2014 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.  I need these stat helper monkeys in other areas of my life, do you? Read More

Homemade Donuts, Chapter 1: “Dancing Demon” (Pluot) Donuts with Candied Basil & Mint

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If you’d asked me a year ago whether I’d be making homemade yeasted donuts, with a homemade glaze, I’d have said you were very mistaken. But life sometimes has plans that run parallel or even perpendicular to our own (conscious) plans, and one minute you could be a baker, the next a braiser.

I’ve always loved to cook, to read food magazines and cookbooks, and to play around with food, but I only really cooked for special occasions and sporadically. It’s weird to me to recognize that just two years ago my only regular cooking habits were making smoothies in the morning and toasting bread and spreading it with almond butter for dinner. Today I cook almost all of our meals and use a minimum of processed foods. How did that happen? I guess that’s another post, but I will say that inspiration and a “muse,” and blogging, totally transformed my culinary habits.

We have a tradition in our family of taking my vegan niece when she is in town to the Los Angeles (nearly historical!) landmark, Stan’s Donuts, a stone’s throw from the UCLA Campus in Westwood. We also go there on Christmas morning with my son, Mom and Dad. Stan has been making donuts since 1965 and they are fresh, scrumptious and unique. Many of the specialty donuts are named after local personalities. For example, my personal favorite, the “Huell” (named after the TV personality Huell Howser) is a buttermilk bar stuffed with a big fat meaty slab of peanut butter and coated in chocolate. Here is a fun video from Huell’s show on Stan’s.

One of my favorite food blogs is Joy the Baker, and recently I keep stopping and oogling the donut creations she’s featured over the years. They are so pretty to look at! The next thing I knew I was scribbling down donut creation ideas/flavor combinations as they came across my mind based on what I was seeing at the Farmer’s Market and in restaurants and coffee shops. I also bought a donut cookbook, kindle version, by Seattle’s famous donut guys at Top Pot. After a couple of weeks of flirting with the donut, I came up with a recipe last week that I thought would be a nice addition to the Fiesta Friday party and May’s challenge: Pluot Donuts with candied herbs and fresh fruit glaze.  We have a funny and charismatic stone fruit farmer at the Wednesday Farmer’s Market, Fitz, and he likes to make up his own vampy and flirtatious names for his fruit.

Farmer Fitz's Dancing Demon Pluots

Farmer Fitz’s Dancing Demon Pluots

I’m going to split this post into two chapters because the first time I made donuts, I lacked a couple of specified ingredients and tools, namely “bread flour” and a digital thermometer. I wing things all the time and sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Tell me if you think Chapter 1 worked . . . I used Bob’s Mill whole wheat “Bread Mix” for “Bread Machines,” and I did not have a thermometer. Interestingly, also, I noticed that 99% of the recipes I found online and in books used scalded milk for yeast raised donuts, and yet the Top Shop classic raised donut recipe did not list milk as an ingredient. Even more maddening, the Top Shop guys published a recipe for classic yeast raised donuts in Food & Wine Magazine that did use scalded milk. Bottom line: in Chapter 1, no milk.

If I had to review this donut for a restaurant review, I would say: (1) It was delicious, but the dough was dark which meant the donut, glazed, and glazed with fresh pureed pluots, was almost midnight blue (a little strange for a donut); (2) It tasted and must have been healthier due to the presence of whole grain flour, flax seeds and sunflower seeds; and, (3) The dough didn’t rise that well so the donuts were a little flatter and more dense than I would have preferred.  Stay tuned for next week when I use a thermometer, milk and actual bread flour.

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1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon solid vegetable shortening
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 extra-large yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

About 5 cups sifted bread flour, plus more sifted flour for dusting

Vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Pluot Glaze:  3 Pluots, 1/2 cup water, 3 cups powdered sugar

Candied Herbs:  A handful of basil and mint, 2 egg whites, and 4 Tbsp sugar


The night before you want to eat the donuts, make the candied herbs and, if you want to proof the dough overnight in the refrigerator, make the dough.

Make candied herbs by dipping herb leafs into egg white, setting on a wire rack, and sprinkling with sugar.  Allow to dry for 6 hours.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir the yeast into the warm water, sprinkle with a pinch of sugar and let stand until foamy, about 3 minutes. Melt shortening.  Stir the warm shortening into the yeast and mix on low for 2 minutes.  Gradually add the 1/2 cup of sugar and the sour cream, the whole eggs, egg yolk, salt and vanilla. Mix on low for another minute.  Gradually stir in 4 3/4 cups of the flour, mixing on low, until all flour is incorporated, then mix on medium speed for 3 minutes until a soft, sticky dough forms. Scrape the dough out onto a floured surface and use a pastry scraper to knead the dough until smooth, adding as much of the remaining flour as necessary. The dough should be soft and slightly sticky, but smooth and elastic.

Gather the dough into a ball, transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a sheet of oiled plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot for 2 hours. Punch down the dough and turn it over in the bowl. Cover and refrigerate the dough for 2 hours or overnight.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the chilled dough 1/3 inch thick. Using a 3 1/2-inch doughnut cutter dipped in flour, cut out as many doughnuts as possible and transfer them to a sheet of floured wax paper. The scraps can be rerolled once to cut out more doughnuts. Loosely cover the doughnuts with wax paper and let rise until soft and billowy, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile Make the Pluot Glaze by heating 3 chopped pluots and 1/2 cup water until boiling.  Transfer to blender and blend until smooth but with some very small pieces of fruit an peel still visible.  Transfer to stand mixer, add powdered sugar and, using whisk attachment, mix for 2 minutes on high.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat 4 inches of vegetable oil to 365°. Line a rack with several paper towels. Working in batches, fry the doughnuts until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Check the temperature of the frying oil to make sure it doesn’t get too hot or cool. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the doughnuts to the paper towel-lined rack to drain.

