Donut Holes—Made Easy

Yes, donut holes with all of the taste, none of the frying, and cute enough to warrant packing one away in each cheek. The real secret to these light, cakelike bites is the coating of cinnamon-sugar that’s held firmly in place by a whisper of butter thinly brushed onto their exteriors while still warm.

Muffins are one of the easiest quick breads to bake, and actually benefit from the least amount of handling. Dust off a mini-muffin pan or two and bake up a batch in absolutely no time. As with any cake donut, we want the contrast of crispy exteriors and light interiors. Here are a few tips to get you there.

For even distribution and rising, sift dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Over stirring makes tough cone-topped donuts. Combine the liquid ingredients separately and add all at once to the dry ingredients in as few strokes as possible. A few lumps are fine. For consistent cup filling, use a small ½-ounce scoop; a tablespoon will also work.

Muffins are done when they are well-rounded with a light golden color and the centers spring back when pressed. For maximum crispiness do not cool in pan. Run a knife around edges to loosen and turn out onto cooling rack.

While warm lightly brush each donut hole all over with butter and roll in cinnamon-sugar.  Let rest 15 minutes to allow sugar coating to crystalize, and have at it!

Donut Hole Muffins

Ingredients
1½  cups all-purpose flour
2   tablespoons cornstarch
1½  teaspoons baking powder
½   teaspoon salt
½   teaspoon nutmeg
1   egg
⅓   cup vegetable oil
½   cup granulated sugar
¾   cup milk
Topping
¼   cup butter, melted
½   cup sugar
1   teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375° and thoroughly coat mini muffin cups with cooking spray.
  2. Sift flour, cornstarch, and baking powder into a medium sized mixing bowl.  Add the salt and nutmeg and mix well.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together the egg, oil, sugar, and milk.  Stir the liquid into the dry ingredients just to combine.
  4. Using ½-ounce scoop or a tablespoon, fill the cups with batter and bake for 20 minutes, until they begin to turn golden brown and the tops spring back when pressed. Turn muffins out onto cooling rack.
  5. Meanwhile, combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small wide bowl. One at a time, lightly brush each muffin all over with melted butter and then roll in the cinnamon sugar. Place on baking rack and repeat. Allow to set up about 15 minutes and serve.  Yield: 24-30 donut holes.

Forget Dinner

I should have known better. I did not expect much, and I was wrong. Maria Speck’s book Ancient Grains for Modern Meals has been a reliable resource in my kitchen for quite a while now, and it has rarely let me down.

It’s one of those recipes I have considered on several occasions but moved on, opting for something else. Perhaps it is because she offers it as primarily a breakfast dish—and it needs an overnight soak. Apparently, I have trouble thinking that far ahead.  Sad.

Maria calls it an Anise Oatmeal Puff.  That sounds interesting. But then she adds an egg, clearly something I’ve had difficulty imagining. Well, for anyone who is a rice pudding fan, take another look.  You receive all the instant gratification, plus it’s made more nutritious with oats.

Maria and her family must surely like it, because her recipe makes enough for 8 stand-alone servings.  This morning I decided to test her idea. I would resize the dry mix and forgo the prescribed overnight soak method.

It’s another microwave wonder:  true bliss in under 5 minutes. Tasty, filling, entertaining, and fast. In fact, I would even make this for dinner—or dessert—and forget dinner.

In all fairness to Maria, I offer her original recipe from sister book Simply Ancient Grains, because it is probably worth making in batches and investing in the overnight soak.  However, if you are like me, and in your first excursion would prefer to pass on the wait, those adjustments also follow.

Anise Oatmeal Puff

Inspiration from Simply Ancient Grains, Maria Speck
 
Ingredients
Dry Oatmeal Mix – 8 servings
2 cups old fashion rolled oats or rolled grains
2/3 cup golden raisins or dried cranberries
1 teaspoon crushed anise or fennel seeds
1-1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Oatmeal Puff – per serving
1//3 – 1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon maple, agave, or other syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
A few grapes or other fruit such as fresh pear or apple, dried cranberries, dates or prunes
Powdered or cinnamon sugar for dusting, optional

Directions
Prepare the dry oatmeal mix and combine well.  Store airtight.
Allow per serving:

  1. The night before: In microwave safe mug or bowl place 1/3 cup dry oat mix with milk, syrup and vanilla. Cover and chill.
  2. The next morning: In a small bowl beat the egg with a fork until well blended.  Stir it into the mug mixture to combine.  Stir in 3-4 grapes or other fruit.
  3. Place mug in microwave and cook on high 1 minute 20 seconds – it will rise possibly above the rim, but will not spill over. It is done when a skewer inserted comes out clean.  Cook 10 seconds and test.  Let set a few minutes to firm up.  Top with more grapes, dust with cinnamon and serve.

