Black and White Cookie Donuts (Baked!)

Food nostalgia is hitting pretty hard around here, lately.

Black and White donuts
Having lived my whole life in New Jersey (except for college in Pennsylvania – yeah, I went really far), I had no clue what to expect when I moved cross-country to San Diego in 2012. I knew I could probably ditch my winter coat and had prepared myself for Dunkin Donuts-withdrawal, but as far as the small stuff? I figured it couldn’t be that different. I mean, it was the same country after all.

But beyond the obvious lack-of-snow and lack-of-DD, over time I’ve realized there are a lot of little things I took for granted living in the NYC-metro area. Diners! Jersey bagels! Italian bakeries! Autumn leaves! Feeling a chill in the air! Of course I’d be foolish to ignore the wonderful attributes that Southern California has to offer – I wore a t-shirt and flip flops yesterday – but sometimes you just yearn for a taste of “home”, in the regional sense.

Einstein Bagels are good, Jersey bagels are in-freakin’-credible. Crisp outsides, super soft and chewy centers. Especially the cinnamon raisin ones. Typing this out just made me crave them BIG TIME. Bagels from Long Island (NY) also rank highly in the upper echelon of bagels as far as I’m concerned.

“Breakfast cafes” are nice, Jersey diners are better. Zero pretension, zero thought given to ambiance, zero qualms about ordering a turkey dinner with a cup of coffee for breakfast.

68°F in January is great, 27°F in January is…well, 68°F is just great, period. Moving on…

Italian bakeries. Cookies covered in chocolate chips that are as big as your head. Freshly-made cannoli shells (can we talk about how WordPress doesn’t think “cannoli” is a word?! For shame). Rainbow cookies (my ultimate, hands-down favorite). White cardboard boxes with red-and-white striped twine. Black-and-white cookies. Love.

For those in the know, you know why the list above is so special. Yes, everything is delicious, there’s no denying that. But looking back, I can remember that quintessential white bakery box in so many of my childhood memories. It was sitting beside me in the backseat of the car while we traveled to visit relatives on Christmas morning, it attended all of my birthday parties, it even received prime placement on our Thanksgiving table year after year. You know it has to be something special.

It’s been too long since I’ve had any of the above bakery treats, so I decided to satisfy my hankering for donuts by making a batch inspired by the black and white cookie. Like its namesake, these donuts have a pillowy-soft body with a crisp layer of icing – half black and half white. The cookies (and so, the donuts) taste ever-so-slightly of lemon, although the flavor is not an obvious lemon. No lip puckering here. And it’s January, and you know, resolutions… so they’re baked. While these didn’t come from a white box with red-and-white twine, they certainly taste like they would.

Donut recipe adapted from The Faux Martha, icing recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour.

Black and White Cookie Donuts (Baked)
Yields 6 donuts

1/3 cup milk*
1 tsp white vinegar*
3 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup bread flour
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp agave nectar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp lemon extract

Vanilla Icing:
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 tbsp simple syrup (or light corn syrup)**
2 tsp hot water
1/8 tsp almond extract

Chocolate Icing:
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tbsp simple syrup (or light corn syrup)**
3/4 tbsp hot water
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted

1.Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine milk and vinegar in a small bowl and set aside for 5-10 minutes until milk curdles. *Alternatively, you can use 1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together curdled milk, melted butter, sugar, agave nectar, egg, vanilla extract, and lemon extract.

3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix until combined. Be careful not to overmix, as you don’t want the donuts to become tough.

4. Grease your donut pan. Spoon batter into a plastic bag (or piping bag if you have one). Push out all air from the bag and seal closed. Work batter inside the bag towards the bottom. Snip corner of plastic bag, and pipe batter evenly into six donut wells.

Batter with bag

5. Bake for 7-8 minutes, or until donuts have become golden brown around the edges. Let donuts sit for a few minutes in the pan, then remove and let cool on rack.

Baked donuts out of oven
6. To make the icing: use two separate bowls for vanilla and chocolate.

Vanilla Icing: Combine confectioners’ sugar, simple syrup**, hot water, and almond extract. Whisk until mixture is smooth and resembles an icing-like consistency. If it’s too runny for your taste, add more confectioners’ sugar. If it’s too thick, add a very small amount of water at a time. Be conservative here – you don’t want to swing the other way and have icing that’s too runny.

Chocolate Icing: Combine confectioners’ sugar and unsweetened cocoa powder in a small bowl. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave, stirring after every twenty second interval, until smooth. Pour melted chocolate into the confectioners’ sugar mixture, along with simple syrup** and water. Whisk until mixture is smooth. If it’s too runny in this case, add more confectioners’ sugar along with cocoa powder, if too thick add just a small amount of water.

**Traditionally, you’ll see light corn syrup used in icing recipes. However I was already elbows deep in making the donuts when I realized that we were out, so I improvised by making a homemade simple syrup. I simmered 1 part water to 3 parts granulated sugar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until bubbles formed, then reduced heat to low for about 15 minutes until mixture had boiled down and thickened. I was very happy with the results, but if you have light corn syrup, feel free to save a few steps and use it instead.

