Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts with Brown Butter Glaze

pumpkin donuts

A couple of Saturdays ago, we found ourselves facing a crisp fall day that had absolutely nothing planned in it! Days like these have been pretty much nonexistent in our lives lately, so I decided this would be the perfect day to find an orchard and go apple-picking! The problem with wanting to do such a quintessential fall activity is, if you happen to live in the middle of a big city, you might have to drive a couple of hours each way to get your u-pick fix. Unfortunately, we still haven't completely recovered from our travel marathon month of August (we drove over 2,000 miles), so we decided to strip the experience down to bare bones: fresh apples, of course, and (almost) more importantly, warm doughnuts.

just glazed pumpkin donuts

For this recipe, you will need a special doughnut pan. You can usually snag one in the kitchen section of TJ Maxx, or you can order one online. Alternatively, you could definitely bake these in muffin tins (or mini muffin tins!), but then... they wouldn't be doughnuts, now would they? And let's just be real, please: a baked doughnut would never beat a fried one in a contest, but it's a lot less hassle (and a lot less blatantly indulgent).

Happy fall!!

Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts
adapted from

makes 6

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons butter
3-4 tablespoons milk
1/4-1/2 teaspoon mace (or a little more nutmeg)
1/2 cup pecan halves (optional)

Coat a doughnut pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 325. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together pumpkin, brown sugar, egg, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and whisk to combine.

Scoop the batter into a large freezer bag, snip off a corner of the bag, and pipe the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 13-16 minutes, until donuts spring back when lightly touched.  Cool in the pan for 3 minutes, and then turn onto a rack to cool completely.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and cook, swirling constantly to keep from burning, until it turns golden and smells toasty and amazing. Add the butter to a small bowl with the powdered sugar, mace or nutmeg, and milk, and whisk together, adding more milk if necessary to achieve the right consistency. Toast the pecan halves in a dry skillet over medium heat, tossing frequently, until fragrant. Chop roughly.

When the doughnuts are completely cooled, dip each one into the glaze, allowing it to drip off, and sprinkle toasted pecans on top. Enjoy!

Friday, September 14, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday!

I have one very important thing to share with you today, and several small, unimportant things. Read on. :-)

1. Rough Draft Farmstead Fundraiser

A couple of years ago, I worked for several months at Whole Foods in Lincoln Park, where I met Hannah (holding flowers in the photo above). That was around the time when I first started learning about honeybees (and how amazing they are), and Hannah fueled my interest! It was her dream to become a beekeeper someday. Shortly before I left, Hannah moved to Kentucky to work and live on Bugtussle Farm, where she met her husband Jesse. They decided to start their own farm last year, and have been chronicling their adventures on their blog. They had a hiccup and ended up having to start over, and right now they are trying to raise some money with which to build a little off-the-grid cabin. Please head to their site to learn more about them (they are very inspiring!), and most importantly, head to their fundraising page and make a small (or large!) donation to their building project! They have such a reasonable budget, and such honorable life goals - they are people worth supporting. Support them and spread the word to others who might also be interested! Thank you!

2. Pumpkin Spice on a Budget

Do you look forward to the coming of the pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks? I love them. But at like $3.50 for a tall, that is not something I can do more than once or twice. Enter the new Pumpkin Spice VIA packets. I have not been a fan of the VIA packets in other situations, preferring my coffee to be brewed from freshly ground beans in a French press, but this is an exception. One of these packets + 8 ounces of hot milk = pumpkin spice latte at home. For a fraction of the price. And it's delicious! Put a little whipped cream on top, and a little nutmeg, and you are golden.

3. Um, my shoes don't fit.

I've heard this might be a permanent pregnancy-induced change. I am not a fan.

4. Just Add Spinach!

I posted this recipe for stuffed shells last September. Last night, I made it again, but with the addition of a small box of (extremely well-drained) frozen spinach to the cheese filling. It was delicious. I encourage you to try it - it really bumps up the nutritional profile of that meal.


Photo from
Back when it was so hot that I could hardly move (and by that I mean the entire summer), I saw this recipe (and the photo above... so lovely) for black raspberry ice cream. I just happened to be setting up a baby registry at the time, and I thought... well, the baby would eat ice cream if I made it... And so I half-jokingly put the KitchenAid ice cream attachment, and this book that I've been drooling over for months, on the registry (that is one of the beautiful things about registering on Amazon). At the beginning of August, my sweet sister bought me... the cookbook. Which was great, except that now I had hot weather, awesome ice cream recipes... and no ice cream maker. This week, that all changed. Some dear friends of ours (who we got to see briefly over Labor Day weekend) sent us the ice cream maker! I could not care less that summer is over. We are going to have ice cream all winter. Flavors I can't wait to try: pumpkin, apple pie, and ginger, which I had in Maine last fall and haven't been able to find since. I. Am. So. Excited.