Individual Anise Oatmeal Puff recipe for 1, without overnight soak

  1. In an ovenproof mug combine:
    1/3 cup quick oats
    1 tablespoon dried fruit: cranberries etc.
    Pinch crumbled anise seeds
    Scant 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  2. Add to the oats and mix well:
    1/3 cup milk
    1 tablespoon agave, maple, or other syrup
    Dash almond or vanilla extract
  3. To expedite soaking, warm mixture in microwave for about 40 seconds, stirring every 20 seconds to absorb some of the liquid and expand the oats, but not thoroughly heat.
  4. Beat 1 egg and incorporate in the oat mixture.
  5. Microwave a total of 1 minute and 20 seconds. Half way, rotate the cup for even rising. It is done when a pick or narrow knife inserted in center comes out nearly clean. Let rest about 3 minutes to set up.
  6. Top with a few fresh berries. If desired, sprinkle with powdered or cinnamon sugar.

A Chocolate Chip Cookie, à la minute

Here’s a cheap thrill to remember when the snack shelf is bare and you are in deep need of a little personal indulgence.  There’s nothing like your own rich, warm, gooey chocolate chip cookie, à la minute, for a boost of comfort and happiness.

That’s right, it’s another microwave steal.  Grab an oven proof cup, mix up a few basic staples (of course, that would include chocolate chips), and pop it into the microwave for maybe a minute.

The trick here is in not over baking.  After about 45 seconds the batter will look bubbly and raised, but certainly not set and firm.  No matter.  Take it out,  let it rest for 5 minutes, and it will solidify into the familiar cookie we all love.

This is not a bake ahead item.  Enjoy it warm straight out of the cup or pop it out and have at it.  Of course, a scoop or two of ice cream is an obvious consideration…

A Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie

Inspired by One Bowl Baking, Yvonne Ruperti

Ingredients
1 tablespoon softened butter
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
Pinch salt
2 teaspoons water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
Pinch baking soda
1 tablespoon bittersweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Spread a dab of butter on the bottom and sides of an oven proof cup or mug.
  2. Place the brown sugar, butter, salt, water and vanilla in mug and give it a good stir.
  3. Add the flour, baking soda and chocolate chips and stir until just combined. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the cup.
  4. Microwave on high, just until the dough puffs, bubbles form, and it doesn’t look wet—about 45 seconds, depending on oven.
  5. Remove from the microwave and let rest for 5 minutes, until set. Enjoy while warm.  Yield:  1 serving.

Little Black Dress of Desserts

We love our nuts in the Pacific Northwest, especially hazelnuts. When you throw in a little chocolate even the French would agree life doesn’t get much better.

Here’s a chocolate-nut torte I have been making for so long, I have no record of the original source.  What I do know is this combination has been making folks happy for quite a while.  A chocolate center is surrounded by a bottom citrus laced cookie crust and crowned with a gooey, crunchy, layer on top.

choc-nute-torteIt is easy on the cook because it is made in three simple steps.  The crust is a snap with the help of a food processor. It’s pressed into the bottom of a springform or other easy access pan and briefly baked until set.

Hot out of the oven, a few handfuls of excellent chocolate are scattered across the crust, left briefly to melt, then spread evenly across the bottom.

Meanwhile, the top layer is whizzed up in the same food processor bowl. A couple of eggs are whipped well, brown sugar, a few dry ingredients are added to stabilize the batter, and chopped nuts are thrown in to pull it all together. In the blink of an eye, it is spread over the chocolate and back in the oven it goes for a brief 20 minutes.

Beyond this simple execution, the torte is nearly indestructible—especially if kept in its protective pan for transport. It does not need to be refrigerated for a day or so. Take it down the road to a potluck or dessert at a friend’s house. Unmold to a platter, give it a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar, and finish with a sprinkling of nuts. You’ve got a dessert for all occasions.

