Baked Doughnuts

Ahhhh...weekends. Otherwise known as the time I can work it OUT in the kitchen while my sweet Little C gets down with some Daddy time--preferably somewhere not all up in my area. So by, oh, say, Thursday, I get to thinking about what recipes I'm going to tackle over the weekend, what with all my wild, impending freedom and all. If you feel me here, then I hope you'll make this awesome recipe for baked doughnuts your weekend project, too. If this scenario is completely foreign to you, and your weekend plans usually involve things like imbibing in a place that's not your living room and then having a childless brunch the next day, well, a) tell me what that's like, and b) these will be just the thing for you, too.

Now, I was a little wary of the concept of a baked doughnut at first. I mean, really, people, if you're going to have a doughnut, just go for it, fried, glazey goodness and all, AMIRITE? Well, I was craving doughnuts something fierce on a recent weekend, and wanted to try making some from scratch. But the more I thought about dealing with hot oil and the greasy aftermath and that heavy, fatty air that was sure to hang around the house for days afterward, the less appealing a traditional doughnut recipe seemed. Can one make baked doughnuts?, I wondered, and if I made some and told you about them, would you all think I was going all Susan Powter on you? Risky.

But thanks to half a pot of coffee and a couple hours to myself to putter about a gloriously quiet house, I had all sorts of moxie on that particular day, and a quick Google search landed me on one of my favorite blogs and a recipe for baked doughnuts that looked especially promising.

Despite my recurring fear of yeast doughs that we've gone over before, I found this recipe to be fabulously simple. It's a lot like a pizza dough or white bread dough, but there's a little extra butter and egg worked in to deliver a bit of richness and keep the finished product moist. So maybe like a Brioche Light for Dummies. Just my thing.

It's a cinch to work with--a lovely, pillowy dough--and dare I say I actually had an awesomely fun, anxiety-free experience with this yeast dough? Yes, yes I did. And here is where you might suggest I get out a little more and I cover my ears and shake my head. Because--oh-ho!--the fun doesn't stop there, people!

After you roll and cut all those cute little doughtnuts and bake them until they are just golden on the bottom, then you dip them quickly in melted butter and love them all up even more with a coating of cinnamon sugar. See? Don't you go telling me I don't know from fun. Awww, yeeaaahh.

All unbridled, fanciful ways aside, I was pleasantly surprised at the results of this recipe and didn't at all feel like I was being gypped, from a doughnut-craving standpoint. Tender, flavorful, a wonderful hit of yeast and nutmeg to give you that actual doughnut satisfaction. I mean, Krispy Kremes they are not, but they are very, very good and hey, you can have two without that OHMAHGAHIJUSTATETWODOUGHNUTS feeling. It's a new sensation for me, and I have to say, I rather enjoy it.

Baked Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnuts
Adapted from Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks

These are awesome rolled in a blend of granulated and light brown sugars, as I've done here, but I'm thinking they'd also be delicious glazed (skip the melted butter-dipping step) or dusted with confectioners' sugar instead. Whatever you do, plan on eating these ASAP after baking for the best flavor and texture, and revive the leftovers with a quick zap in the microwave. The dough can be made a day ahead--just prepare it up through the cutting stage, wrap the baking sheet with plastic wrap, and let the doughnuts rise in a warm place an hour before baking. If in doubt about how long to bake these, err on the side of underbaking so the interior is tender and moist.

Makes about 1 dozen

For the dough:

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons warm milk, divided, 95 to 105 degrees (take its temperature--too hot and it will kill the yeast)
1 1/8 teaspoons active dry yeast (about half a packet)
1 tablespoons butter, melted and still warm
1/3 cup sugar
1 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

For the cinnamon-sugar coating:

1/4 cup (half a stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Place 3 tablespoons of the warm milk in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Stir in the yeast and set aside for at least five minutes. Place the remaining 1/2 cup of warm milk in a small bowl, stir in the butter and sugar, and add it to the yeast mixture. On low speed, stir in the egg, flour, nutmeg, and salt - just until the flour is incorporated. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for a few minutes at medium speed. At this point, make a few adjustments - if your dough is seriously sticky, add flour a few tablespoons at a time. Too dry? Add a little bit of milk. Eventually, you want the dough to pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl and become soft and smooth. Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface, knead it a few times by hand, and shape it into a smooth ball.

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl (cooking spray works great here), cover with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place. Let the dough rise until its doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch down the dough and roll it out 1/2-inch thick on a floured work surface. Using a 2-3 inch cookie cutter, stamp out circles. Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet and cut holes in the centers with a smaller cutter, about half the diameter of the first--remember the hole will close up on the second rising if it's too small, so make it a little bigger than what a finished doughnuts would look like (alternatively, use a doughnut cutter, if you actually own one). Cover the baking sheet with a clean cloth and let the doughnuts rise for another 45 minutes.

Bake in a 375 degree oven until the bottoms are just golden, 8 to 10 minutes - start checking around 8. Better to underbake then overbake here--pull them early if in doubt. While the doughnuts are baking, melt the 1/4 cup of butter in a medium bowl. Place the sugars and cinnamon in a separate bowl (or large ziploc bag), stirring to blend evenly.

Remove the doughnuts from the oven and let cool for just a minute or two. Dip each one in the melted butter and a quick toss in the sugars. Serve immediately.

YeastShauna Sever