Baked. Cake or Raised, but baked. Never as good as fried, but at home, when I don’t want to mess with a fryer, because I don’t have a reliable fryer, I’ll bake. And you know? Baked will do, more than do, in a pinch.
The internet is full of doughnut & donut recipes but the ones I found most reliable, the way a doughnut should be, using ingredients most likely already in your pantry, are those from Lara Ferroni’s Doughnut. The Vanilla Cake, a standby and perfect covered in powdered sugar, is reason enough to buy the book.
The Doughnut recipe that really wowed me, though, was the Baked Raised. I got a nifty twisty pan from William Sonoma to make these:I left that photo huge on purpose! I did tweak the recipe, using less yeast (just add more time), less salt, a bit more flour, but those aren’t big changes. This dough is very slack (read sticky) but it needs to be. The finished doughnuts are light, airy, and REALLY close to their fried sisters.
Some keys with baking donuts: there should be extra fat in the batter to compensate for the oil lost from frying; use the right pan, which for me is the Norpro brand (you need the wells to be deep enough for good proportions); use a pan for baked raised (I cut the doughnuts then placed the circles of dough into pan’s well); you REALLY don’t want to over bake; as with any and all baking projects, measure key ingredients with a scale; and finally, make these when the weather permits walking some of them off.
With the bonanza of apples resting in the basement right now, Junior and I have been busy perfecting apple crisp. I have often thought of apple crisp as the lazy baker’s apple pie, and while that may be partly true, apple crisp is a delicious, soul-warming comfort food all on its own. Rather than the incomparable buttery flake of pâte brisée, the topping of a crisp has several different pleasing elements. The crisp topping I enjoy has the nuttiness of Emmer, a depth of sweet brought by coconut palm sugar, paired with a smidge of dark brown sugar, only a bit of rolled oats, and very cold butter, chopped in, luxuriously coated by the flour and sugars.
Another factor contributing to apple crisp’s lazy reputation is that the apples don’t have to be peeled. Since this dessert is already homey and rustic, left-on peel adds fiber and increased nutrition to the dish. Baked apple peel may take getting used to, so I generally go partial peel, using my apple peeling device to remove most of the skin, but not obsessing with any bits not captured.
Apple crisp can also be made in individual baking dishes, assembled then frozen to be baked later. I love the look of, and indulgence felt by, my own, just-for-me dessert dish. If you keep the added sugars low, this can make a lovely winter morning warming breakfast.
Here’s our latest version, but experiment with other flours such as Emmer or spelt or Einkorn. Toss the apples with honey instead of granulated sugar. Increase the oats or eliminate entirely. Try adding nutmeg or cardamom or use a mix of different apple varieties. Have fun!
15 minutes to assemble/45-55 minutes to bake
1/2 cup all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
1 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
(or use about 1 1/4 pounds frozen, cut-up apples)
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (or a little more if your apples are tart)
1 tablespoon butter for greasing baking dish
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Rub 1 tablespoon of butter all over the inside of a 8-x 8-inch baking dish or 4-5 4 1/2-inch ramekins. Set aside.
Prepare the apples: peel then cut into quarters and remove the core. Cut each quarter into 3 or 4 pieces so they are about ½-inch chunks.
Place the apples into a large bowl and toss with the fresh lemon juice, cinnamon, and the 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Pour the apple mixture into the baking dish. Set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, salt, and the 1 tablespoon granulated sugar.
Cut butter into flour, using a pastry blender until the butter looks like small peas.Add oats, mixing with the pastry blender until combined.
Sprinkle the flour mixture on top of the apples.
Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until golden and bubbling, 45 to 55 minutes, or until bubbling. If using individual ramekins, check for doneness at 40 minutes.
Summer patio breakfast: sliced fresh peaches, scrambled Beatrice egg, perfect Spouse-made latte, and a warm-from-the-oven baking powder biscuit laden with organic butter and homemade raspberry jam. Cozy winter fireside dinner: minestrone of winter vegetables with a grating of parmesan, Unti Segromigno, and a warm-from-the-oven baking powder biscuit to sop up the broth. Late spring afternoon tea: sliced strawberries with barely sweetened whipped cream all over a warm-from-the-oven baking powder biscuit. Who cares about the tea! Biscuits: easier than pie and able to be dressed for any meal.