6. Smitten Kitchen Book Tour

Deb is coming to Chicago (well, the burbs at least) on Monday, November 19. The estimated due date for the baby is November 7. I can imagine myself going with a week-old baby, and I can imagine myself going if I'm still pregnant. I just hope I'm not in labor that day, ok? Ok, baby girl? Can we make a deal? I want to go have Deb sign my Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Please arrange your travel plans accordingly. 

7. Make this salad, while the tomatoes are still at the farmers' market.

Trust me.

Have a great weekend, and go see Grace for more quick takes!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

New Series: Fresh and Frugal!

fresh and frugal

It's back to school time! We can all stand to learn a little something new, and this fall I would like to introduce a new series in the Coppertop Kitchen called Fresh and Frugal. The purpose of these posts is to share practical ways to make it easy to eat well on a budget. Eating well can be thought of from a lot of different angles, from good health and nutrition, to mindfulness about the environment, to supporting local economies. We should be able to accomplish all of this without sacrificing pleasure or breaking the bank, and that is what these posts will aim to explore. Let me know if there's a specific food or topic you'd like me to talk about!

You may have heard a story in the news over the past couple of days regarding a study that was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, regarding the nutritional differences between organic and conventional produce. Headlines in many major news outlets said things like, "Why Organic Food May Not Be Healthier For You," (NPR) and "Organic Food Adds No Vitamins For Extra Cost" (Bloomberg Business Week). These headlines made me laugh a little to myself, and when I read the articles I was surprised that anyone would be duped into thinking they contained anything that might be thought of as "news." Most conscious consumers of organic food would tell you they were never under the impression that there were more vitamins in something just because it bears the "organic" label. And mostly, that's not the point. Organic farming practices are vastly better for the environment, using methods of fertilization and pest control that actually improve the quality of the soil, rather than dumping chemicals which run off into water sources and kill beneficial insects and bacteria. There's also the matter of pesticide residue, the effects of which we still don't know (and I'm sorry, but a two-year study is not quite long enough to convince me).

For me, "organic" is not the most important descriptor of good food. For one thing, organic certification is expensive, and many small farms that employ organic farming practices simply can't afford it. "Local" is much more important to me. I like being able to support my local economy by buying peaches from the same farmer week after week. It makes me feel connected. And get this! The produce I buy at my local farmers' market is probably more nutritious because it was more likely to have been picked when ripe, and didn't have to travel for days over thousands of miles to get to me. Something that was living on a tree yesterday and is in my belly today gives me more vitamins than something that was living on a tree a week ago, and was picked before it was ripe so that it could more easily be shipped without damage.

Other adjectives that get me excited:
  • Free-Range: Meat and eggs from free-range chickens are higher in beta carotene, protein, and hello, flavor. Be careful about this label, though, and buy from a producer you know if you can. Free-range technically means that the birds have access to the outdoors, not necessarily that they go out there and get exercise and peck in the grass.
  • Grass-Fed: Beef from cows that grazed on grass for all of most of their lives is leaner, higher in omega-3 fatty acids, and less likely to have been serially treated with antibiotics. It tastes different, and because it's leaner it cooks differently, but it is delicious. Dairy from pastured cows is better, too! Healthier cows produce healthier foods for us, and since cows aren't naturally adapted to eat grain (which is fed to them because it's cheaper), it makes them sick, which makes them need antibiotics. Sad cows. This is another example, though, of where the "organic" label can lead you astray. Organic milk likely just comes from cows that were fed organic grain, not allowed to graze on pasture. Read the labels!
  • Wild, Line-Caught, Pole-Caught: There's fishing and then there's fishing. Farmed salmon is fed (you guessed it) grain. Because its diet is less varied and nutritious, the meat from it is less nutritious. (For more about that, read this post.) Pole- or line-caught refers to the method of catching fish; catching fish with nets is much less sustainable, and causes all kinds of problems. The Monterey Bay Aquarium publishes handy pocket guides to help you choose sustainable seafood.
Adjectives I couldn't care less about:
  • All-Natural: Oh, this one is a doozy. All this means is that nothing in it is blatantly artificial. It is not an FDA-regulated label, so pretty much anyone can put it on pretty much anything. 
  • Low-fat, Non-fat, Fat-free: Get with the program, people. Fat is good for you. Your body needs it. Stop buying into the outdated idea that fat causes Type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, etc. The low-fat craze did absolutely nothing to curb the spread of these lifestyle diseases. Plus, whoever said that fat = flavor was right on the money.
The bottom line is that there are a lot of factors that go into each food decision we make. I try to do the best I can while considering budget, sustainability, and nutrition, and I try to be sensible. Above all, I don't beat myself up if once in a while I buy conventionally-grown strawberries or a double cheeseburger at Mickey D's. It's all about balance and moderation.