Chocolate Hazelnut Torte

Ingredients
Crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chilled butter, cut up
1/2 package semisweet chocolate chips (6 oz.)
Filling
2 large eggs
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups hazelnuts or walnuts, chopped (6 oz.)

Additional:  powdered sugar for dusting,  toasted nuts for garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. For crust, combine flour, sugar, grated rind and salt in food processor; cut in butter and whirl until crumbly.  Press evenly on bottom of 8″ or 9″ springform or tart pan.  Bake at 375° F for about 10 minutes, until firm to touch.
  3. Sprinkle with chocolate chips, let stand 2 minutes to melt the chocolate; spread evenly over the crust with spatula.
  4. For filling, beat eggs until frothy; add sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla, and stir until smooth.  Fold in nuts.  Spread over chocolate.  Bake at 375° F for 20 minutes longer, until the top is firm and golden.
  5. Cool completely.  Remove from pan and dust lightly with powdered sugar and top with nuts. Store in cool place up to 24 hours, do not refrigerate.  Serves 8.

Ice Storm Baking

Here in Oregon’s central Willamette Valley, we are under winter storm conditions with yesterday’s 3-inch layer of snow. Today, early morning ice storm warnings advise all to stay off the roads due to dangerous conditions.

cranberry-orange-mini-coffeecakeHunkering down, my thoughts naturally drift to tinkering with food. I envision something easy and comforting—on the order of a warm, cheery Sunday morning coffeecake.

Of course, my recent fascination with the microwave was enough to inspire these personal portions of cranberry orange coffee cake. They were table ready within 15 minutes, including minimal cleanup.

Since everything cooks quickly in the microwave, it’s best to thoroughly pre-prep everything. I had fresh frozen cranberries handy in the freezer. To move things along I microwaved them with a dab citrusy orange marmalade until they began to pop, then set it aside to cool. Same with dry ingredients; a quick sift alleviates weird pockets of flavor.

Baking in the microwave is quite different from the traditional oven since powerful heat can create moisture accumulation. I abandoned the usual covering of food prior to cooking; it tends to adhere to the surface and make more of a mess. Also, to maintain an even rise, I turned the baking dishes every 30 seconds after the initial first minute.

indiv-cranberry-orange-coffeecakeIn total, these 3 lovelies took a little over 2 minutes total cooking time. Since the centers tend to cook first, the edges still appear undercooked, but that is fine. Carry over heat from the container plus the food’s internal heat will continue to cook after removal from the microwave.

Enjoy these warm in their baking containers.  For additional flourish, sprinkle with turbinado sugar prior to baking, or afterward cool slightly and dust tops with confectioner’s sugar or give a drizzle with xxx sugar thinned with liquid.

Cranberry Orange Mini Coffeecakes, Two Minute

Ingredients
1/3 cup fresh frozen cranberries
1 tablespoon marmalade
1/2 cup all purpose flour, or any flour combination (like 1/2 whole wheat)
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Dash salt
1 egg
2 tablespoon milk
Turbinado sugar, optional topping

Directions

  1. Spray 3 – 8 oz microwave safe baking dishes with non-stick spray, place on ovenproof dish.
  2. In small microwave safe container, heat cranberries and marmalade about 1 minute to soften and breakdown.  Set aside to cool.
  3. Sift dry ingredients into small mixing bowl and blend thoroughly.
  4. Separately, beat egg and milk to thoroughly combine.
  5. Combine the egg mixture with the dry ingredients and quickly swirl in the cranberry mixture.
  6. Divide batter evenly between three baking dishes, sprinkle lightly with turbinado sugar if desired.
  7. Bake on high for 1 minute.  Give each dish a slight turn and bake another 30 seconds and turn again.  Continue to bake and turn in 30 second increments for 2 minutes or more; edges will be moist, but continue to cook out of the oven.  Don’t overbake.  Yield: 3 servings.

Gingerbread, On Demand

Here’s a moist comforting gingerbread that tastes of winter and warm spices—so good it should not be relegated solely to the holidays. The fact that it bakes in only two minutes should give you even more good reasons to have it freshly baked on demand, for round the clock availability.

The genesis of this tasty gingerbread, comes from Dina Cheney’s great little cookbook Mug Meals, Delicious Microwave Recipes. Her book helps us to consider new applications for the microwave beyond popcorn, warming a quick beverage, or reheating leftovers. It’s loaded with clever tips and recipes for creating real food with minimal muss or fuss—of particular interest to anyone involved in small space living, those faced with eating on the run, or fellow adventurers who just love playing with their food.

