Confession time: Seven years ago when I was pregnant, I walked into Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop one day and sneezed. Pretty soon, anytime I got near flour, my eyes started to water and my nose stuffed up. When I ate flour, the symptoms were even worse. I had developed, for reasons unclear, a pregnancy allergy to wheat. It improved after I had my son, but never got totally better. And it caused me to become one of those people I had until then made fun of: a person who avoided gluten.
Oh, but do I crave things. Croissants. And decent pizza crust. Terrible, diner-grilled cheese sandwiches on Wonder Bread. And doughnuts, especially super cheap, after-church maple bars. What is it about those? The thing I have learned about not eating wheat all these years, though, is that you really can’t replace it with gluten-free approximations of wheat things. Because you’ll just be disappointed. You have to think of gluten-free things as different things altogether.
Enter my “Idita-doughnut.”
Every year since I had children, about the time the sprint dogsled racers start downtown, I am thinking about baking doughnuts. It’s quicker, healthier and way less messy than making real doughnuts, and it’s become a funny little tradition. Whichever morning I take the kids to watch the dogs, I always pack a thermos of coffee, a thermos of cocoa and these doughnuts in our sled. The key to enjoying them, though, is not thinking of them as doughnuts. Idita-doughnuts do play some real cake doughnut notes, but it’s better to think of them as spicy, baked, ring-shaped, dunking pastries. Because if you think of them like that, they are delicious.
I’ve made several recipes, but I like this one, adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe, best. You can eat them plain, tossed with powdered sugar or dipped in chocolate. I prefer to roll them in cinnamon-sugar. You must have a doughnut pan to make them. I sometimes prepare the batter the night before and put it in a plastic bag and refrigerate it. Then I snip a corner and pipe it into the pan. The doughnuts can be made with regular flour (see notes) or gluten-free flour.
Baked gluten-free Idita-doughnuts
Makes 12-15 doughnuts
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder (For real flour version, reduce to 1 1/2 teaspoons.)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (For real flour version, reduce to 1/4 teaspoon.)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (Omit if using real flour; reduce if it’s already included in your gluten-free flour mixture.)
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 and 2/3 cups gluten-free flour (I recommend Cup4Cup, Pamela’s, King Arthur or gfJules brands. Do not use any mixture with garbanzo bean or pea flour. Do not use straight brown rice or almond flour. You can also sub in regular flour.)
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup buttermilk (or substitute milk with a teaspoon of lemon juice in it)
1/3 cup cinnamon-sugar mixture (roughly 1 tablespoon cinnamon to 4 tablespoons sugar)
Method: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a doughnut pan with cooking spray. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream butter, then add oil and eggs and mix until fluffy. Add sugars. Mix until well-combined. In a small bowl, whisk baking powder, soda, nutmeg, xanthan gum, salt and flour. With the mixer running, alternate pouring in each of the milks and half the dry ingredients. Once the batter is mixed, allow to sit for 10 minutes. It will become more airy as the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda. Scrape the mixture into a plastic freezer bag, snip the corner and pipe the batter into the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Pour the cinnamon-sugar mixture into another large paper or plastic bag. When the doughnuts are done, allow to cool for 5 minutes, then gently toss them in the cinnamon-sugar. Serve warm.