Thanksgiving Day can be a long slog of cooking and cleaning. I think muscle memory kicks in for a lot of us: locating the cooking pans, scrubbing the potatoes, polishing the silver, chilling the wine, arguing about the gravy. Remembering the disasters of Thanksgivings Past. Ah, the year we forgot the green beans. The time the newly-declared vegan poured turkey gravy all over her mashed potatoes and asked for extra butter. The year we couldn’t get an orphan guest out of the door and off the property fast enough. The years of new babies suddenly falling asleep, and the silence was as golden as the candlelight. Those were the days!
This year, in these times of COVID, we are going to be a little more kid-oriented for Thanksgiving. We’ve all had our shots, but we are keeping to a small, family-pod. We are thrilled to see each other, and we don’t need an elaborate feast. It’s pretty easy roasting a turkey, we just need to remember the basics like removing the turkey giblets, turning the oven on, setting the timer and then setting the table. Eventually the other pieces will fall into place. The cooking time of 15 minutes per pound for the turkey allows for a walk, a puzzle, a craft, or raking leaves.
Next Wednesday, while others are plaiting their decorative pie crusts with British Bakeoff concentration, I am going to be holding a doughnut baking session with a 7-year-old. He is growing up near a very fancy bakery where maple bacon glazed doughnuts, tiered cakes, Napoleons, eclairs and profiteroles are part of the ordinary, daily fair. I hope to keep his attention for half an hour as we mix up some humble, home-baked, glazed pumpkin doughnuts. They will tick off the need for a pumpkin item on the Thanksgiving day menu, and will be tasty and healthy-ish for breakfast. Which means we can indulge in some fancy Bakeoff contender for dessert.
I always imagine the doughnut making process to be part Sorcerer’s Apprentice, part Homer Price – lots of moving parts and hot grease and general pandemonium, as well as being a kabillion calories. There is just not enough calorie burning in leave raking to justify eating the maple bacon glazed hot fresh doughnut of my imagination. Luckily, we are staying close to reality with these pumpkin doughnuts, which are also seasonal and aromatic. You can be stodgy and leave off the glaze – or you can be wicked and crumble up a little bacon.
If you do not have doughnut molds, never fear. You can use muffin pans – with cupcake paper liners. You won’t get quite the same satisfaction as tipping out a fresh warm doughnut, but we are meant to eat them anyway we can. And so we shall. But I will say that our silicon doughnut molds are a miracle. (The Spy Test Kitchens do not benefit from this product endorsement, but I must say they are much easier to deal with than the non-silicone gingerbread house mold I disastrously bought last year: https://www.amazon.com/Walfos-Silicone-Donut-Mold-Dishwasher/dp/B08FHRGKW3/ref=sr_1_1_sspa? )
Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts
For the doughnut dough:
1 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin purée
¼ cup whole milk
For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons whole milk, plus more if needed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375°F.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and baking soda.
In a separate large bowl, whisk together the sugar and oil. Add the eggs and vanilla extract, and whisk until the mixture is thick and yellow, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the pumpkin purée until smooth and combined.
Sift half the dry ingredients into the wet and stir until just combined. Add the milk and stir to combine.
Sift in the remaining dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to pour batter into each doughnut cavity. Bake until the doughnuts are browned, separating from the edges of the pan, and springy when touched, 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove the pans from the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Remove the doughnuts from the pans and allow to cool completely for about 30 minutes.
As the doughnuts cool, make the glaze: In a medium bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla extract and whisk to combine until desired consistency. The glaze should drip slowly, not run, down the sides of the doughnut; add more milk if needed to thin it or more confectioners’ sugar if needed to thicken it.
Working one at a time, dip the top half of each cooled doughnut into the vanilla glaze. Serve immediately, or let cool completely, then store in an airtight container in a single layer for up to 3 days. Mr. Sanders was very popular in the office the day he brought in my doughnut experiments.
Here is a gluten-free version, just in case: https://www.allergicliving.com/recipes/glazed-pumpkin-doughnuts/
If you want to go the Sorcerer’s Apprentice-frying route, please feel free: https://www.biggerbolderbaking.com/pumpkin-donuts-recipe/
The Spy Test Kitchens, Luke the wonder dog and Mr. Sanders all hope you have a safe and memorable Thanksgiving. (It’s not all about the food. One of my fondest Thanksgiving memories is sitting jet lagged, side-by-side on a hotel bed in London with my daughter, amid a welter of British newspapers and London maps, chowing down on cold Pret a Manger Pilgrim sandwiches.) Don’t forget the giblets or the beans, be sure to have enough wine, and take the time to eat some doughnuts. You’ll want to remember this Thanksgiving next year.
“By the time Uncle Ulysses and the sheriff arrived and pushed through the crowd, the lunchroom was a calamity of doughnuts! Doughnuts in the window, doughnuts piled high on the shelves, doughnuts stacked on plates, doughnuts lined up twelve deep all along the counter, and doughnuts still rolling down the little chute, just as regular as a clock can tick.”
― Robert McCloskey, Homer Price