Baked doughnuts. It’s almost an anomaly, like non-alcoholic beer, or decaffeinated coffee! Aren’t doughnuts supposed to be deep-fried to golden brown, and terribly bad for you? I have to admit, I was a little sceptical when I saw the recipe for Lemon and Ricotta Baked Doughnuts in this month’s Gourmet Traveller. But the flavour combination sounded sublime, and so I decided to give them a try anyway. The recipe was not without its problems, which I’ll talk about later, but the best thing about it was actually the fabulous texture of the baked doughnuts!
I decided to make my own ricotta for the recipe, which is actually one of the easiest things you’re ever likely to make in your kitchen. I heated two litres of milk in a saucepan and added a teaspoon of citric acid, which I find is more effective than vinegar or lemon juice. The curds separate, and then all you need to do it scoop them out with a slotted spoon into a muslin-lined sieve and drain in the fridge over a bowl overnight. That is then thrown into a food processor with some sugar, the juice and zest of one lemon and an egg and whizzed until smooth. The mixture was quite runny, and that caused a few problems later on in the recipe.
The dough itself was easy to make, similar to any other sweet, yeasted dough (brioche or cinnamon buns, etc) although the recipe itself was written quite poorly, and I ended up mis-reading it and adding far too much butter, rather than reserving some of it for a later use. But luckily that misstep didn’t cause too many problems as far as I could tell. The dough is left to prove, then rolled out and cut into rounds. I didn’t have 7cm and 8cm cutters as the recipe stated, so I used my 5cm and 6cm cutters to make smaller doughnuts. When I placed a teaspoon of the ricotta filling onto the smaller rounds and tried to press the bigger one down on top of it, the filling oozed out everywhere. I wasn’t sure how much was left in the doughnut itself!
If the filling had been thicker (maybe leaving out the egg would help), this wouldn’t have been an issue. It turned out that there really wasn’t much filling left inside the doughnuts themselves, but I thought they were great even without it! Perhaps you could pipe in the filling after they’re cooked like you would with custard doughnuts. Or omit it completely, I’ll leave it to your own discretion! The doughnuts baked up perfectly into little orbs of fluffy goodness. Not as gorgeous and crispy as deep-fried doughnuts but absolutely delicious nonetheless. The lemon sugar was a fabulous addition, and eating one of these doughnuts was like sunshine for your tastebuds.
I really love making doughnuts, there is something about them that reminds me to have fun when I’m cooking and not to take things too seriously. If you haven’t seen the Doughnut feature in this month’s Gourmet Traveller, check it out! It’s not often that I’m so inspired by the pages of a magazine. All of the recipes look fabulous and I’m looking forward to trying some of the others over the next few weeks. In the words of the Great Homer Simpson, mmmmm doughnuts.
Lemon and Ricotta Baked Doughnuts
Makes 12 large or about 20 small doughnuts
Recipe adapted from Gourmet Traveller
• 750g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
• 140g raw caster sugar
• 7g dried yeast
• Finely grated rind of 2 lemons
• 250ml (1 cup) lukewarm milk, plus extra for brushing
• 80l (1/3 cup) buttermilk
• 2 eggs, at room temperature
• 30g butter, melted
• Oil, for greasing
Lemon Ricotta Filling
• 250g ricotta
• 55g (1/4 cup) raw caster sugar
• Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
• 1 egg
• 1 cup caster sugar
• Finely grated rind of 1 ½ lemons
• 50g butter, melted for dipping
To make the doughnuts, combine flour, sugar, yeast and lemon rind in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix to combine. Whisk together milk, buttermilk, eggs and melted butter and, with motor running, add to flour mixture. Mix on medium speed until dough is smooth and elastic (4-5 minutes). Shape into a ball, place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (1 – 1½ hours)
Meanwhile, for ricotta lemon filling, process ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until required.
Knock back the dough, turn onto a lightly floured surface and roll to 5mm thick. Cut an equal number of rounds with a 5cm and 6cm round cutter, re-rolling scraps if necessary. Place the smaller rounds 5cm apart on baking trays lined with non-stick paper. Place a heaped teaspoon of lemon ricotta filling in the center of each. Brush edges with milk, cover with larger rounds and press to seal edges well. Trim with a 5cm cutter. Cover and stand in a warm place until risen (1 – 1½ hours)
Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Bake doughnuts for 8-10 minutes or until just golden.
For lemon sugar, combine sugar and lemon rind in a bowl. Spread on a tray. Dip hot doughnuts immediately in melted butter and toss in lemon sugar. Serve hot.