today’s taste: pumpkin doughnut holes
I have good news and bad news. Usually, I would like to get the bad news out of the way first, but that order won’t work here – so, good news comes first. This weekend, I made doughnuts that are truly wonderful. They’re pumpkin (I promised you the fall flavors were coming!), they’re covered in cinnamon sugar, and they’re baked. Flavorful, delicious, and no scary-hot oil required. Now, the bad news: I’m afraid that I set the bar too high for the rest of my pumpkin experimentation this year. And, based on the number of Libby’s Pumpkin cans I have in my pantry, there’s a fair amount of experimentation left. Actually, that’s probably good news for you – it means any upcoming pumpkin recipes will have to meet a special standard.
I’m not all that anxious, to be honest – if possible, these doughnuts have put me in an even more festive, fall-ish mood. Although California lacks the warm-hued color changes and seasonal activities of the east coast (still looking for an apple orchard nearby), I have noticed a crispness in the morning air recently. And there are a more than few perks to my current state. One of those major perks is actually responsible for my new doughnut standard – Sidecar Doughnuts. Their butter and salt doughnut will make you question whether you really need any other ingredients in your life. It is physically impossible for family and friends to visit me without tasting (devouring) one. In fact, it was actually a breakfast meeting last week with Sidecar present that inspired me to test out this recipe – and here we are!
There are a few things that make this recipe work as well as it does – if you’re going to create a doughnut that is simultaneously moist, crunchy, flavorful, and tender without a vat of oil, there are bound to be a few tricks. The egg yolk and cornstarch are critical to the tender, cake-like crumb in the doughnuts; the extra egg yolk keeps the batter creamy and moist, while the cornstarch adds structure without contributing any tough gluten. The result is a melt-in-your mouth doughnut interior!
As for the exterior, there are two key factors: the hot oven and the butter and cinnamon sugar coating. Sometimes the best part of a doughnut is the crisp outside; baking, rather than frying, shouldn’t be a reason to forgo that texture complexity. The higher temperature (400 degrees) partially achieves that in a couple ways. First, it causes the doughnuts to rise rapidly in the first few minutes by creating steam that lifts the batter. Second, it cooks and crisps the outside quickly. Enter the butter and cinnamon sugar. Brushing the doughnuts with butter (even a small amount) contributes to that fresh-from-the-fryer richness. The cinnamon sugar adds both the characteristic fall flavor as well as a satisfying crunch.
Once you add the cinnamon sugar coating, be sure not to seal the doughnuts in a humid environment – otherwise, that crunchy coating will turn into a glaze. (Which really isn’t the worst thing.) And, while these doughnuts do keep for a few days – and can be frozen – they are best eaten the day of. The recipe makes quite a few – it’s time to start planning a brunch!
- 8 tablespoons (½ cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 ½ cups pumpkin puree
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- For the Doughnuts: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 24-cup miniature muffin tin with vegetable oil spray.
- In a large bowl, beat together the butter, eggs, egg yolk, granulated sugar, pumpkin puree, and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking powder, salt, and cornstarch.
- Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared tin, filling each cup about ¾ full. Bake the doughnuts 9-11 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean, rotating halfway through. Remove the doughnuts from the oven; let cool in tin for 5 minutes, and then loosen the edges and transfer to a cooling rack.
- For the Coating: Whisk sugar and cinnamon together in bowl. While doughnuts are still warm, working with 1 at a time, brush all over with melted butter. Roll in cinnamon sugar, pressing lightly to adhere.
- Doughnuts keep at room temperature or refrigerated for 2-3 days. Be sure to cover loosely. Doughnuts can also be frozen.