinnamon in a large bowl.
  3. Melt butter alternative.
  4. In a small bowl, beat two eggs.
  5. Add butter alternative and orange juice to beaten eggs.
  6. Add wet ingredients to dry ones, mix well.
  7. Fold in berries.
  8. Spoon into greased loaf pan.
  9. Bake for 1 hour.

Personally, I enjoy this bread after it’s been grilled on the stovetop with a little more of the butter spread or with an over-easy egg on top of it. Just be careful, my partner and I can eat a loaf in a weekend!

Trying something new: homemade fig bars

Between the general goal of trying new things, a desire to suck up to the poet in my life, and withdrawal symptoms from a lack of new Great British Baking Show episodes beginning to show, I found myself perusing Pinterest in search of a homemade fig bar that wouldn’t take hours of prep and millions of ingredients.

Enter Alida’s kitchen, or more specifically the blog that I found the recipe of choice on. Alida’s recipe, known as Oatmeal Fig Bars, is seven steps (check) and everything on her ingredients list, minus the dried figs, was already located in my cupboard (check). Skimming the recipe, the only piece of equipment I didn’t own was a food processor. Having a friend I could borrow one from, this satisfies another checkbox for me: no crazy equipment that I need to purchase for one bake.

Sliced dried figs cooking on the stove top.The best part of this bake? Each part was delicious on their own. I can see myself using the fig filling as a jam or as something to add to brownies. Or using the oatmeal base to create other types of cookie bars.

I can’t get over how easy it was to make the fig filling, which was the part of the fig bars that in my mind would be the most difficult part:

  1. In a small saucepan, put figs, water, lemon juice, and zest, and bring to a boil. Simmer until mixture starts to thicken (about 3 minutes). Let cool for about 5 minutes.
  2. Put filling in food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.

That was it. Two steps, totaling less than ten minutes. Ten minutes meant the kitchen smelt so good my dog didn’t want to wander too far from it. Another five minutes to make the dough and 25 minutes until they were sitting on the counter waiting to be eaten.

Close up of homemade oatmeal fig bar before being cut.Some general notes on the recipe that it may be helpful to be aware of:

  • The dough is very dry — that’s ok! Do NOT add water. I made this mistake, it made the dough sticky and hard to spread. It also meant my bars needed a little more time in the oven and never goldened.
  • There is not enough dough to have a top and bottom layer. Alida says as much in her recipe, the top of her bars have the dough “crumbled” on top. I would consider doubling the dough recipe in order to have two complete layers
  • The figs are delicious — but that step would be a fun place to add additional fruits.
  • For a fig bar lover, the 35 minutes this process took was too long. I thought it was very reasonable.