Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Gluten-Free, Vegan Apple Cider Donut Holes

I woke up last Thursday morning with that God-awful donut craving we all get from time to time.  If you don't occasionally get that, please read someone else's blog. When we were in San Francisco, I would have zipped over to Bob's Donut on Polk Street or just sold out for a Krispy Kreme at the Cal-Mart. This being Jackson there are no donut shops and the supermarket donuts - well, I just can't take them seriously. A quick round of recipe searches yielded many easy ones for apple cider donuts, but then of course I had no eggs or buttermilk.  I used applesauce and two tablespoons of oil to compensate for the egg, and then apple cider with a splash of apple cider vinegar in the place of the milk. Necessity breeds invention.Or in this case, total irresponsibility and forgetfulness yielded deliciously crispy vegan donuts in about 15 minutes!

These are closer to a hush-puppy in size with a crispy crust. I must emphasize that if you heat the oil or shortening to the right temperature and keep it there, your donuts will not absorb as much oil as you fear. I just got my Wilton donut pans so will be trying some baked versions in the next few days. However, even if these are gluten-free and vegan, I make no excuses for the fact that they are donuts and that heavenly crispy-fried crust of cinnamon and sugar is what makes them irresistible.

Gluten-Free, Vegan Apple Cider Donut Holes

1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1 teaspoon xantham gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Cinnamon sugar:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Vegetable oil or shortening

Whisk together the dry ingredients until the xantham and baking powder are in particular well mixed. All the remaining ingredients and stir. It will come together quickly and the batter should be fluffy enough so that you can easily drop spoonfuls into hot oil using two spoons.

Mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a separate mixing bowl and set aside. Lay some paper towels on a baking sheet near your stove.

Heat enough oil or shortening so you have at least an inch of fat in a heavy saucepan. Clip on a thermometer and heat the oil to around 340F. Lower the heat. It is critical to keep the heat between 340-350F. Too hot and the outside of our holes will brown too quickly leaving a raw center. Too low and they absorb too much fat, making them heavy.

Drop by teaspoonfuls into the hot oil. I fry five or six at a time in my 3 quart saucepan. Don't crowd the holes. They might stick together and the temperature of the oil may fluctuate too widely.

Fry for literally one to two minutes in total, turning the holes in the oil so you can an evenly browned crust. Test one so you know the centers are cooked. Slightly overdone is much preferable to the least bit underdone.

Drain the holes and let cool slightly on the paper towels. Gently toss them in the bowl of cinnamon sugar to coat. The hotter they are, the more sugar coating they will take on.

This recipes makes about 15-20 two inch donut holes. They are best eaten right away. They last about five minutes. If you insist on keeping them, it's worth a re-heat in a hot 350F oven for 5 minutes.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Gluten- and Dairy-Free Butternut Squash Soup

I'm in a soup mood lately, lately as in the past year and a half that we've been living in Jackson Hole. It's the first week of March. While many of you are seeing the tips of spring tulips poking up in your garden beds, we still have four feet of snow on the ground. Don't feel too badly for us. Alex has had 8 straight powder days at the mountain with another storm arriving this morning.

I craved a butternut squash soup, slightly sweet and silky smooth. When I've made this in the past, I've always felt compelled to add a sweetener, such as apples or even maple syrup, or to add curry flavors because otherwise, it just seemed like pureed squash. I lacked confidence in the squash to deliver a full-bodied flavor. I totally underestimated my squash.

In trying to create a dairy-free version, I was losing the rich nutty notes and smooth mouth-feel from the butter and cream. It forced me to really create deep flavors. Also, the grocery store was out of pre-peeled and cut squash which nearly derailed this recipe from the start. Does anyone know how to peel squash without most of the flesh staying on the bullet-proof skin? I would have begun this recipe by sauteing the squash chunks with onions and garlic, but since I had to use the whole thing, I roasted it and here begins the story of my squash soup success!

I split the squash in half, as well as one large yellow onion. There were a handful of unpeeled garlic cloves and one large red bell pepper. I brushed everything with some olive oil and roasted this beautiful Vermeer-esque still life for 45 minutes. The aroma during the last 20 minutes let me know it was going to be delicious, whatever it would end up being.

Once the vegetables have cooled, everything will peel quite easily, the skin of the squash slipping off the soft flesh. Discard the peels and pepper seeds and pith. Throw everything into a pot with at least 4 cups of broth. Add in one inch of peeled fresh ginger to brighten the flavors. Blitz it with a handheld immersion blender.

The silky texture comes from the addition of one can of coconut milk, which heightened the natural sweetness of the butternut more roundly than any sugars. I did strain this soup through a mesh sieve before adding the coconut milk, a step I usually skip (because I'm lazy!), but those miniscule, fibrous bits of ginger would not pulverize completely. I added a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper and 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper to add a little punch and balance out the richness.

Snipped chives makes for a pretty garnish, but this soup really needs no embellishment. It's full of confidence and has great self-esteem. Enjoy.

Gluten- and Dairy-Free Butternut Squash Soup

1 whole butternut squash
1 large yellow onion
1 large red bell pepper
4-6 unpeeled, fat garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups good chicken or vegetable broth
1 one-inch nob peeled fresh gingerroot
1 can coconut milk
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (begin with 1/4 teaspoon if you fear heat)

Preheat the oven to 385F.

Cut the squash and onion in half. Place on a baking sheet with the pepper and garlic cloves. Brush everything with the olive oil. Use your hands if you're in that kind of mood. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes. If your garlic cloves are small, you might need to pull them out of the oven earlier.

Once the vegetables have cooled, use your hands to slip all the peels off. Discard the pepper stem, seeds, and pith. Discard all the peels. Throw it all into a large pot and add the broth and ginger. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or until the ginger is fragrant. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve if you like. It does result in a much silkier texture. Return the strained soup to the pot and add in the coconut milk, solids and all. Bring back to a simmer and cayenne and black peppers. You can add salt if you like, but I find store-bought stocks are usually well-salted to begin with.

Makes enough for 6-8 hearty lunch portions.