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Pumpkin Donuts with Spiced Sugar

There is nothing wrong with spelling the word for these fried rings of dough as “doughnuts” or “donuts”. They are both correct. Just ask spell check. I personally use the “donut” spelling, as it is faster and simply more economical as far as I am concerned. There is nothing wrong with spelling or dialect variations, particularly when involving pastry.
This week, as you may have guessed, I made donuts.

Fried dough is a bit tricky. Most fried bread products are rather small: dumplings, beignets, klejner, etc. They are small because the outside browns very quickly and large pieces of dough will not be cooked all the way through. In fact, one of the tales about the origin of the donut states that the center was poked out because it was always soggy. Where the “nut” came from, I simply do not know.

Homemade donuts are something that I never really thought that I would make. I know a good place in my neighborhood to get them, but to be honest, I rarely do. Health concerns, you know. But when I was little, I loved to get a sugar coated, fluffy yeasted donut whenever possible. I hated the glazed ones. One day, my donut was not cooked through as well as it should have been (perhaps the origin myth is true!) and I became rather ill. Same thing the next time. That was the end of those donuts.

My favorite donuts are plain cake donuts and cake donuts with rainbow sprinkles. The sprinkles make me feel like a kid, which I love. Cake donuts are not yeast-raised, but are put together much like a quick bread and leavened with chemical leaveners. The batter is a snap to put together, you chill it for at least 3 hours to make cutting it easier and then you fry it. Which means that you can prepare it the night before and have fresh donuts in the morning. I opted for a pumpkin donut recipe from Epicurious – what better way to celebrate fall? The dough has little fat in it, but the frying compensates. The pumpkin flavor was subtle, but there and they tasted very good plain. The crumb was moist but not dense and they weren’t as greasy as I expected them to be at all. I tried them with a maple flavored glaze, but the glaze overpowered the pumpkin flavor. I switched to a spiced sugar mixture, using the same spices as the pumpkin dough. Once the donuts were rolled in the spiced sugar mixture, they were outstanding. Why haven’t I seen these down at the donut shop?

Pumpkin Donuts with Spiced Sugar
(from Bon Appetit)

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp buttermilk
1 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin (canned is ok)
Canola oil (for deep-frying)

Spiced Sugar
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg


Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add in vanilla, buttermilk and pumpkin. Gently stir in flour mixture until fully incorporated. Cover bowl is plastic wrap and refrigerate at leat 3 hours.Sprinkle two baking sheets with flour. Working with 1/3 of the dough at a time, press the chilled dough out, on a lightly floured surface, to about 1/2-2/3 inch (2 cm) thickness. Using a 2 1/2 inch diameter round biscuit cutter, cut out rounds and place on a baking sheet. Use a 1 inch cutter to remove the center of the round, and set the dount hole on the baking sheet as well. Repeat until all the dough is used. You may reroll the scraps. You should end up with 24 donuts and 24 holes.

In a large sauce pan, heat 2-3 inches of oil to 365F/185C. Make a thick stack of paper towels to drain the donuts on. Working one or two at a time, fry the donuts until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. You may fry the donut holes in groups of 4 or 5. Check the temperature to make sure it remains constant. Remove dough to drain and cool thoroughly on paper towels.

In bowl, whisk together sugar and spices. Coat donuts and donut holes in sugar mixture. The sugar will stick to the residual oil (though no one likes to think about that). Enjoy!
Makes 24 donuts and 24 donut holes, but can be halved.

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  • Luisa
    September 29, 2005

    Nic – these look incredible. I love the warm spices in the doughnuts. Here in NYC, Cupcake Cafe makes sweet potato doughnuts and pumpkin doughnuts – some are similar to yours. They are really light and don’t have that heavy, deep-fried flavor so many bad doughnuts have.

  • Fanny
    September 29, 2005

    Hi Nic, your donuts looks very good. I’m so mad about donuts, i think i could eat something like a dozain of krispy kreme without an hesitation.
    Btw i wanted to tell you i tagged you for the childhood food memories meme.


  • amateur
    September 29, 2005

    I love reading your blog. The pictures never fail to entice me and make my mouth water. Especially this post as I’ve been on a HUGE donut kick lately!

  • Nic
    September 29, 2005

    Luisa – Those Cupcake Cafe donuts sound delicious. Warm donuts are the best!

    Fanny – Thanks! I have to say that I don’t like the glazed Krispy Kremes (too sweet). I should try one of their sugared ones.

    Amateur – Aw, thanks.

