Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fake Donuts

I eat donuts maybe once a year. And even then, the donuts must be yeasted donuts -- no cake donuts for me, thank you very much. I figure if I'm going to inject myself with wasteful calories, I want something more interesting than rainbow sprinkles, bad icing and crumbly, dried-out cake. I found this recipe a few years ago in an issue of Real Simple and was intrigued. Could this recipe satisfy my kids' desire for donuts? I finally tried it several weeks ago. It hit the spot for all of us and I've actually had two donuts this year ... so far. The middles were perfectly doughy without being undercooked. The outsides had the perfect amount of crispness and flake (thanks to all the butter in the canned biscuits that I used). It's a two-thumbs up recipe for a last-minute dessert.

Fake Donuts
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 8-count package large refrigerated biscuits (such as Pillsbury Grands)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Heat 1/2 cup of the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat.
2. Place the biscuits on a cutting board. Using a 1-inch round cookie cutter or shot glass, cut a hole in the center of each biscuit, reserving the extra dough for "holes."
3. Test the heat of the oil by dipping the edge of a doughnut in the pan. When the oil is hot enough, the edge will bubble. Place 4 of the doughnuts and holes in the skillet and cook until golden brown, 1 to 1½ minutes per side. Transfer to a wire rack or paper towel–lined plate to drain. Add the remaining oil to the skillet, reheat, and cook the remaining doughnuts and holes.
4. In a large bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Gently toss the warm doughnuts in the mixture a few at a time. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Substitution Suggestions: Honestly, this recipe is as straight forward as they come. I've only used Pillsbury Flaky Grands and been happy with the results. If you want donut holes instead of the larger donuts, just press down on the biscuit slightly, then use your cookie cutter to cut lots of holes. The holes cook much faster than the full biscuits.

Lessons Learned: I've made this recipe twice now. The trick is to keep the oil hot enough to fry the donuts, but not so hot that the outsides burn before the insides are thoroughly cooked. (Yes, I made that mistake the first time around.) And, they do burn easily. I flipped the donuts several times each and that seemed to help.
I didn't have a cookie cutter small enough, but the plastic storage tube that came with my Pampered Chef grapefruit slicer is the perfect size for punching out the center hole.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bacon and Blue Dip

I love dips. That's the best part about eating chips and crackers. And maybe veggies, too. I recently attended two finger food potlucks. The question always is: What should I take? I want to take something I haven't done before because that's part of the joy of cooking ... trying something new. I love bacon. I love blue cheese. So, I figured this recipe that I clipped from Southern Living magazine had to be good. It was really similar to my stuffed pork chop recipe, so I went with it. One word: YUM! OK, a few more words. I love the smoothness of the cream and blue cheeses melted together. And, the crunch of the toasted nuts is a very nice juxtaposition to that creaminess. And, what's not to love about bacon? Add some sweet apples as the dippers and you approach sweet-savory perfection. I mixed the recipe up a little for a quicker prep. This is what I did.

Hot Bacon and Blue Dip

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup half-and-half
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
1 1/2 jars real bacon bits
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp olive oil
3 tbsp chopped green onions
3 tbsp chopped pecans, toasted
Apples, crackers and flatbread

1. Beat the cream cheese and half-and-half with mixer until smooth. Add bacon, onions and liquid smoke. Mix until combined.
2. Heat olive oil in small skillet. Add garlic and saute. Add to bacon and cheese mixture.
3. Spoon into 4 (1-cup) baking dishes (ramekins work really well) or into 1 quart casserole dish.
4. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Sprinkle evening with chopped pecans. Serve with apples wedges, crackers or flatbread.

Substitution Suggestions: The original recipe called for walnuts and chives instead of pecans and green onions. I like my version better, but the other will obviously work.
The original also called for real bacon. If you have the time for that, here is the alternate cooking direction. For this, omit the olive oil and use the bacon renderings instead. It requires seven pieces of bacon (though knowing me, I'd double it!).
Cook chopped bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat 10 minutes or until crisp. Drain bacon, and set aside. Add minced garlic to skillet, and sauté 1 minute.

Lessons Learned: This dip is definitely best served hot (or warm) and it does reheat well if you remove the nuts (which went a little soggy in the fridge). You could probably also use this as the stuffing for the aforementioned pork chop recipe, but I'd add chopped apples to the mix before stuffing the meat. I really liked the sweetness of the Fuji apples with the saltiness of the dip. I received compliments on this dip both times I served it, so it earns a place in my permanent cooking annals.