The Outlaw Doughnuts of the Resistance

04/08/2009.

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I know that nearly every magazine and newspaper in Maine, and practically every food writer in this area, has tackled the subject of homemade doughnuts. About the same time that I wrote "The Doughnut Rebellion" in Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors a while back, there were doughnut articles in half a dozen publications, including Maine Food & Lifestyle. One might assume that anybody who had even the slightest interest in learning anything whatsoever about doughnuts...how to make them, why they have holes, what they're called in Portugal, and why it matters so much in Rockport ... would have done so already.

So, why more writing on doughnuts now?

The State of Maine is giving consideration to a ban of trans-fats, for our own good of course. Perhaps I need not make fun of well-intentioned rulemaking, but those who know me wouldn't be surprised to find me making light of any effort to add any mores rules to the already extensive list. My sense of how the law ought to work boils down to something like this:

First, do no harm.

Leave no trace.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

If you don't live here, you can't fish here.


There's more, read the rest...

Cinnamon Buns

07/26/2009.

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My husband Paul finds a few square feet of the kitchen table, way back in the corner, to sort through brass fittings or repair a piece of equipment, to draw a circuit diagram or do the crossword, but for the most part, he's living in a bakery.

This summer, where it has been so cold and foggy so often, we're also hearing a new chant from the tourists: "It sure is warm in here!" With two ovens going all morning, the dampness is easily chased away and the cool outside temperature is actually a blessing (it gets brutal in here on a very hot day, and no, I don't get to go to the beach very often!) I like to think part of the "warm" feeling is psychological, though, and not just thermal. Most of the goodies I prepare each morning are comfort food, familiar for sure, but things some of us rarely allow ourselves unless on vacation...sticky buns full of nuts and brown-sugary syrup, big hunks of blueberry coffee cake, doughnuts fresh out of the iron kettle, warm loaves of raisin bread"¦

Some of my loyal and regular customers, not surprisingly, are little kids, and some of them will have no truck with nuts, raisins, or anything too fussy (although a lot of the children like my ginger cookies, which I thought would be an adult favorite.) Anyway, the kids used to look hungrily at the packages of sticky buns and say "I wish you would sell me just one, not the whole thing, and also I don't want any nuts." I finally took the hint.

These cinnamon rolls are plain-jane simple, and can easily be made for a family breakfast. They take just over an hour and a half from start to finish. This version of the recipe makes 8 good-sized rounds. You'll need a large (12x17) baking sheet, or use two pans of almost any kind. I usually make either 16 or 24 in the morning for my bakery. (By the way, these are best eaten the day they're baked, although they can be frozen. Wrap tightly if you'll need to keep them over a day.)

Meara and Alice and Mia's Cinnamon Rolls

The very first step is to take a stick of butter out of the refrigerator to soften.

Yeast dough: 
1 cup warm water
2 Tablespoons sugar
2(1/2) teaspoons (or 3/4 Tablespoon) yeast

Combine and let sit a minute to start yeast. Add the following:
1/4 cup cooking oil
3 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix and knead; this works well in a Kitchenaid or other mixer with a dough hook. Dough should be soft but not too sticky. Kneading by hand works fine too; it doesn't require a lot of work. Place in an oiled bowl to rise for about 25 minutes in a warm place (inside a gas oven with just the pilot works well, if the kitchen isn't warm yet).

In another bowl, mix together to make cinnamon filling: 
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) soft butter or margarine
1/4 cup sugar
11/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Actually, this amount will do well enough, but you could also make more and really be generous with the cinnamon filling.

When the dough has roughly doubled in size, dust the work surface with a bit of flour, roll out the dough into a rectangle about 10-12 inches across and about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick, spread the cinnamon filling over it, roll it up, and slice into 8 pieces. Place these (the easy way, flat) on an oiled sheet (actually best to use oiled aluminum foil on the baking sheet; much easier to clean up later).

Let these rise for about a half an hour in a warm place. I turn the oven on for just a couple of minutes while I am rolling out the dough, then shut it back off and raise the buns in the warmed oven. Don't try to move the individual rolls or adjust them on the pans after they have risen"¦they're delicate and will "deflate." Once they have risen, turn up the oven to 350degrees and bake for 25-30 minutes, until slightly browned.

Remove from oven but leave on the pans; just "wiggle" them a bit to make sure they aren't going to stick down as the melted sugar filling stiffens up. Make the frosting:

2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
About 1/4 cup milk (adjust thickness of the frosting/glaze to your preference)

Mix well and spread or drizzle over cinnamon rolls.

If you are not catering specifically to children, you might like to "dress up" the frosting with lemon or orange zest, chopped walnuts or hazelnuts, sliced almonds, almond or rum or some other extract rather than vanilla, a pinch of espresso powder, or bits of candied ginger. 

Yields 8 large cinnamon buns.