7. Spread chocolate icing on one half of each donut, and vanilla on the other half. Let icing harden before serving.


How to Salvage a Recipe Whoops

salvage recipe whoops text

You know what I really hate to do? Waste things. When I was little, I always wanted to save things, because surely I’d need a stockpile of wrapping paper scraps and empty glass bottles. In case of a decoupage emergency or something. Through the years I’ve (thankfully) learned to part with many could-be craft supplies, because while I can have ideas for days, the reality is that I won’t get around to crafting all of my grand plans.

Food, though…food is a different story. You’ve spent money on ingredients, spent time preparing whatever it is that you’re making, and seeing both of those things thrown into the garbage is all kinds of frustrating. Plus if you’re making something, there’s a good chance that you’re hungry, and your stomach has already set its expectations accordingly. Having to abandon your plans and start fresh is apt to pitch even the most even-tempered into the throes of hangriness. Look. out.

So when you first get that nagging feeling that your recipe is headed off the tracks, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Can you cut it into small pieces and bake it a different way?

2. Is the taste spot-on but the presentation…lacking?

3. Can you cover it in frosting and/or sprinkles to make the whoops go away?

4. Can you cut off the offending piece?

5. Is it feasible to rename whatever it is and pass it off like something else?

Regarding point #5, it’s all about managing expectations. Depending on what you’re making (and how much you talked it up beforehand), you may not have much lead time before you realize your recipe’s going south, so sometimes this is unavoidable. For example, if you’ve been raving about a gigantic cinnamon roll for days and have gotten someone else craving it, having them witness you frantically scurrying around the kitchen in search of your muffin pan might dash their dreams a bit (sorry, B!). Likewise, promising to bring a loaf of banana bread somewhere and showing up with a plate of cookies that suspiciously looked like they contained bananas and chocolate chips might be, well, awkward. So, in the ideal scenario, “Hey guys, I made banana bread biscotti crisps!” sounds a whole lot better than “well, I was going to make a loaf of bread, but then x, y, z happened…”. A whoops indeed (but still better than showing up empty-handed).

In the couple of months since starting My Sequined Life, I’ve encountered SO. MANY. kitchen whoops I can’t even begin to tell you. Under-seasoning french toast so it tastes just like eating…soggy bread. Forgetting to grease the pan so the mini loaves that I envisioned would look so cute in a photo turned into a crumby (and unpictured) mess. Breathing a sigh of relief that we had just the amount of eggs necessary for a recipe…and then dropping them on the floor. The list goes on.

Most of the time these whoops go undocumented (for good reason), but here are two recipes I resurrected by using a mix of the techniques above.

Case #1 – Banana bread beer…bread

Synopsis – I saw this beer in the store. Thought it would be all sorts of clever to use it to make banana bread. Not so.

The Whoops – Everything was seemingly fine – the batter looked normal, the loaf was rising in the oven, etc. Took it out of the oven to cool and the thing deflated until it was barely 1″-tall. A dense banana bread brick.

The Fix – Cut it up and bake it again (#1 above). I sliced the loaf into 1/4″-thick slices, laid the slices down on their sides on a cookie sheet, and baked them until the edges were golden brown and they were crisp throughout. From banana bread brick to banana bread biscotti crisps within 10 minutes.


Case #2 – Cinnamon Roll Cake

Synopsis – This giant cinnamon roll cake on Sally’s Baking Addiction stopped me in my pinning tracks on Pinterest. Doesn’t it look incredible?? I showed it to B and said I’d make it for New Year’s Day breakfast (setting expectations…my first mistake). The problem with a New Year’s Day breakfast that requires rising time? New Year’s Eve festivities, that’s what. I slept in until 10:00 AM (what!) and thought I could have my cake – literally – and eat it too by still making the cake but taking a few shortcuts (my second mistake).

The Whoops – I won’t even share with you my methodology here, but it involved a tube of store-bought dough, a gloppy, undercooked center, and a few tears of frustration.

The Fix – Grab your muffin tin (#2 above). I ripped my half-crispy-half-raw monstrosity of a breakfast into small pieces and placed them into eight greased muffin tins. I popped them back in the oven, placed a loose tent of aluminum foil over the top halfway through so that they didn’t crisp up too much, and removed when everything was cooked through. Drizzled some glaze over top and voilà – Pull-Apart Cinnamon Roll Muffins were born.

Post-ripping, pre-second-bake.

The finished product – Cinnamon Roll Pull Apart Muffins. Doesn’t look like such a whoops after all, now does it? In fact, got B’s seal of approval!

Of course there are plenty of times when what you’re making hurdles past the point of rescuing (I will run screaming from unintentionally-curdled milk), but hopefully with an assortment of tools and a dash of creativity you can turn your kitchen whoops into something that’s beyond edible, and maybe even a little delicious.

Carrot Cake Pancakes

Who says you can’t eat dessert for breakfast?

I mean, really. If I can snack on a bowl of cereal at night, then it’s only fair that breakfast returns the favor.

