I started this post thinking I was going to write about why and how “gluten free” doesn’t necessarily mean “healthy” and how substituting wheat flour with 15 other highly processed ingredients isn’t doing your health any favors…. But then it was spring break and I wanted a donut.
In my daily life, especially during swim season, I’m lucky to have enough time to prepare some sort of dinner-food a few nights a week. (Let alone bake or recipe-test.) Most nights I want dinner in less than 25 minutes, start to finish. Basically, this means we have some form of tacos, burgers, or BBQ’d something more often that not. Sides are limited to microwaved sweet potatoes, random-ingredient salads, and whatever vegetables I can cut up and throw in a pan/in the oven. For me, this food works. It fills me up, doesn’t make me sick, and is generally healthy since there are so few ingredients, all of which are “whole foods.”
But when I get a second of free time, my very first thought is of all the glutenous foods I want to shove in my face and how I can make them myself, sans gluten. (Really, I’m lucky to have a full-time job. Left to my own devices, I would undoubtedly be obese. Perfectly content, but excessively overweight.)
Enter: spring break. Aside from cleaning the house and filing my taxes, the only other productive thing I’ve done this week is cook. It makes my heart (and stomach) very, very happy. But the post I started writing about gluten free baked goods not being very good for you, totally went out the window. So instead, I’m going to tell you about the best store-bought gluten-free flour blends. Highly processed, carb-filled goodness.
Then we’ll get the whole donut thing.
Everyday Flour Blend
I’d love to tell you that I always make my own flour blends. I do, on occasion, and they are typically more cost effective. (If you’re into that sort of thing, ATK has a great recipe, off which I loosely base my own.) But store bought things are just so damn convenient. Plus, there are about 100 different varieties, which allow me to nerd-out with my kitchen science experiments.
For your generic, everyday flour needs, King Arthur is the way to go. I’ve made everything from muffins to pizza crust to fried fish using this blend and I’ve been pleased with all the results. It’s slightly sweet, fluffy (not dense), and can take the place of wheat flour cup-for-cup. It’s also less expensive (although still pricey, as all gluten free things are) than some of the “fancy” flour blends like Better Batter or Cup4Cup.
Pancakes and Baking
My newly discovered favorite for easy pancakes and other baked goods (think: things you want to be fluffy and sweet) is Pamela’s Baking and Pancake mix. It has almond meal and buttermilk powder, which gives tang, texture, and richness to the mix. It also includes salt, baking powder and soda, and xanthan gum so it makes the assembly part easy. Like, scary-easy. (This is how I made the donuts in under 30 minutes… I promise, I’ll get there soon.)
My sister happened upon a random box of GF pizza crust mix at TJ Maxx a while back and it’s turned out to be one of my favorites. Domata is easy, has no rise-time, and makes soft but crisp crust that doesn’t taste like cardboard.
The rest of my savory baking mostly consists of Pao de Queijo (Brazillian cheese breads) that only require tapioca starch or the hamburger buns from Every Last Crumb that just call for almond meal and tapioca. (I always have both on-hand…. In GF cooking, they’re staples.)
Last, but certainly not least, we must talk about cake-in-a-box. Of course, cake from scratch makes you sound a lot cooler, but cupcakes ready to eat in under 30 minutes makes me happier than any reputation ever could.
Surprisingly, I’m a big fan of Betty Crocker. I usually tend toward more specialty (read: expensive) ingredients, but I’ve tried out quite a few and have had the best results with Betty. I use the Devil’s Food mix and whip up a quick chocolate frosting with a little espresso powder and salt. Cupcakes with rave reviews and done in well under an hour. (That’s on my list of to-share recipes, don’t worry.)
The best part about all the above mixes is that my local grocery store (Vons) carries all of them. Meaning I don’t have to go to 3 specialty food stores looking for ingredients and pay $45 for organic, locally-sourced, hormone-free, humanely-raised rice flour.
Ok, so now that your pantry is stocked with delicious, overly-processed, easy to assemble carbs, let’s get down to business.
Baked Gluten Free Donuts with Strawberry Icing
2 oz (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup coconut oil (melted)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1-2 tsp. vanilla
11 oz Pamela’s Gluten Free Baking and Pancake Mix
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh strawberries
A splash of milk (2-3 tbls)
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
½ tsp vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 425 and grease a donut pan (I got mine for $7 at World Market) with coconut oil.
- In a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer) cream together the butter, oil, and sugars until pale and fluffy. Make a huge mess, like me.
- Add in the eggs, one at a time, the vanilla, and the nutmeg and mix until well incorporated.
- Add in the flour and milk a little at a time, alternating between each.
*If you’re like me and don’t keep a quart of buttermilk in the fridge at all times, you can jerry-rig your own by splashing some white vinegar or lemon juice into your whole milk and letting it sit and curdle for a few minutes. Works like a charm.
- Fill the donut molds to the top with the batter.
*I scooped mine into a zip-top bag, cut off a corner, and piped it in… just because I couldn’t figure out how else to fill them without covering up the hole. You’re probably better at that stuff than I am, so feel free to just use a spoon and not be complicated like me.
- Bake the donuts for 8 minutes. They should just be starting to turn golden on the tops. Cool in the pan for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a cooling wrack for about 15 minutes before icing.
- Make the icing. Throw the strawberries and milk into a blender and puree until smooth. Mix about 2 Tbl of the strawberry puree and the vanilla into the powered sugar. (I’m keeping the extra puree in the freezer to use in smoothies.) Stir until it forms a nice glaze. If you like your glaze on the thin side, add more puree. Or if you like it more like frosting, start with only 1 Tbl and play with it until the consistency is to your liking. You can always add more sugar if you add too much puree. See, baking is fool-proof!
- Once the donuts are cooled, spoon a healthy amount of icing over each donut, letting the extra run down the sides. Let the glaze harden for a few minutes before eating. Also, sprinkles are optional, but definitely encouraged.
- Devour donut, preferably with coffee or cold milk. Then have another. Then break off just a little part of a 3rd and eat that. Then, if you’re like me, come back 15 minutes later and eat the rest of that third donut. Lay down until your stomachache and sugar coma subside.
And they actually taste as good as they look.