We could write a blog about healthy food—all the vegetables, fruits and proteins we try to consume regularly to keep our numbers going in the right direction—stable if good and if not down.
But right now we need to boost our mental fortitude and for us that means cooking and eating lots of sugar and carbs, which we consume in the form of high-fat, salty and sweet foods such as cookies, cakes, chocolate, ice cream, sorbets and one of our all-time favorites, French fries!
We don’t plan to do this forever but now, after awaiting election results and then this past week’s mob scene in Washington, D.C., we needed to indulge ourselves. We also tend to do this at other times when we feel sad, lonely and even depressed.
We know that there’s something perverse about this, even more so because our parents often fed us crackers, cookies and other sweets to reward us to calm down, help us feel good when we were upset or to celebrate a good deed or milestone.
In reality, there’s a scientific reason why we crave these foods, according to an article, “Five Reasons Why We Crave Comfort Foods,” in Psychology Today, by Shahram Heshmat, Ph. D., (Sept. 28, 2016). Heshmat writes, “Eating food high in fat, sugar or salt activates the brain’s reward system. For example, chocolate has a strong effect on mood, generally increasing pleasant feelings and reducing tension. Highly palatable foods activate the same brain regions of reward and pleasure that are active in drug addiction.” Now that’s a scary thought.
Since we’re in our seventies, we don’t want to feel constrained by logic. These are tough times. Broccoli, carrots, asparagus, lima beans and piles of leafy greens just don’t improve our moods. Forget the protein and wedges of lettuce. Margaret would rather turn to wedges of chocolate, angel food cake with chocolate icing or a hazelnut torte layered with caramel and chocolate buttercream. Diets be damned!
Barbara says bring on the fresh crusty warm bread, and over the last few months she has tried her hand at bread making with sesame seed boiled and baked bagels and challah, even though braiding was a challenge. She watched videos to perfect the braiding. Her next effort will be Parker House rolls for Valentine’s Day, thanks to a recipe in Bon Appetit magazine.
To help make ourselves feel better and expend some lingering election anxiety, we both happily embarked on one of our carb-loaded bakeoffs. We’ve done this in the past with a grilled cheese sandwich competition and chocolate chip cookie bake-offs. After hearing about Barbara’s younger daughter’s efforts with a fall favorite, we, too, decided to try making freshly baked apple cider doughnuts. Note the one nod to healthfulness; baked, not fried. However, we’re rarely content to follow a recipe exactly. We believe that all recipes are meant to be improvisational.
To get started, we each bought a doughnut mold, Margaret bought a silicone mold, and Barbara, an old school metal one. We each buttered and floured the molds so the pastries would pop out easily. And they did with both batches since each recipe made 12 doughnuts and each mold was just for six.
Miraculously, with all our fussing and messing, we both produced wonderful, delicious results. Barbara ate one and gave her beau his own. Margaret ate several. As for the extras, both of us spread the sugar and love to our friends and family, and Barbara also froze several, which she eventually sent frozen to friends in different states. They defrosted en route.
So what if we upped our carb intake? We brushed and flossed well after we consumed, we walked off many of the calories and found that these sugary, cakey doughnuts helped us enrich and soften our lives in a way that mushrooms, eggplants or squash never could. We also had fun trying a new recipe that helped us weather several tough political weeks and the lingering pandemic.
Here are the two recipes we each followed, along with ingredients we used to change them. Barbara next tried a third recipe that used both baking powder and baking soda since the two we each tried only used baking powder.
Need a way to indulge yourself? Go ahead; it’s quite liberating and tasty.
Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts (Barbara)
Note #1: I adjusted the spices a bit, see below, but otherwise this recipe worked perfectly! The recipe is from Chasing the Seasons. https://www.chasingtheseasons.com/baked-apple-cider-doughnuts/
Makes 12 large or 36 mini
1 ½ cups apple cider
1 ¾ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus extra to dust the pans
1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon apple pie spice or Barbara used her variation with ¼ cup cinnamon, 1 tbsp ground nutmeg, 1 tsp cloves
¾ tsp kosher salt
1 cup or 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature and more for greasing the pans
¾ cup brown sugar
1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Another 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Grease a doughnut pan. Do so with butter first, then dusting with flour, shake off excess flour. Use one pan and repeat after or buy two pans!
Reduce apple cider to ½ cup, which takes about 20 to 25 minutes. Wait and pour yourself a glass for fun.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Add flour, baking powder, apple piece spice or separate spices, and salt together and set aside.
Using a mixer, add 10 tablespoons of butter, brown sugar and ¼ cup of the sugar and mix to a creamy consistency, and light and fluffy. Add the eggs until well incorporated, one at a time. Add the vanilla and mix.
Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed. Slowly add the cooled apple cider, mix to incorporate well.
Fill a piping bag or big spoon and fill the molds half full.
Bake until lightly brown, which takes between 12 to 15 minutes or so but test with a toothpick that comes out clean.
Allow the doughnuts to cool a bit on a rack or pan.
Prepare the cinnamon topping by combining 1 cup of sugar and 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, stir well.
Melt 6 tablespoons of butter. Take the cooled doughnuts and dip both sides in the butter, then dip each side in the cinnamon and sugar topping, shaking off excess.
Allow to dry on a cooling rack.
Eat right away and freeze those you don’t eat. They freeze well and require a quick nuke in your microwave.
If you have leftover sugar-cinnamon mixture, save for when you make another batch!
Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts (Margaret)
Note: I added a 1/4th teaspoon each of ground ginger, cloves and allspice to the recipe. I also grated some fresh ginger (about 1 tsp.) into the batter. I greased the molds by mixing butter and a little flour and then applying it with a pastry brush. After the doughnuts baked and sat to cool for five minutes, I slathered butter over the doughnut on both sides, dunked each in the sugar and cinnamon mixture, then double dunked by brushing on more butter and then dipping each in the sugar and cinnamon again.
Nonstick cooking spray or a mixture of butter and flour1 ¾ cup/225 grams all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
¾ cup/165 grams light brown sugar
¾ cup/150 grams granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup/120 milliliters apple cider
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 2 6-cavity doughnut pans (or a 12-cup muffin tin) with nonstick spray. In a medium bowl, add the flour, baking powder, salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg and whisk to combine. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream 10 tablespoons/140 grams butter, brown sugar and 1/4 cup/50 grams granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until well incorporated after each addition, scraping the bowl, as necessary. Beat in the vanilla extract.
Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated. With the mixer running, add the apple cider in a slow, steady stream and mix to combine. Scrape the bowl well to make sure the batter is homogeneous.
Spoon the batter into prepared doughnut pans, filling them about 2/3 of the way full (you can also do this using a disposable piping bag or a resealable plastic bag with a 1/2-inch opening cut from one corner). Bake until evenly golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the thickest portion comes out clean, 12 to 15 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through baking. (If you are making muffins, divide batter evenly between the prepared cups and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating halfway through.)
While the doughnuts bake, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon together in a small bowl to combine. In a separate small bowl, melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter in the microwave. Let the doughnuts cool for 5 minutes after baking, then unmold them from the pans, brush with the melted butter and dredge them in the cinnamon sugar while they are still warm. Serve immediately or let cool to room temperature.