Sunday, July 14, 2013

Baked and Glazed Chocolate Coffee Cake Doughnuts

We have very different opinions in our house when it comes to doughnuts.

Jamie feels like no doughnut is truly a doughnut unless it's a yeast doughnut, deep-fried to crispy golden-brown perfection.  And even then, it's not complete without creamy custard inside and a sugary glaze (preferably something with chocolate or caramel) poured over the top.  I'm not saying I can't get on board with a cream-filled doughnut covered with chocolate frosting, though.  I totally can.

But on the other hand, I adore cake doughnuts.  I grew up loving the old-fashioned sour cream cake doughnuts that were also fried and then dunked in a crusty sweet glaze.  They were both soft and dense inside, with a crisp exterior and melt-in-your-mouth delicious goodness.  No filling needed.  Perfect with cold milk or hot coffee.

Last summer, I was led astray by a recipe claiming to be the very epitome of those doughnuts I remembered so fondly, and I was so disappointed with the oil-saturated, quite flavorless results.  And the lingering smell of oil in the house reminded me for days of that flopped attempt.

My distaste for that oily aroma permeating the house fueled my decision to try a baked cake doughnut.  After all, I have a beautiful doughnut pan that only gets used a couple times a year, and I'm sure it's been feeling neglected.

I started with a very thick, very dark chocolate batter, with the addition of a little espresso powder.  Who doesn't love chocolate, doughnuts and coffee all in the same bite?

I piped the batter into the pan (there's no point in trying to spoon it into the doughnut molds - you will only get annoyed) and the doughnuts baked up beautifully light and cakey.  So cakey, in fact, that this batter could very well have been baked as muffins or cupcakes (something I may need to try, actually).  Such cakeyness needs a crusty glaze to give it a nice textural contrast.  If these are topped with a soft icing, then you might as well just call them a doughnut-shaped cupcake and call it a day.

Now the glaze.  It has taken me a few experiments to figure this out, but I believe that I now have the secret to the most wonderful crusting glaze for doughnuts.

If all you do for your glaze is to mix powdered sugar with milk or water, then you're really missing out.  All you will get with that is a soft, runny icing that never sets up or crusts over.  Sometimes a little corn syrup will help to set up a glaze, but it doesn't do the trick here.  And that crust is what we're after here.

The secret is that hot doughnuts need to be glazed with hot glaze that has been thinned with simple syrup (as opposed to just milk, cream or water).  Timing is everything here, but the doughnuts bake so quickly, that by the time you take them out of the oven, your glaze should be ready.

For the simple syrup I started with two parts granulated sugar to one part water.  The use of the granulated sugar is also important, as the granules contribute to the crystallization of the glaze, which in turn helps to form the crust.

After cooking the granulated sugar and water just until it boiled and the sugar dissolved, I stirred in a little powdered sugar.  This is what thickens the glaze.  Lastly, a touch of vanilla.  It could not be simpler.

The doughnuts should only cool for a minute or two so that they are still quite hot when you glaze them (just handle them gently since they're more delicate while hot), and after dipping them in the glaze (or spooning, drizzling, pouring it over, etc...), it started to crust over almost immediately, so I quickly sprinkled them with a little more espresso powder, just to make the coffee flavor more prominent.  After setting up for just a few minutes, they were ready to eat.

I loved how dramatic they looked, with the dark chocolate and snowy glaze.  And even Jamie, who groaned at my suggestion of baked doughnuts, ate three of them that morning.

One Year Ago:   Creamy Pea and Leek Soup
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Baked and Glazed Chocolate Coffee Cake Doughnuts
printable recipe

doughnut batter:
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Hershey's Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
crusting glaze:
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder

Bake the Doughnuts:
Preheat the oven to 375 and spray a standard-sized doughnut pan (6 doughnuts) with non-stick spray.

In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, salt and baking soda.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, heavy cream, sour cream, oil and vanilla.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk until smooth; batter will be very thick.

Scrape the batter into a piping bag (it is too thick to try to spoon evenly into the pan, so you will need to pipe it), and snip a 1/2 inch hole at the tip.  Pipe the batter into the pan, dividing it between the 6 doughnut molds.

Bake for 8-9 minutes, until risen and the doughnuts spring back when lightly touched.  Cool in the pan for 1-2 minutes before glazing.

Make the Glaze:
While the doughnuts are baking, work on the glaze.  It needs to be ready when the doughnuts come out, since you want both the glaze and the doughnuts to be hot.

In a small saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, water and corn syrup.  Over medium/medium-low heat, bring to a boil, swirling occasionally to dissolve the sugar.  Keep the saucepan on the heat and whisk in the powdered sugar until smooth.  Whisk in the vanilla.  The glaze will begin to crust as soon as you remove it from the heat, so you have to work quickly.  Dip each doughnut in the glaze, lightly shake off the excess and set on a wire rack to set (or if you like, you could drizzle or pour the glaze over the doughnuts with a spoon).  If the glaze gets too thick, return it to the heat for a minute, whisking to smooth it out, or stir in a few drops of hot water.  Immediately sprinkle each glazed doughnut with a little espresso powder.  The glaze should set quickly, within about 5 minutes, and the doughnuts will be ready to eat.

Yields 6 doughnuts

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen