Sooo…elephant in the room: I kind of fell off the blog radar. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but my days just got all sorts of busy all at once. Job busyness. Life busyness. Before I knew it, a month went by. I’m still climbing out from under a pile of emails. I am terrified of what my feedly looks like. But I’m back, and I missed you guys! Please accept my apology. It comes with mini doughnuts.
If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you know I’ve been doing some food stuff outside this space. I’ve done a bunch of posts over on Food52. And you can look forward to more, because I’ll be posting regularly in the Small Batch column! (Once a month, for now, with plans to switch to twice a month in 2014.) I also have a guest post going up elsewhere this week — I’ll tell you more about that once it happens! AND for those of you that can’t get enough of me, I caved and joined Twitter. Follow me and help me learn how to use it! Really. Help me. :)
And now, the doughnuts. I fell in love with kabocha squash last year. It’s an unassuming little squash with a surprisingly sweet flavor, and I find myself using it more and more in place of pumpkin and butternut. Last year, it made its way into a lot of savory dishes. This year, I wanted my first kabocha to go into a dessert. Something with warm spices offset by brighter flavors. A buttermilk glaze was an obvious choice, but I kept fixating on getting an herb into the mix somehow. Trying to impart the flavor into the glaze or the doughnut itself seemed a bit too subtle, and what I really wanted was an up-front herbaceousness to complement the sweetness of the doughnut. Which would mean keeping the herb itself somewhat intact. That’s when it occurred to me that candying might work.
I decided to candy both thyme and rosemary. The latter was my first choice, but my thyme plant didn’t grow AT ALL this year — it stayed exactly the same size for several months as I reluctantly whittled away at it. Which is a shame, because the thyme was the winner in this recipe, by a mile. The rosemary flavor was a little too in your face. But the thyme was sweet and herby without being overwhelming. (Not going to lie, I straight-up ate a lot of little candied thyme bits, knowing full well I didn’t have enough for all the doughnuts as it was. Whoops.)
One caveat about candying thyme that I must make: It’s a slight pain in the a** due to all the little leaves. I candied them on the stems and then snipped the leaves off and broke them up as best I could once they’d dried. You could try removing the leaves beforehand and dip the whole lot in egg whites sieve-style, then toss them with sugar and attempt to separate them out on parchment. I’m not sure if that would work better or if you’d just wind up with one big messy clump of sugary bits, but it could be worth a try. Regardless of the tedium, I still think it’s worth it. I declared candied herbs the new sprinkles yesterday, and I kind of wasn’t kidding. They are sweet and crunchy and freakin’ delicious. Buuut if you don’t want to go through all that, I’ve included tips for making a thyme sugar coating below. Just please, don’t skip the thyme! It really takes the doughnut to the next level.
Baked Buttermilk-Glazed Kabocha Doughnuts with Candied Thyme
(adapted from King Arthur Flour)
makes: around 4 dozen mini or 12 regular doughnuts
(Adaptation for thyme sugar coating is listed at the end of the recipe.)
1 1/2 cups of kabocha purée (recipe below)
5 tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp cinnamon
heaping 1/4 tsp nutmeg
heaping 1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp cloves
1 3/4 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
buttermilk glaze (recipe below)
candied thyme (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 375° and lightly grease your doughnut pan(s). Sift together salt, baking powder, spices, and flour and set aside.
Place kabocha purée in a large bowl. Melt coconut oil and butter over low heat until just liquified, then mix into purée. Beat in sugars, then eggs. Then stir in dry ingredients until just combined.
For regular doughnuts: Fill each well of your doughnut pan 3/4 full (with around just under 1/4 cup of batter). Tap pan on the counter a few times to get the batter to settle. Bake for 14–16 minutes, or until a toothpick/cake tester inserted in the doughnut comes out clean.
For mini doughnuts: Pipe batter into wells, filling halfway. Tap pan on the counter a few times to get the batter to settle. Bake for 8–10 minutes, or until doughnuts are springy to the touch.
Let cool for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool completely on a rack.
Once doughnuts have cooled, place a sheet of parchment or a silpat under your cooling rack. Dip each doughnut in the buttermilk glaze, giving it a moment to let any excess run off. (A chopstick works well for this task, especially with the mini doughnuts.) Dip the top of the doughnut in a bowl of candied thyme, then return to the rack. Let sit until glaze has hardened.
If using thyme sugar coating: Dip doughnuts in glaze as per above and let sit on rack until most of the excess glaze has dripped off — 10–15 minutes. Then place in a shallow bowl of thyme sugar and turn to coat, and return to the rack and let glaze continue to set.
Preheat oven to 400°. Cut kabocha squash into quarters and remove seedy guts. Arrange squash quarters in a baking dish and add 1/2 cup water to the bottom of the pan. Cover pan with foil and roast for 40–60 minutes, or until squash is soft and tender. Remove from oven and let cool for 1 hour, then scoop flesh from the squash and place in the bowl of your food processor. Blend until smooth, adding liquid (water, or give it a little extra fall flavor with some apple cider) as needed. You want the final consistency of your purée to be quite smooth, but not so runny that it pours easily. (Use your leftover purée for gnocchi or ravioli!)
Whisk together 2 cups of powdered sugar and 4–6 tbsp buttermilk (I went with 4 because I like a thicker glaze, and I don’t have the patience to dip twice) until well combined.
1 bunch of thyme (If I try to guesstimate how much you need in “sprigs,” it will likely be inaccurate. Instead, I will just say that the amount pictures above — around 2 dozen sad, puny sprigs — was only enough for about 1/4 of the doughnuts.)
1 egg white, beaten until frothy
Line a large baking sheet with parchment or a silpat. Dip each thyme sprig in egg white and shake off excess, then dip in shallow bowl of sugar and turn until just coated. Place on the baking sheet. Let sit at room temperature until dry (anywhere from 1–8 hours). Alternatively, you can speed up the process a little by letting them dry in a 150° oven for 1–2 hours.
Once the thyme had dried, snip or break leaves off of the stem, then do your best to break up any clumps. (You can do this with your hands, but some gentle work with a knife or a pestle will also get the job done.)
Alternative Thyme Sugar Coating:
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
2 tbsp fresh thyme
Pulse sugar and thyme in a food processor or spice grinder until the thyme has been well chopped and the mixture is near the consistency of granulated sugar.