One of the biggest issues in microwave baking concerns the lack of browning and low eye appeal.  Bread without a golden brown crust just isn’t the same; neither are cakes with rough and bumpy tops.  Instead of starring at a pock marked cake surface or hiding it under a streusel topping, I opt to turn the gingerbread on its head—to invert and set it bottom side up.gingerbread-blog

Rather than the original huge mugful of gingerbread we end up with 3 or 4 smaller charming cakes that are nice enough for company.  Thanks to IKEA, individual silicone molds hold up perfectly in the microwave; with their stylized shapes, any bottoms simply disappear.  Small soufflé dishes will also work beautifully.mis-en-plas

There’s plenty of flavor going on here: warm spices and molasses for depth of flavor, citrusy marmalade and spicy apple butter all add distinct layers.  Nice enough for the holidays, these personal portions are a lovely addition at breakfast or pretty as an afternoon snack with tea. For an easy dessert, add a spoonful of Pear Butter or a creamy Custard Sauce.

Gingerbread Mini Cakes, Two Minute

Inspired by  Mug Meals, Delicious Microwave Recipes by Dina Cheney

Ingredients
7 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or any combo such as: 1 T cake, 1 T whole wheat, 1 T buckwheat, 4 T all-purpose
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, chopped, or 2 tablespoons currants or golden raisins (optional)
1 egg
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 heaping tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon apple butter
1 tablespoon marmalade
1 tablespoon milk
Non-stick cooking spray

Directions

  1. Spray 4 – 3 oz. silicone baking molds or 3 – 4 oz. soufflé cups with non-stick spray.
  2. On wax paper or in small bowl measure in flour. A combination is nice, cake flour especially aids in texture and rising.  Add baking soda, salt and spices.  Combine well.  Add the candied ginger or dried fruit and toss to dust with flour.
  3. In 2 cup measure or small bowl, beat the egg with a fork, then beat in the oil. Add the molasses, apple butter, marmalade, and milk to combine.
  4. Pour the dry into liquid ingredients and gently stir with a spoon, don’t over mix.
  5. Spoon batter into molds to half fill, they will rise a lot. Set them on an ovenproof plate; cover lightly with wax paper and bake in microwave on high about 1 minute, until they are puffed and fully risen.  Carefully remove the paper and check.
  6. Return molds to oven without paper and continue to cook the interiors, about 1 minute longer, depending on oven. Check every 20 seconds until the centers are nearly firm and tops are set but still moist; they will continue cooking after removal from oven. Cool briefly to firm up.  Carefully run a thin knife around edges to release and turn out to cool further.  Yield:  3-4 cakes, depending on mold.

Must love peanut butter

When it comes to food, I’m always in search of something new and interesting.  This isn’t exactly new, but it is interesting.

It’s a very cool homemade cookie that requires only four ingredients—and very little time or effort.

Peanut Butter Cookies, Fast

Peanut Butter Cookies, Fast

Faster than it takes to preheat the oven, I had the aroma of freshly baked peanut butter cookies wafting magically from the kitchen.  A mere wave of the wrist resulted in crisp, slightly chewy cookies with perfectly balanced peanut-buttery sweetness.

Well, there is one small catch.

These addictive cookies are so good, any attempt at self-restraint goes right out the window. Enjoy for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and random snacking.peanut-butter-cookies-rack

 Peanut Butter Cookies, Fast

Inspired by a popular cookie originally in Gourmet magazine, reprinted in Gourmet’s Five Ingredients by Gourmet Magazine Editors.

Ingredients
1 cup peanut butter, either creamy or chunky
¾ cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon baking soda

Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking oil or line with silpat.
  2. In a medium-small mixing bowl, with a spoon beat peanut butter and sugar to combine; then beat in egg and baking soda.
  3. With hands, roll rounded teaspoons of dough into balls and arrange about 1” apart on baking sheets.  Flatten balls with tines of fork to about 1-1/2” diameter, making a crosshatch pattern.
  4. Bake in batches about 10 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.
  5. Cool cookies on baking sheet for 2 minutes to set, then transfer with spatula to rack to cool completely.  These will keep 5 days stored airtight at room temperature.  Yield: 2 dozen approximate.