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The Batter Thickens: Shmancy-Pants Glazed Chocolate Cake Donuts

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Shmancy-Pants Glazed Chocolate Cake Donuts

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Valentine's Day is a day for celebrating love. But for those of us not in love, it becomes a day for celebrating other kinds of love. We celebrate our love for family, friends, friends who are family, and family who are friends... Personally, I celebrate a very special love, one that I hold close to my heart. It's a love that's always there for me - to cherish my triumphs; to console my disappointments; to savor quiet moments with, over a book or a cup of coffee; to share experiences and keep company, comfy on the couch on a Saturday night, a favorite movie playing on the TV. You might argue that our relationship is unhealthy, that we spend too much time together...I would argue that there's no such thing. This love has seen me at my best and my worst and everything in between, and we have yet to tire of each other. I doubt we ever will.

...I'm talking about chocolate, of course.

Friends and family are great but really all I have on the brain on Valentine's Day is chocolate. More than anything, Valentine's Day - for me, anyway - is about celebrating my unconditional, everlasting love for chocolate. By creating as many excuses to eat chocolate as possible.

Here's your first. It all starts with breakfast. There are so many ways to sneak chocolate into your morning meal: muffins, scones, pancakes... and, obviously, DONUTS.

(I don't know about you, but just looking at these beauties causes my brain to lapse into a Homer-like trance state where all I can think is "Dooooonuuuuuuts.")
Do you own a donut pan? You're going to need one for this recipe. And if I've done my job, by the end of this post you're going to want one.

These donuts might seem simple, but don't be fooled: that's only a deception. On the surface they may appear straightforward and classic - the LBD of donuts - but underneath they've got their schmancy-pants on. ("Schmancy," as everyone in the know knows, is sophisticated slang for "fancy.") You know, the lacy/patterned/silky ones you only wear on special occasions. Like your birthday. Or Friday.

The lacy underwear of these donuts is brown butter. You may not be able to see it, but it's there and it's kicking everything up a notch. Get ready.

I have a lot of pans here in my dorm, but I don't have any pots. So when it comes to things like melting chocolate or butter, I rely on the microwave.

Things I can now tell you from experience: Yes, it is possible to brown butter in the microwave. Yes, it is tricky. Yes, you will make a mess if you're not careful.

Here's the trick: Microwave the butter for about 30-45 seconds, or until melted. Stir. Then microwave it in 10-second increments, stopping to stir after each, until the butter turns golden with brown flecks and emits a rich, nutty aroma. (There will be foam. Do not fret. It's all part of the browning process.) If you have access to a proper kitchen and aren't forced into creativity by the shortcomings your dorm set-up, this can also be done on the stove.

Have you browned butter before? If not, you are in for a treat. Before you do anything else with your browned butter, stop for a moment and just smell it. Whoa boy, I think that is the best smell that has ever come out of my kitchen. If you've smelled something better, please tell me because I don't think it exists. If I were to sniff Amortentia (from Harry Potter, you muggle), one of the scents would definitely absolutely be brown butter.

Because these donuts (I originally typed "brownies." Uh...Freudian slip?) are so jam-packed with chocolate (yessss), you cannot overtly taste the brown butter. But, like your best pair of schmancy underwear, it's there beneath the surface, working its crazy delicious nutty buttery magic. It deepens and complexifies the chocolate flavor. Lends an air of mystery, if you will. Adds a certain je ne sais quois.

The people you feed these to will find themselves thinking, "There's something special about these donuts, but I can't put my finger on it..." That's exactly what you want. Always keep people guessing.

These are the best chocolate cake donuts I've ever made (no surprise as they came straight from Joy, who has never steered us wrong). Granted, I've only made chocolate cake donuts once before, but that recipe took the "cake" thing way too seriously. They LITERALLY (Chris Traeger, anyone?) tasted cake. You don't want that. A good cake donut should taste cake-y, but not like actual cake. You feel? These donuts are soft, sweet, and - most importantly - bursting with chocolate flavor, but they are not so sweet, so moist, and so chocolatey that they are just cake in disguise. We're talking the goldilocks of the donut-to-cake ratio.

++ Bonus points: SPRINKLES! Sprinkles are adorable and wonderful, always.

This Valentine's Day, bake these donuts for the special people in your life: a romantic partner (obvi)...kids...roommate(s)...that Starbucks barista who doesn't charge you for extra whip even though they could/should...the Post Office employee that somehow definitely not due to your online shopping problem always remembers your name...anyone you'd like to feel vaguely indebted to you...me, myself, and I (hey, no judgement here at TBC; we've all been there...I go there on a weekly if not daily basis).

What love will you be celebrating on Valentine's Day this year? What special someone(s) will you share these donuts with?

- Molly

Schmancy-Pants Glazed Chocolate Cake Donuts
makes about 10 doughnuts
From Joy the Baker

For the donuts:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted until just browned
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the chocolate glaze:
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
big pinch salt
3 to 4 tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 325  degrees F.  Spray a doughnut baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar.

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, melted butter, and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold together until all of the ingredients are well combined.  Scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure that you’re not leaving any flour behind.  Use a small spoon to portion batter into the prepared doughnut baking pan.  Each doughnut mold should be about two-thirds full.  Bake doughnuts for 11 to 13 minutes or until a skewer inserted into one of the doughnuts comes out clean.  Remove from the oven.  Allow to rest for five minutes before inverting doughnuts onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Allow doughnuts to cool completely before glazing.

Repeat the baking process until all of the batter is turned into doughnuts.

To make the glaze, in a medium bowl whisk together powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.  Add 2 tablespoons of milk and all of the vanilla extract.  Whisk to combine.  Mixture may be thick.  Add milk, a tablespoon at a time, until the glaze is thick but still pourable.

Dip each doughnut (I dipped the bottom side) into the chocolate glaze.  Shake off some of the excess glaze.  Return to the wire rack and sprinkle with color jimmies.   Allow to rest a few moments for the frosting to harden slightly.  These doughnuts are best served within two days of baking.

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