Truthfully, these pancakes were born from a hankering I had for carrot cake. Carrot cake, as in an actual cake – for dessert. Which I totally intended to make, by the way, but come morning I just couldn’t stand it any longer. I do tend to be impatient. It was 9:00 A.M., I had all the ingredients I needed, and most importantly, I hadn’t told anyone I was planning on making a carrot cake. They couldn’t miss something they never knew was coming, right? Right. Behold, this beauty of a breakfast.

While the flavors and spices are reminiscent of its dessert namesake, I don’t think you’d want to stack ’em up and serve them after dinner at your next party. This recipe is not nearly as sweet as actual cake (partially remedied by that maple syrup drizzle you see going on up there). And what else is an essential component of carrot cake? Cream cheese frosting. Being that it’s breakfast and all, instead of whipping up actual frosting, I spread one wedge of Laughing Cow cinnamon cream cheese on the top of the stack. Again, this recipe is meant for breakfast, not dessert, so depending on how your taste buds are calibrated, you may want to let them know that they shouldn’t be expecting a sugar rush of sweetness. Instead, they’re about to enjoy a satisfyingly spiced and healthier version that won’t leave them hanging.

Carrot Cake Pancakes with slice

Carrot Cake Pancakes

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole-wheat flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 egg
1 1/2 cup milk
3 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 cup grated carrots
handful of chopped pecans

1. Grate carrots and chop pecans (I like to do as much prep work as I can before I get in the groove of adding/mixing ingredients).
2. In a large bowl, combine flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
3. In a medium bowl, lightly whisk egg. Add milk, butter, vanilla, and sugar, and combine all together with whisk until smooth and no lumps are left from the brown sugar.
4. Pour wet ingredients into the bowl with flour mixture and stir together until fully mixed.
5. Stir in carrots and pecans until just combined.
6. Grease pan with cooking spray or add a pat of butter that will melt and coat pan once heated. Heat stove top burner over medium heat. Pour batter onto heated pan and allow pancakes to cook for a few minutes.

Pancakes on pan
7. Once edges are cooked and bubbles begin to rise up in the pancake’s center, flip with spatula and allow for the other side to cook. I find that this takes a lot less time than the first side needed.
8. Check underside for doneness. Once cooked through, serve immediately.

Yields 7-8 medium-sized pancakes

Oven-Baked Coconut Almond Pancake

If everything had gone as planned, this breakfast would have never even come across our plates.

Oven-Baked Coconut Almond Pancake

Rewind to Brian and I walking around downtown San Diego one Saturday morning, when we happened upon a tremendous number of people waiting in a line…for something. As we got closer, I saw that these would-be brunchers were waiting for some prized real estate in a small cafe that I’d never heard of (which really isn’t any feat – after nearly a year of living here in San Diego, I still feel like #1 Tourist when it comes to food). Positive that this place had to be fantastic, we absolutely decided to forgo the potentially amazing brunch and Yelp’ed our way to the nearest bagel chain, where we were able to get our mitts on coffee and bagels in under ten minutes. Seriously, who are these people that can wait forty-five minutes in line before they get their coffee, anyway?

But I didn’t forget the brunch that got away. So when we found ourselves searching out breakfast on a weekday and saw a three-person deep line, we had to. The coffee? Five-refills-amazing. But their true pièce de résistance comes in the form of a decadent puffed pancake, encased in syrupy cinnamon apple slices. SWOON.

I was hungry. I ordered it. Then I was super embarrassed when it arrived at our table because it was humongous and looked like it could have easily fed us both, as well as the couple at the next table over.

I loved it.

So when I promised to recreate it at home recently, I was flummoxed when I discovered we didn’t have apples. I had SWORN we had apples.  Where were the apples? All eaten, apparently. I was pressed for time and pressed to find a plan B that would satisfy my puffed pancake craving. Cue, Iron Chef, breakfast-style.

We didn’t have apples, but we did have orange juice, milk, coconut flakes, and leftover egg whites. Good enough for me! This pancake was so good (and, no doubt, much healthier), that nobody even asked why, after all my raving, it didn’t even have apples (or cinnamon, for that matter).

Oven-Baked Coconut Almond Pancake
1/2 cup flour – I used a mixture of 1/4 c white whole-wheat and 1/4 c unbleached all-purpose, but your choice
dash of salt
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup egg whites
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut*
Confectioners’ sugar, for decoration

1. Preheat oven to 425º F.
2. Whisk flour(s) and salt together in a medium-sized bowl.
3. Combine milk, OJ, egg whites, almond extract, and sugar together in a separate bowl.
4. Pour wet ingredients into dry and combine, but don’t overmix.
5. Stir in flaked coconut.
6. Pour mixture into oven-safe pan (I used cast iron) and bake for 15 minutes. Pancake will puff, then deflate quickly once it’s out of the oven:

Puffed Pancake

7. Invert pancake onto plate and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Drizzle with maple syrup if you’d like (oh, you’d like). Cut into slices and serve immediately.

Yields 2 servings

*I realize this may be hard to find, so feel free to sub in the more readily available sweetened coconut flakes. Depending on your taste preference, you may wish to decrease or omit the added sugar.