We thought summer had arrived earlier in the week – we even had a day on the beach, though I kept my tootsies well away from the very cold Mediterranean – I would have definitely had to be wearing wellies to even think of venturing in.
Kaş has endured a terrible winter – endless thunderstorms and months of pouring rain – the worst winter in 25 years apparently. Our house has leaked, though we got off lightly compared to our neighbours, who say that what they imagine to be several previously-undiscovered species of mould are breeding on the plaster in every room of their house. Robin has been digging about in the basement to find paint that matches our living room and hallway – paintbrushes will be wielded this week. I don’t expect I will be allowed to have a paintbrush, as I usually get more paint in my hair and on my elbows than on the wall. I will be in charge of refreshments.
The upside of the wet winter is that our reservoirs are full to bursting and now that we’ve had a bit of sunshine, the trees are in spectacular bloom. Oranges, lemons, grapefruits, avocados and bergamots are smothered in blossom, and the Judas and foxglove trees are a particularly magnificent sight this spring. We’ve also just cut our first few spears of asparagus, so should have a good supply for the rest of the month while we are here.
Robin has now recovered from his grim infection, so kitchen operations are relatively back to normal, and we have returned to solid food. It strikes me that after weeks of surviving on soup, I should be like Twiggy, but inexplicably I am not. Our neighbour Linda decided last weekend that it was finally safe to come for dinner, so I baked some doughnuts for dessert, in a celebratory way.
I came across something similar to this recipe a few weeks ago, when my lovely friend Sally invited me to join her at The Big London Bakeoff – a bit like the one on the telly, only this one is in a tent in the garden of a pub in Tooting. We had a great time – Sally and I met when we spent a winter cooking in a ski chalet in the French Alps about 100 years ago, and have cooked together ever since. (We do engage in other activities together, but food tends to be a focal point). Our task was to bake and decorate two different flavoured doughnuts, and to make the crème patissière and jam with which they were stuffed. I have to own up that we were quite competitive about it – and we did win the first prize, which turned out to be a special wooden spoon and a jar of deliciously gloopy malted chocolate sauce – I elected to leave that particular item with my friend Babs, with whom I was spending the next couple of days, as the thought of it getting out into my suitcase while it was bouncing around in the hold of the very small tin can that flew me back to Newquay was too messy to contemplate.
I never ever make doughnuts – in fact, I think the only time I have ever made them was at college. All that mixing and proving, and then the hell that is deep fat frying. I have never owned a deep fat fryer or a chip pan, and I don’t think the age of 56 is the time to start, so the idea of a baked version seemed the very thing.
At the Bakeoff, the ingredients were already weighed out for us, so we didn’t have details of the actual quantities, and the organisers didn’t seem keen to disclose them. Since then, I’ve done a little recipe exploration, and have kind of reverse-engineered the recipe from what I can remember. Actually, the end result was even better than the original – definitely very doughnut-like, but without the oil and much lighter. In fact, the only thing wrong with them was that there weren’t really enough of them.
I chose to make coffee-flavoured dougnuts, with a coffee glaze, sprinkled with walnut praline. Once cold, the praline will keep for ages in a sealed tin or tupperware, so by all means make extra – it is good sprinkled on ice cream or if you just break it into large pieces, it is delicious just as it is, as an after-dinner treat with a cup of coffee. If you can’t be bothered to make the praline (and honestly it only takes a couple of minutes, and a few minutes to set), you could just sprinkle the doughnuts with toasted chopped walnuts or grate some plain chocolate over them. Either way, do your sprinkling while the glaze is still runny, so that the nuts don’t fall off.
You can buy tin or silicone doughnut moulds – I bought my silicone ones from Amazon and they were £9 for a set of three six-hole trays. If you are using silicone moulds, leave the doughnuts to cool in the tray at least for a few minutes, otherwise they will stick, then fall apart. And do brush the moulds liberally with oil before you fill them (or spray generously with oil spray), and stand them on flat baking trays (or they wobble about all over the show). If you don’t have doughnut trays, you can use muffin tins – in which case only fill each muffin cup just over half-way, and you may have to bake them for a minute or so longer.
Baked coffee & walnut praline doughnuts
125g self-raising flour
65g white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Generous pinch of salt
200ml buttermilk or 100ml each of milk and low-fat plain yoghurt
2 tablespoons strong brewed coffee (cooled)
1 tablespoon melted butter (you could use sunflower oil if you prefer)
For the glaze:
70g icing sugar
1 tablespoon strong brewed coffee (cooled)
A splash of brandy, rum or water
For the praline:
75g walnuts, toasted for a few moments in a dry frying pan, then chopped
50g ordinary white sugar
1 tablespoon water
You will need doughnut moulds or muffin tins, brushed liberally with oil or melted butter – if using silicone moulds, stand them on a rigid baking sheet.
Pre-heat the oven to 210ºC.
Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a mixing bowl.
Measure the milk and yoghurt into a measuring jug, add the egg, coffee and melted butter (or oil) and whisk until smooth.
Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the flour mixture, and mix until just combined. Do not overmix or your doughnuts will be tough, just make sure there are no lumpy bits of flour. I found it easiest to scrape the mixture back into the measuring jug, then fill the moulds directly from the jug (the mixture should be just soft enough to drop into the moulds, though you might need to encourage it a little with a spoon). Fill each mould about two thirds full.
Bake for approximately eight to nine minutes – the doughnuts should be well risen and fluffy, but just firm to the touch. Leave the doughnuts to cool in the moulds for about five minutes, then turn onto a cooling rack.
For the praline:
Please do not at any point walk away from the caramel – even a short distraction tends to lead to blackened caramel!
Put the sugar and water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and place over a medium heat. Bring to the boil (do not be tempted to stir) – the sugar will dissolve and you will have a viscous clear liquid. Leave the pan on the heat until you see it start to become a caramel colour, then reduce the heat and leave for a little longer until it is a rich golden brown.
Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the chopped walnuts. While still very hot, pour onto a small piece of non-stick baking paper or an oiled baking tray. Leave to cool, then chop into gravel-sized pieces. (To get your pan clean, just fill with very hot soapy water and leave for a few minutes – what’s left of the caramel will just melt away).
For the glaze:
Mix the icing sugar and coffee in a small mixing bowl with a teaspoon of brandy or rum (optional). You are looking for a consistency that is runny enough to spoon over the dougnuts, but not so runny that it will completely run off. It is too runny, just add a little more icing sugar.
You can either dip the top of each doughnut directly into the glaze or drizzle the glaze over with a teaspoon – I found that method slightly less messy. Sprinkle with the praline or chopped walnuts (if using) immediately, before the glaze sets.