Hodgepodge and Baking Pans

Forgive me blogosphere, for it has been over a week since my last blog post.

To get back into the swing of things, I am posting a hodgepodge of recipes I tried this past week to make an end of summer sweet treat. You see, I've had donuts on the brain lately. Ok fine, doughnuts if you'd prefer. And no, I'm not in any respect referring to the round sprinkled things you can buy at Dunkin Donuts; I mean real, old-fashioned cakey donuts. I've attempted donuts before with pretty good success (my favorite recipe is from the Joy of Cooking), but never without seeming to use a whole bottle of vegetable oil. Not wanting to use all the oil in my possession in one fowl swoop, or create the mess associated with it, I was dead set on finding the perfect baked donut recipe. Only one problem... I don't have a donut pan. Yes, there is such thing as a donut pan. They basically look like a cupcake pan that got flattened a bit with a stem in the center of each cakes center. If you happen to have a muffin top pan, you might be able to get away with using that, your donuts just won't come out with a hole in the middle, so they'll be more of a filled variety. Unless, of course, you also have a donut cutter. (If you wanted to get really creative and save your pocketbook, you could just use some circle cookie cutters, which are much more reasonable for a multitude of purposes.) Whew. All this crazy bakeware; I know what you're thinking.... what's next, an edges-only brownie pan, or a mini multi-tiered cake pan, or even a cake-sicle pan. Yes, this multitude of baking pans you haven't even imagined yet DO exist, with varying degrees of practicality. (Find some of my other ridiculous bakeware favorites : here, here, here, herehere, oh and here too. And that's just scratching the surface!)

Anyways, to the point. While I don't own a donut pan (and I'm not sure if I want to seeing as I don't plan on making donuts every gosh darn weekend), I do however, have a cupcake pan. So, I decided I'd have to settle for donut cupcakes instead. Which actually worked out okay. (By the way... if you do find yourself with a donut pan in your pantry, by all means use it! And let me know how this recipe comes out in true "baked" donut form!)

For the "glaze" I made a vanilla bean caramel sauce recipe I'd been dying to try, and instead of a "jelly" filling, I made a more "end of summer" appropriate nectarine compote (a recipe I actually took from a homemade pop tart recipe, strange, I know). And voila, there you have a deconstructed donut cupcake.

It wasn't the most outstandingly creative dessert I'd ever made, but it wasn't half bad either. And it helps that I am also obsessed with fruit and caramel sauce lately. (Make one good batch of caramel and it kinda goes to your head.)

If you'd like to give one, or all of the recipes a go yourself, they are listed below. Enjoy!

Baked Cake Donuts
adapted from Sur La Table

yields one dozen
2 cups cake flour, sifted
3/4 cup vanilla sugar or granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat your oven to 425°F. Prep your donut pan with a little non-stick cooking spray. In a bowl, combine the melted butter, buttermilk and beaten eggs. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the cake flour, vanilla sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Pour in the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Spoon the batter into the wells of you pan (roughly 2/3rds full). An easier/cleaner option is to pour the batter into a ziplock bag and snip the corner or use a piping bag and pipe the batter into the pan. Bake for 7-9 minutes, or until the tops of the donuts spring back when lightly touched. Do not over bake. Allow to cool in the pan for a couple minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Finish the donuts by shaking them in bags of powdered or cinnamon sugar. Or glaze them with chocolate.

adapted from Buzz Bakery's Peach Pop Tarts Recipe
1 to 2 tablespoons honey, depending on the sweetness of the peaches (or whatever fruit you're using)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 cups peeled and chopped peaches (about 5 to 6 ripe peaches)

Make the peach compote: In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon of honey and the cornstarch. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, combine the peaches and cornstarch mixture and cook until the fruit comes to a simmer. Lower the heat and cook until the fruit breaks down, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Taste for sweetness and add more honey as needed. Remove the compote from the saucepan and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.

makes about one cup

1 cup sugar

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 vanilla bean split lengthwise, seeds scraped (pod can be used to scent sugar, if you like)

1/2 cup heavy cream

Before you begin, make sure you have everything ready to go - the cream and the butter next to the pan, ready to put in. 
Heat sugar on moderately high heat in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart or 3-quart saucepan. As the sugar begins to melt, stir vigorously with a whisk or wooden spoon. As soon as the sugar comes to a boil, stop stirring. You can swirl the pan a bit if you want, from this point on. (This recipe works best if you are using a thick-bottomed pan. If you find that you end up burning some of the sugar before the rest of it is melted, the next time you attempt it, add a half cup of water to the sugar at the beginning of the process, this will help the sugar to cook more evenly, though it will take longer as the water will need to evaporate before the sugar will caramelize.) As soon as all of the sugar crystals have melted (the liquid sugar should be dark amber in color), immediately add the butter to the pan. Whisk until the butter has melted. Once the butter has melted, take the pan off the heat. Count to three, then slowly add the cream to the pan and continue to whisk to incorporate. When you add the butter and the cream, the mixture will foam up considerably (this is why you must use a pan that is at least 2-quarts (preferably 3-quarts) big). Whisk until caramel sauce is smooth. Let cool in the pan for a couple minutes, then pour into a glass mason jar and let sit to cool to room temperature. (Remember to use pot holders when handling the jar filled with hot caramel sauce.) Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Warm before serving.

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