Sometimes I just want a donut. And sometimes I give into that craving. And most of those times, I feel icky after eating one. Perhaps it’s the type of donut I’ve chosen. Or maybe it’s the guilt I often associate with eating foods that are not “good for me”. I once drove for miles on highway 99E in search of a donut shop. Didn’t there used to be lots of donut shops in the world? They seem to be disappearing, perhaps replaced by Starbucks, McDonald’s and Taco Bell’s. At any rate, I’ve been having a love-hate relationship with donuts, of late.
After driving south on 99E from Portland, through Milwaukie, Gladstone and practically to Oregon City, I finally found Heavenly Donuts. My expectations were high. Anything named “heavenly” should be, in my mind, out of this world. These donuts should taste like God made them, right? Or angels, at the very least.
With my sugar junkie adrenalin pumping, I entered the shop. Nerves and guilt were starting to overtake me. What was I doing? Why did I drive all this way for a donut? These things better be worth it. I scanned the display case. Disappointment creeping in now, as there was not much of a selection. Just the usual suspects; cake, glazed, chocolate covered, maple bars and some really greasy looking apple fritters. Well, I can’t leave now. I should have, but I drove all this way. I’m obligated to buy not one, but two of these things. And I did. I purchased an apple fritter and a cinnamon swirl raised sort of affair. Then I made a mad dash for my car, where I sat and consumed these sins.
God did not make these donuts. Nor did angels. Hell, I’m sure if the Devil himself made these donuts, they would have tasted much better. No, I’m pretty sure these donuts were made by the Hispanic gentleman behind the counter. No offense to him at all, but these were not donuts worth making a special trip for. In fact, I’m pretty sure the donuts at Safeway might be a little better. Either I’m waxing nostalgic for the donuts of my youth, or there are no special donuts in the Portland vicinity.
All this being said, I have found a substitute sweet morsel that comes close to a donut without as much guilt attached to it. I recently purchased a Williams-Sonoma cookbook simply entitled “Muffins”. And in that book there is a recipe for Cinnamon-Buttermilk Muffins. And surprise! They taste like Buttermilk Bars. No kidding. You know the kind of donut I’m talking about? Kind of shorter and fatter than a Maple Bar, with that buttermilk tang and glaze.
It is my pleasure to share with you what I now call my Donut Muffin recipe. It could save you a trip searching the streets for a donut shop. Or maybe that’s just me.
From the Williams-Sonoma book
7 tablespoons (3 ½ oz / 105 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (5 oz / 155 g) sugar
1 large egg
1 ½ cups (7 ½ oz / 235 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg IF YOU ONLY HAVE GROUND NUTMEG IT WORKS JUST AS WELL.
½ cup (4 fl oz / 125 ml) buttermilk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract (essence)
FOR THE TOPPING
2/3 cup (5 oz / 155 g) sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons (3 oz / 90 g) unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C). Grease 9 standard muffin cups with butter or butter flavored non-stick spray; fill the unused cups one-third full with water to prevent warping.
To make the muffins, in a bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, beating well until pale and smooth.
In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Add to the butter mixture in 2 increments, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla. Stir just until evenly moistened. The batter will be slightly lumpy.
Spoon the batter into each muffin cup, filling it three-fourths full. Bake until golden, dry and springy to the touch, 20 -25 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin should come out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Unmold the muffins and let stand until cool enough to handle.
To make the topping, stir together the sugar and cinnamon in a small, shallow bowl. Have ready the melted butter in another small bowl. Holding the bottom of a muffin, dip the top into the melted butter, turning to coat it evenly. Immediately dip the top in the cinnamon-sugar mixture, coating it evenly, then tapping it to remove excess sugar. Transfer to the rack, right side up. Repeat with the remaining muffins (DUH). Let cool completely before serving.
It just occurred to me as I was writing this post, you could totally substitute a simple powdered sugar and milk glaze for the cinnamon sugar, for a true Buttermilk Bar effect.