If you're going to bake just ONE THING this month (or this week, or today – choose your preferred frequency)... Let it be these cinnamon-y pumpkin doughnuts.
As a test baker here at King Arthur Flour, I clearly do a lot of baking.
And I enjoy most of it. Oh sure, there's the odd failure now and then. But on those occasions I simply sigh, walk out back to the treeline, and leave what's sure to be a nice meal for the squirrels, birds, and other scavengers who might appreciate a change from their usual bugs and seeds.
I don't even make them fill out a taste-test form.
Burned? Underbaked? Too much baking soda?
"I'm good with that," say the skunks.
But these doughnuts – they were a grand-slam home run the very first time they came to bat.
I recently brought a cooling rack of warm pumpkin doughnuts into our Web office late one afternoon.
Maybe it was the end-of-the-day doldrums. Or lunch was too long ago, and dinner not nearly imminent enough.
But I prefer to think the enthusiastic response to the doughnuts was based purely on their own sweet merits.
Tasting wonderfully of pumpkin and autumn's typical spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg), these moist, tender baked doughnuts (yes, BAKED doughnuts) disappeared in 1 minute flat, accompanied by much eye-rolling and groans of pleasure. (Hey, remember, we work for King Arthur Flour; food is a subject of great interest and appreciation around here!)
A few weeks later, as an icebreaker at our weekly Web meeting, I asked everyone, "What's your favorite breakfast?
Answers ranged from the simple (buttered toast with cheddar cheese), to the popular (chocolate chip pancakes), to the gourmet (shiitake omelet with shallots, a sprinkle of Vermont cheese powder, and sourdough bread), to, well, the "childlike" (Peanut Butter Captain Crunch – with a side of Bugles!).
But one team member immediately piped up, "Those pumpkin doughnuts. The. Best."
I rest my case.
Let's start with a couple of essentials:
Pumpkin purée, most often found in a can – though I know there are those of you who make your own.
If you cook up your own purée, make sure it's as thick as the canned variety. For use in this recipe, it should be the consistency of apple butter or, more familiarly – pudding.
And here's your other "must have" – a doughnut pan. Preferably two.
Trust me, I resisted buying a pair of these for quite a long time.
"Do I REALLY need another special-use pan?"
Well, "need" and "want" are two very different things, as we all know. But do I love these pans?
Yes, I do. I use them all the time. My husband volunteers with a trail crew at our local nature center, and "the guys" are very appreciative of homemade doughnuts.
Me? I'm REALLY appreciative of moist, tender cake doughnuts that are baked, not deep-fried. They're as fast and easy to make as... well, let's just call them a piece of cake.
And check out ice cream-filled dessert doughnuts I've been making lately. I've done banana doughnuts, strawberry doughnuts, plain & simple baked doughnuts with cider glaze – your imagination will take you in all kinds of directions with this recipe – and pan.
Now, can you make these as muffins, not doughnuts?
But frankly, they're not quite as good. The crust-to-interior ratio of a baked doughnut is just perfect, balancing the doughnut itself with whatever coating you prefer to add: cinnamon-sugar, confectioners' sugar, simple granulated sugar, even a drizzle of chocolate or caramel.
Are you ready? Let's bake some pumpkin doughnuts. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Pumpkin doughnuts: Mix the ingredients
Place the following in a mixing bowl:
1/2 cup (99g) vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 to 1 1/2 cups (198g to 298g) granulated sugar*
1 1/2 cups (340g) pumpkin purée
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, or 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon plus heaping 1/4 teaspoon each nutmeg and ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Beat everything together until smooth.
Add 1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons (227g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, stirring just until smooth.
BTW, this is a great place to try King Arthur Unbleached Self-Rising Flour. Reduce the salt to 1/2 teaspoon; omit the baking powder, and substitute 2 cups (8 ounces) self-rising flour for the all-purpose flour.
Spoon the batter into the pans
Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans.
As I mentioned earlier, if you don't have doughnut pans, you can bake these in a couple of standard muffin tins; they just won't be doughnuts.
Fill the wells of the doughnut pans about 3/4 full, using a scant 1/4 cup of batter in each well; a tablespoon cookie scoop helps with this task.
If you're making muffins, fill each well about 3/4 full; the recipe makes 15, so you'll need to bake in two batches (unless you have two muffin pans).
Bake the doughnuts
Bake the doughnuts for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. If you're using self-rising flour, bake for the longer amount of time.
If you're making muffins, they'll need to bake for 23 to 25 minutes.
Remove the doughnuts from the oven, and after about 5 minutes, loosen their edges, and transfer them to a rack to cool.
Shake the warm doughnuts in cinnamon-sugar
While the doughnuts are still warm (but no longer fragile), gently shake them in a bag with cinnamon-sugar. Or better yet, pumpkin-spice sugar, made by combining the aforementioned pumpkin pie spice (or substitute) with granulated or extra-fine sugar.
Serve immediately. More on that later.
If you've made muffins, sprinkle their tops heavily with the spiced sugar of your choice.
Are these not a thing of beauty and a joy forever?
And wait'll you taste 'em – "favorite breakfast," indeed!
Now, a word to the wise. These doughnuts are incredibly moist. And when stored in a plastic bag, they quickly become soggy. Let me share a couple of tips with you, things I've learned as a result of making these treats SO many times.
First, store them on a cooling rack, loosely covered. By that, I mean a layer of waxed paper or parchment laid on top. Or even better, something like a cake cover over them: an actual cake dome, an upended bowl, a deep, large lasagna pan – something that will shelter them, yet allow good air circulation as well.
Second, sugar them (or spread with icing) just before serving – or at most a couple of hours before.
Can you bake these ahead and freeze? Absolutely. Thaw at room temperature (on a cooling rack, uncovered) for a couple of hours before serving.
Now, how about something a little different?
"Little" being the key word.
Bake this same pumpkin doughnut batter in mini doughnut pans, and you'll have 4 dozen two-bite treats.
Mini or full-sized, a quick dip in Boiled Cider Glaze adds another layer of flavor (apple, in this case) to these moist, oh-so-tender treats.
Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Pumpkin Baked Doughnuts.