  • Onesmartcookie
    September 29, 2005

    Hi! Those look so delicious, and I adore anything pumpkin. I know this is counterintuitive to eating a doughnut, but do you know of any good baked doughnut recipes? I’m a little apprehensive about deep frying at home (I’ve never tried), and the health concerns, well, are something I try to reconcile away, but end up feeling too guilty! So if you have any idea about baked doughnuts, let me know!

  • Rainey
    September 29, 2005

    I add soooo many of your recipes to my recipe database and these are going in there immediately! I love pumpkin and even bought a deep fryer just to make doughnuts for my son last summer.

    I see they’re cake doughnuts. I like a yeast doughnut on occasion but the bite through the crusty exterior into a creamy but dense cake is what I remember from my grandmother’s doughnuts. So satisfying!

    But tell me, I’ve been dying to ask, what do you do with all the stuff you bake? If I baked more than once a week I’d have to travel around on a forklift! ;>

  • Alice
    September 29, 2005

    Oh Nic…these sound divine. I never thought I’d make my own doughnuts, but these are so very tempting. My mom used to fry up doughnuts when I was very, very little and we loved them so very much. Somewhere around the time I turned ten or so, she started baking them in donut pans instead. They were never the same as the fried ones!

  • T
    September 29, 2005

    Oh Nic, you’re causing me to think about whipping out my frying equipment! Pumpkin donuts sound simply amazing.

  • Nic
    September 29, 2005

    Onesmartcookie – I tried baking part of this batch in the oven. They were OK – sort of like dry scones/biscuits (still better than some I’ve had), but not good enough for me to have included that option with this recipe. I will try baking donuts again, though.

    Rainey – I get that a lot. I;ll give some away and I’ll bake extra things when I know that people will be around. Some of it gets frozen, too. Most often (as I did with this recipe), I’ll simply halve the recipe and have less to deal with!

    Alice – A donut pan? I want one!

    Tanvi – Now that I’ve done it, I’d say that homemade donuts are worth a go.

  • kitchenmage
    September 29, 2005

    Pumpkin donuts? I think I have something to try for the Thanksgiving onslaught. Almost traditional, but not really. Plus it’d be an excuse to deep fry something, which I never do because I just can’t see using all that oil!

  • Nic
    September 29, 2005

    Kitchenmage – I didn’t like the idea of all the oil either. But I found out that vegetable oil is biodegradeable. I felt better knowing that I didn’f have to store tons of frying oil.

  • Anne
    September 29, 2005

    OH, perfect! A friend just asked me (as the food expert, ha!) how to make doughnuts. I had no clue. Now I know just where to point her. 🙂

  • Clare Eats
    September 29, 2005

    Donuts? OH MY….
    I don9’t know what I would do with a hole(lol) batch though 🙂

  • Shauna
    September 29, 2005

    Okay, you’ve done it again. I’m slavering over these.

    I have to say that I prefer the doughnut spelling, but that’s just the English teacher in me.

    Soon, I’ll have to see if the gluten-free version would work!

  • Nic
    September 29, 2005

    Clare – I know what you *could* do with a whole batch, but I don’t know if you *should* do it. Try halving it and invite some friends over!

    Shauna – The linguist in me says that spelling is beside the point. Let me know if they work with gf flour!

  • Clare Eats
    September 29, 2005

    Donuts? OH MY….
    I don9’t know what I would do with a hole(lol) batch though 🙂

  • Jessica
    September 29, 2005

    Yum! I’m a huge fan of cake doughnuts (no yeast ones for me!). I wonder what would happen if you made the dough and just baked it in the oven? Would it be the same as baking a plain muffin and then rolling it in melted butter and sugar hot out of the oven?

  • Nic
    September 29, 2005

    Jessica – When you bake this dough, it, as I said, becomes sort of bookie/biscuit like. It might be better as a muffin if you wanted to bake it.

  • Cathy
    September 30, 2005

    Nic – those do sound really, really good! I haven’t yet attempted deep fat frying, but I expect to be soon. Bob and Chuck gave me a deep fat fryer a couple of months ago for my birthday… it just hasn’t quite made it to my house yet! Anyway, once it’s here I guess I’m going to have to finally take the plunge.

  • Becky
    October 4, 2007

    I made these tonight for a group of friends…absolutely fabulous! It’s somewhat difficult to keep the temperature constant, taking lots of fiddling, but well worth the effort for my first deep frying experience. I had only whole cloves and so instead of grinding them up I used equal amounts of straight-up pumpkin pie spice instead of the separate ones as listed in the recipe. Turned out delicious.

  • teksty z linkiem
    June 5, 2009

    Interesting website, i have bookmarked your site for future referrence 🙂

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