When donuts are cool enough to touch with hands, dip one side of each into glaze and place on a rack.  Eat immediately!




My Paris Kitchen Birthday Dinner

I am shamelessly posting that it’s my birthday today.  Every day we wake up and draw a breath is a day to celebrate; but this year on my birthday I had such a wonderful culinary fiesta that I wanted to share it with my friendly readers and fellow bloggers. Read More

Loquat Follow Up: Tart and Fritters

Yesterday I was brainstorming how to use up the rest of our loquat harvest, Read More

Sidewalk Surprise: Loquats

The lovely painting above is entitled “Loquats and Mountain Bird,” by Anonymous Southern Song artist, in the Collection of the National Palace Museum, Beijing.

Side Yard Loquats

Ever been surprised by a flash of realized abundance in your life, when and where you were least looking for it?  That’s what happened when we realized the tree on our “private property” part of our Santa Monica sidewalk is a loquat tree, and that the fruit it yields not only edible but delicious.  It’s flavor is a perfect marriage of sweet and sour (think mango, citrus and apricot) and I’ve got a motherlode in my kitchen waiting to be eaten as is, or become granita, syrup for kombucha, jam, barbeque sauce, who knows what else.

This morning I made loquat kombucha

This morning I made loquat kombucha

See you in a week

See you in a week

I had always wondered what was growing on our side yard tree, then this weekend at my favorite cafe Red Bread a fellow sat down next to me with a  backpack full of what I recognized to be our tree fruit.  On his way to the weekly community produce swap, he explained to me that these were indeed loquats.  Down the rabbit hole of internet research I went.  Later that afternoon, after reading around, my enthusiasm for our newfound crop at its peak, I brought my husband a piece of loquat who, though he loved the puckering flavor, dampened my glee with the comment, “I think I taste a faint essence of diesel fuel” (we have a bus stop smack in front of the tree, about 10 feet from our front window).

Our Tree

Our Tree

The Loquat up close

The Loquat up close

The loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is a species of flowering plant in the family Rosaceae,native to south-central China. It is a large evergreen shrub or small tree, grown commercially for its yellow fruit, and also cultivated as an ornamental plant.

Eriobotrya japonica was formerly thought to be closely related to the genus Mespilus, and is still sometimes known as the Japanese medlar. It is also known as Japanese plum and Chinese plum. In Japan it is called biwa. And in China, it is called Lo Guat in Cantonese and pipa  in Mandarin.

The loquat has a high sugar, acid, and pectin content. It is best eaten dead ripe.  On the internet you can find many recipes for loquat  jam, jelly and pie, and on the private website entirely devoted to the fruit “Loquatworld.com” you can find links to some pretty offbeat delicacies, like pickled loquat and loquat grappa.

The large seeds contain trace amounts of cyanide and should not be eaten.

For an impressive source of information on loquat history, including different varieties, availability and commercialization (or lack thereof), I refer you to my local produce celebrity writer and David Karp and his 1999 article in the LA Times, “Loco for Loquats.”

Stay tuned for loquat recipes!



Monday Milestones

This past week a number of good things happened, so I celebrated with a 10 Veggie Juice this morning . . . made (and cleaned up) by someone else and not me.

First, my son Billy had 4 wisdom teeth pulled on Wednesday, and when I asked him how he was feeling that day, he texted me, “It’s weird.  Also, I think I got a job.”  We were not even aware that he wanted to work, even though we had encouraged him to try volunteering or getting a “light” job during the summers, as many of his friends did.  My own parents forbid me to work even through college, and I wasn’t sure that was a great idea.  But since Billy is finished with his AP classes this week, his grades are very good, he’s done with Xcountry, and he’s off school Wednesdays and Fridays at noon, we agreed that a part-time job would be worth considering, since he really wanted to have some extra spending money to go to concerts and eat out with his friends.  The owner told him to memorize as much of the menu as possible (103 sushi/noodle/combo items) and come back in 2 days.  Bless his heart I think he studied that menu for 12 hours . . . and he got the job.  I was proud.

Then, my husband, who has been “shopping” for motorcycles ever since he  . . . um, last owned one 25+ years ago, finally pulled the trigger and bought one.  I am so happy because I felt like he spent so much time imagining, wishing, hoping, shopping, deciding, undeciding, changing his mind, swearing off shopping . . . feeling guilty for shopping, feeling guilty for desiring, and then finally figured it wasn’t a mortal sin and he wouldn’t burn in hell if he actually bought one.  Since we are a 1 car household and since he grew up in a family of moto owners, and has always loved motos, my only reservation (and of course it’s a big one) is the safety issue.  But for God’s sake, he’s 2 years away from retirement and has worked his duff off at the same job for like millions of years . . . so I enthusiastically supported the decision. Plus I figured it would free up some time to do other things besides shop and fantasize on the internet.

Finally, birgerbird reached 100 followers, which was truly a nice surprise.  I would like to extend a hearty thanks to my readers and followers for the support, the comments, the feedback, and the fun, and for making this blog so much fun for me to write.