Many evenings in our flat look a little bit like this: Alessandro is stretched out on the sofa, watching ‘manly’ TV shows (a current favourite of his is a show following 2 guys around the US who buy up abandoned storage containers and try to sell the stuff they find for profit), meanwhile I am staring into our pantry and our fridge wondering what I could make next until I eventually start noisily pulling out pots and pans and the mixer to play around in the kitchen. At some point Alessandro will invariably ask me what I am rustling up, sometimes my response is followed by a quick ‘brrr’ (his way of telling me that whatever I am putting together sounds far too healthy to be tasty), other times he comes wandering into the kitchen with an eyebrow raised unnaturally high, confused as to whether he should trust his ears anymore because I can’t possibly be making what I just said. This is pretty much what happened the other day when his inquiry about all the noise in the kitchen was responded with a simple “breadcrumb donuts”.
I mentioned in my last post how I recently started experimenting more with different flours – since last summer I have baked with einkorn, emmer, oat, spelt, kamut, buckwheat and almond flour. While I am still learning how best to use each individual type of flour and how to adapt recipes to incorporate them (a fascinating but at times also frustrating process) one thing I have certainly come to realise is the different flavour profiles they bring to baked goods. For example, some whole wheat flour can leave a bitter taste in the mouth (often rounded out by the addition of spices to the dough), same for oat flour if you are not watching the oven like a hawk and let your cookies or muffins overcook ever so slightly. In contrast, kamut has a rich and almost buttery flavour – perfect for taking your traditional pound cake recipe over the edge or adding it to cakes where you want the buttery flavour without all the fat.
As for the breadcrumbs, well, given how much I have been using oat flour recently, I figured I could not go too wrong in using breadcrumbs as a substitute for regular wheat flour. Breadcrumbs are the kind of thing I always have in my kitchen but rarely use (so rarely I cannot even remember what we had bought our bag of breadcrumbs for). But, they are inexpensive (if you wanted to be really frugal you could even make your own breadcrumbs using some stale bread and a high speed food processor), and I had hoped that using breadcrumbs would be similar to baking with nut flours, a moist crumb with a bit of bite and, fortunately, that is exactly what I got. While breadcrumbs might not work well for batters that need to rest for a while (in which case the moisture would likely soften the breadcrumbs), for these baked donuts they are perfect.
Although breadcrumbs are pretty bland in their normal state, once they are combined with the rest of the ingredients in this recipe, your kitchen will basically start smelling like French toast. Once baked, these donuts have none of the dryness or ‘cakey’-ness (if that is even a word) some baked donut recipes produce – instead you have incredibly light and moist donuts with a bit of bite from the breadcrumbs that is quite similar to baking with nut flours or polenta. The muscovado sugar and the melted butter add a little bit of a toffee flavour which pairs beautifully with the breadcrumbs. But there is also a certain savoury-ness that is hard to pinpoint and I think that is what makes these donuts so delicious (and no doubt comes from the breadcrumbs).
While the donuts were in the oven, I made a quick maple glaze, slightly adapting a recipe I found on Saveur’s website. At first I was worried it wouldn’t set properly as I substituted the cream the recipe called for with milk and also increased the amount of maple syrup ever so slightly to boost its flavour, but I shouldn’t have been afraid at all – the glaze set quickly and beautifully, ensuring these baked donuts looked just like the real thing.
Peeking at the date on my phone I noticed that this blog, in its current form at least, has been around for just over a year now. While I have no birthday cake to share with you, I think a breakfast of baked donuts with a thick maple glaze is festive enough to celebrate this little landmark.
This last year was a busy year with long hours in the office and weekends doing written assigments and preparing for some exams for a postgraduate course which were quickly followed by a small sports injury which took me out of action for a few weeks over the summer while I recovered from surgery. This did not stop me and Alessandro from going on a 2 week whirlwind tour around Morocco (with Alessandro as my personal sherpa as I wasn’t allowed to lift anything heavy) in September, which left me with just enough time to pack my boxes and say goodbye to friends and my favourite London places before moving to Rome in November where Alessandro is currently working.