As with all baked goods, achieving a light, flakey biscuit requires some technique. One needs to keep a light hand when incorporating the shortening, when mixing in the milk, and especially, when kneading the dough. While I have made biscuits for years, I had never tried the Baking With Julia recipe until today. I was happy to see, in Baking With Julia, that Dorie references the expression, “she has a good biscuit hand,” a fine compliment for a biscuit baker. The technique in the book is straightforward and I found the instructions clear. I strayed from the recipe as written by using a blend of flours and rather than use “solid vegetable shortening”, I used organic butter.
Biscuits are homey food, often with regional differences that some take very seriously. If you’ve never made biscuits like this, you should. Begin with any recipe from a reliable source, including this one from Baking With Julia. Try the recipe as written, usually using only all-purpose flour. All-purpose flour ensures higher chances at a better rise, and you won’t, potentially, need to fiddle with any extra liquid that whole wheat sometimes requires. If your first attempt is more hockey puck than flakey, try again. Biscuits are worth the time and learning effort.
For no reason I know of, my family, well at least my sisters and I, began referring to the little backsides of very small humans as biscuits. When my nieces were very, very young, when my nephews were very, very young, when Junior himself was very, very young, their backsides, while thankfully sharing little in comparison except for shape, were likened to the flakey, golden-brown, disc-shaped baked good known as a biscuit. As with so many folksy expressions, I don’t know the why or from where of this one, but I will leave any attempt at further analysis for another time, in another post, on another blog. In the meantime, I think I’ll have another latte.
Baking Powder Biscuits • Baking With Julia • Contributing Baker: Marion Cunningham • pages 211-212
I don’t know the quality of school lunches in my day, of how they might be rated by today’s *ahem* standards. I don’t know if they were full of textured vegetable protein, if any of it was fresh-made, if the dietitians considered ketchup a vegetable. I do remember the lunch carts being wheeled through the hallways, the Lunch Ladies that commandeered them, the red tokens we handed over, and the 75-cents that faculty paid, in cash.
I didn’t take part in those hallway procured meals very often. I remember when I did, it felt exotic and very inclusive. My lunches were usually a sandwich (woefully so on tuna salad day,the white bread overly saturated with the mayonnaise and pickle juice), a piece of fruit, and a cookie or other small yum-yum. Mini bags of chips and Hostess desserts were the hallmark of a Field Trip Sack Lunch, always the best brought-from-home lunches.
Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese was one of the few lunches I did get to buy on occasion. Carrying the tray hosting the divided melamine plate, with the square, cardboard-like, overcooked, hot-held grilled American Cheese sandwich in one section, a small bowl of water-based from-a-can tomato soup in another, some unremembered fruit, and the finale: a serving of full-sheet pan chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Perfection.
We often had tomato soup and grilled cheese lunches at home, so I don’t know why this school menu was such a favorite of mine. It could have been the comfort factor, it could have been the power of that chocolate cake. What I do know now, tomato soup and grilled cheese it still one of my favorite comfort lunches, except no more canned soup or American Cheese or wimpy bread.
Tomato soup is easy to make. This batch started with some onion & garlic, gently cooked in a combination of butter & olive oil. Shallots are my first choice for this soup, but I don’t always have those on hand. When the onions are translucent, the organic canned tomatoes, some fresh thyme, and a few cups of water or chicken broth join in, then the covered pot simmers for 20 minutes or so. Adding salt is always dependent on the tomatoes used-some canned tomatoes are laden with the stuff!
After the simmer, the soup needs to be blended, which can be done in a standard blender, but I forego the mess and danger of traditional method and always use my immersion blender. The original recipe calls for a bit of baking soda to help balance the acidity of the tomatoes. If I’m using cream to finish the soup, I will omit the baking soda, letting the dairy fat mask any startling acidity, but leaving enough to make the soup interesting.
Grilled cheese at my house is always on my Tartine 60-70% whole wheat Country Loaf, with Tillamook Cheddar. Tillamook is not the greatest or most sustainable cheddar in the land, but Junior eats it so that’s what I have on hand, cooked with butter on cast iron.
Food memory, food as comfort, the taste preferences of any individual are all very mysterious. Why do I like this lunch? The slight acidity of the soup? The crunchy whole wheat nuttiness of the bread? The decadent nature of the full-fat, full-dairy cheese? How all three elements play together? I will ponder these, perhaps unanswerable, questions while I eat my lunch, remembering that there will be some chocolate at the finish. Bon Appetit!