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Friday, August 9, 2013

Rules for Cinnamon Doughnuts

Rules for Cinnamon Doughnuts

Rules are made to be broken.  I agree with that, but only sometimes.  People can be divided into two camps – rule followers and rule breakers.  Me:  rule follower - I have to walk against the traffic and bike with the traffic.  If you’re walking with me in the neighborhood, I’m uncomfortable walking on the right, so just so you know?  We’ll be staying to the left.

Such rules make sense, and are intended to keep you safe.

With recipes it’s different, safety is not the issue (unless you’re talking about sanitation and safe cooking/storing temperatures, about which I am even more of a stickler).  When cooking, most recipes can be used as guidelines, whereas when baking, most recipes need to be followed to the letter. 

Not so with this recipe for Ina Garten’s Cinnamon Baked Doughnuts baked in a doughnut pan - baked, not fried, in a nod to health, a very slight nod, almost an imperceptible one because after baking, these doughnuts are dipped in melted butter and then rolled in cinnamon sugar. And because of that they are glorious – especially when still warm from the oven. 

You don’t actually need a doughnut pan – bake these as I did in a standard muffin tin.  I dislike having dedicated one-use items in my kitchen – too much clutter - and prefer to have versatile, good quality basic items instead.  The resulting cakes did not look like Ina’s but were certainly just as good tasting.

Not so beautiful but delicious!
Do I feel like I got away with something?  Maybe.  (Full disclosure - I actually used a silicone baking mold that someone gave me for Christmas - the muffins stuck, I recommend using a standard metal muffin tin, so yours will look better than these!)

This morning I heard a snippet of a BBC radio broadcast and the phrase “the allure of bending the rules” jumped out at me.  I can see where rule bending might be an attraction, more for some people, less for others. 

For me, my Catholic angst prevents me from reveling in this allure and I much prefer to stay on the side of the rule followers, walking on the left, biking on the right, but occasionally baking in muffin tins instead of doughnut molds…

Cinnamon Baked Doughnuts  from Ina Garten’s Foolproof

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon kosher salt (or ¼ teaspoon table salt)
1 extra large egg, lightly beaten
1 ¼ cups whole milk
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the topping:
1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 12 cup muffin tin, or spray  with Baker’s Joy (baking spray with flour).

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. 

In a small bowl whisk together the egg, milk, melted butter and vanilla.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined.

Portion into 12 muffin cups.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, checking at 15 minutes, and removing them when a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool on a rack for 5 minutes.

Melt the butter.  Mix together the sugar and cinnamon.  Dip the muffins in the butter, then coat with the sugar. 

Best when warm.

The more experienced you are with cooking, the more you know some of the unwritten rules of cooking, and will follow them in all your recipes.  Here’s a few I see broken often:

Don’t crowd the pan when you’re sautéing. Take the time to cook in two batches or more. If you don’t, the food will steam instead of fry, and will never get a nice brown sear.  

When you’re using a gas grill, preheat the grill with all burners on high with the lid closed for 15 minutes.  Then change the setting to the desired temp and cook your food. 

Salt your food to taste during cooking, it won’t be the same if you only add salt at the end. 

When a recipe says sift together, it’s perfectly ok to whisk all the ingredients together instead. 

When baking, switch your pans left the right, front to back, halfway through the baking time.  This ensures more even cooking.  Just be quick, lest your oven cool down too much.

Diane Whitman
Reference Librarian
Rule Enforcer

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