But deep-frying (even frying!) is a lot of work, and sometimes I’m not in the mood to knead dough, wait for it to rise, then shape, let rise again, fiddle with the temperature of oil, and (finally!) cook the damn things. My appetite is as impatient as I am and when it’s feeding time, it’s feeding time. As I’ve detailed in another post, frying is an art form that comes about only through practice and untold liters of cooking oil.
Wanting to bake something for breakfast today but not entirely sold on making yet another batch of scones or biscuits, I come across a recipe that’s as intriguing as it is tempting — doughnut muffins: muffins that taste like doughnuts. Ooh la la. I make it to my kitchen in record time and soon, the flour is flying.
Remarkably easier to make than regular doughnuts, these doughnut muffins are made like a cake: butter and sugar beaten together, eggs mixed in one at a time, and then the wet and dry ingredients are added alternately in five additions. This method, also known as the creaming method, produces a crumb that’s soft and cake-like with a pleasingly crunchy top.
In my baking, I discover that nutmeg (alone, and not in tandem with other spices) is the “secret ingredient” in making anything taste old-fashioned, especially doughnuts. It’s responsible for that great flavor that “I can’t quite put my finger on.”
Using a large ice cream scooper, I place the muffins in a regular muffin pan, filling it until the batter is even with the rim of the cup. If you like muffins with a domed top just like the commercial ones, then mound most of the batter in the middle.
These muffins don’t really give off any heady aromas while baking, no hint of the lip-smacking goodness that awaits. They’re done when they’re firm to the touch. I’m supposed to wait until the muffins are “cool enough to handle,” but because I possess what I’ve been told are “asbestos hands,” I pick the muffins up as soon as they come out of the oven and dip them into a waiting bowl of melted butter. I try brushing on the butter with a pastry brush but the butter doesn’t adhere as well as just dunking the muffin in. It’s this lustrous glaze that satisfyingly mimics the “just fried” taste of a regular doughnut. A quick smooch with the cinnamon-sugar mixture and these babies are ready to go.
Pairing it with my homemade latte and perched on my favorite stool, I enjoy this doughnut muffin, its buttery crumb merging with the steam that escapes from its divine depths. Obviously, I can’t mistake this for a real doughnut, not even cake doughnuts (like what Dunkin’ Donuts sells), but for a baker’s breakfast, it’s immensely gratifying.
As I’m cleaning up, Boo comes down all dressed for school. She regards the cooling doughnut muffins with a glare and when told what they are, tells me, “You don’t make scones anymore, Mom,” her tone as accusing as any 5-year-old can muster.
“Just try them honey, you might like them.” Picking up one of the two lone muffins that I’ve yet to dunk in the cinnamon-sugar coating, she nibbles tentatively. “Hmm, yum, mom!” Her face brightens considerably. “But I still like your scones better,” she tells me, her mouth full of crumbs.
For the muffins:
- 12 oz. (24 Tbs.) unsalted butter, warmed to room temperature
- 1-3/4 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 lb. 11 oz. (6 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1-3/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1-2/3 cups milk
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 8 oz. (16 Tbs.) unsalted butter; more as needed
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 Tbs. ground cinnamon
Put a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. In a stand mixer or a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until just mixed in. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Combine the milk and buttermilk. With a wooden spoon, mix a quarter of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Then mix in a third of the milk mixture. Continue mixing in the remaining dry and wet ingredients alternately, ending with the dry. Mix until well combined and smooth, but don't overmix. Grease and flour a standard-size muffin tin. Scoop enough batter into each tin so that the top of the batter is even with the rim of the cup, about 1/2 cup. (A #16 ice-cream scoop gives you the perfect amount.) Bake the muffins until firm to the touch, 30 to 35 minutes.
Melt the butter for the dipping mixture. Combine the sugar and cinnamon. When the muffins are just cool enough to handle, remove them from the tin, dip them into or brush them all over with the melted butter, and then roll them in the cinnamon sugar.
You don't have to bake all the muffins right away; the batter will keep, covered and chilled, for up to three days in the refrigerator.