2012 was also the year I finally started a blog (on 9 June to be exact – there are some older posts, but 9 June 2012 is when I decided to start posting on a regular basis). It is something I had been meaning to do for years, but somehow I never knew how to. Suffice to say I am glad Leluu talked me into this as my little corner of the internet brings me a lot of joy, so much joy that I plan to continue to post my creations, master some new baking skills, work on my photography but also my writing and hopefully that way I can turn this little space into a place where you like to stop by, share your successes and failures or just join me as I daydream about food, one dish at a time.
Looking over my posts for the last year, there are some definite favourites – whether it is recipes I created completely from scratch like the Mini Mocha Bundt Cakes or flavour combinations that sound weird but turn out so delicious (like the White Chocolate and Fennel Truffles), recipes that sound like they shouldn’t work but really do (replacing ground almonds with ground oats in Anise Oat Kipferl ) and getting my first recipe published in the Guardian as part of a reader recipe swap (Toasted Rice Blancmanger). But my list of ideas and recipes to try is long so I am sure my list of favourite posts will keep on changing as well.
All this being said, it seems fitting that I am currently in London for a birthday celebration – as luck would have it, now that I moved from London to Rome after spending most of the last decade in London, my big sister has just started a new job in London after working in Brussels for 6 years. It’s her 30th birthday this weekend so my parents and I decided to come and visit her. I am looking forward to walking around Angel, my old neighbourhood and exactly where my sister is now living, dinners at old favourites like a little Turkish place my mum and I have been going to since my law school days, but I am also looking forward to visiting some new places and a birthday dinner somewhere interesting (my sister still hasn’t decided where exactly she wants to eat so has booked a few places). Sadly Alessandro cannot make it but at least that means I can catch up with my girlfriends and work friends and spend some time at Wholefoods to stock up on ingredients that are a little trickier to find in Italy (like my beloved Protein powder and cacao nibs).
Baked Breadcrumb Donuts with a Sea Salt and Maple Glaze
Makes 8 mini donuts or 4 regular donuts (if you make regular donuts, adjust the baking time acccordingly)
For the donuts
2 egg whites
1 pinch of salt
40g light muscovado sugar
50g bread crumbs (if making your own breadcrumbs, make sure to pulverize them in a food processor)
60g melted butter
For the glaze
Loosely adapted from Saveur
60g icing sugar
15g maple syrup
Pinch of sea salt
Optional: 1-2 tablespoons crushed walnuts and sea salt flakes to top the donuts with
1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. If you are not using a silicone donut pan, grease your donut pan.
2. Whisk the egg whites together with the muscovado sugar and the pinch of salt until stiff and glossy.
3. Add the breadcrumbs and melted butter to the bowl containing the beaten egg whites and carefully fold the breadcrumbs and butter into the egg white mixture being careful not to deflate it.
4. Fill a pastry bag with the batter and carefully pipe into your donut mould. Smooth the top of each mould with the back of a wet spoon (to stop the batter from sticking to the spoon).
5. Bake in the oven for ca. 15 minutes or until the tops of the donuts are golden-brown in colour and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the donuts comes out clean.
6. Let donuts cool in the mould for a couple of minutes and then carefully invert them onto a serving plate.
7. For the glaze, whisk together the icing sugar with the maple syrup, milk and the salt until the sugar is dissolved and there are no more lumps. Drizzle the donuts with the glaze and, if you want to, top each donuts with some crushed walnut chunks and scatter some sea salt flakes on top.Note: by all means these don’t have to be baked in a donut pan. While I have a scary number of different sized (and shaped!) baking trays, pie forms etc, buying an extra baking pan for a single recipe is quite silly. While you do need it if you want these to look like real donuts, you could easily bake them in a muffin tray or any other pan with small moulds you have.
Note: yes, the measurements for the glaze are minuscule (so use a spoon scale if you have one!) but I wanted to include it exactly the way I made it because the glaze set beautifully – feel free to play around with the proportions, but be warned that the glaze might not set if you do so!