Rain and Rhubarb: Spring Doughnuts with Double Rhubarb White Chocolate Cream

Yesterday, as the rain pattered on my windowpanes and two little toddler feet pattered on my hardwood floors, I made some doughnuts.

I say it like it’s no big deal, and it really isn’t.  If doughnuts intimidate you, I think it’s time to swallow back your fear of vats of extremely hot oil and just let these beauties into your life.  The vanilla-scented sugar crystals melting on your tongue while rhubarb cream dribbles down your chin will reward you for your efforts.

Double Rhubarb White Chocolate filled doughnuts | www.purplehousecafe.com

Let me show you how easy gourmet doughnuttery can be.  You’ll thank me:  because these doughnuts paired with a pink sparkly wine on a rainy day will bring a smile to your face, and because gourmet doughnuts are totally the next big thing.

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But first!

I had visited my my local Farmer’s Market – the Halifax Seaport Market – on Saturday because a) I usually do and b) there’s a contest, you see.  The Halifax Food Bloggers are participating in a contest this month to create an original recipe using primarily ingredients sourced from the Seaport Market (the only exceptions being things like flour, yeast, oil, and some seasonings).  I went in search of inspiration, with some pre-conceived notions in my head about maybe some ground lamb for Greek-inspired nachos, my little recipe generator, whom I affectionately anthropomorphize as a mouse on a wheel (can you anthropomorphize something as a mouse?) toiling away, fantasizing about new flavour combinations, often (and my hubby will attest) in the middle of the night, or during important conversations.  And in the shower.

But I digress.

I left the market with a basket not full of ground lamb but of the first rhubarb of the spring from Noggins Corner Farm; a bottle of Ironworks Distillery Rhubarb Esprit liqueur; barley flour, raw sugar and vanilla beans from The Grainery Food Co-op, white chocolate from Gourmandises Avenue Chocolaterie; and eggs and goat milk from Ran-Cher Acres.  And, of course, a bottle of Benjamin Bridge’s Nova 7 sparkling wine to go with.  Because who says doughnuts need to go with coffee?

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www.purplehousecafe.com

Double rhubarb white chocolate cream filled doughnuts, fried ever so briefly to give them a little bite and deep golden colour, and then tossed in vanilla bean-scented sugar.  From ingredients that you can find at the local farmer’s market – which means that they taste even better because they support local business.

Are you sufficiently motivated to make doughnuts with me now?

These little babies require about a total of an hour of hands-on time.  I managed it while entertaining a 16 month old and washing a gargantuan pile of dishes.  You can do it too!  Because they’re yeasted doughnuts, mostly they require you waiting around for them to rise.  The pastry cream is a little high maintenance, but oh-so-worth-it.  Just pour yourself a glass of that sparkling, pull a stool up to the stove and get lost in the stirring.  It’s like kitchen meditation, and I highly recommend it.

Here’s what you need:

For the doughnuts –

  • 2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp. warm water
  • 1 3/4 cups barley flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour
  • 1 cup whole milk at room temperature (I used goat milk)
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • ~6 cups vegetable oil for frying

For the pastry cream –

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup whole milk (I used goat milk)
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chunks
  • 2 tbsp. butter

For the rhubarb – 

  • ~3 stalks of rhubarb (approximately 1-1.5 cups)
  • Water
  • 1/4 cup sugar (more if you dislike rhubarb’s tartness)
  • 2 tbsp. rhubarb liquor

For the vanilla sugar –

  • 1 1/3 cup raw sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean

Here’s what you do:

For the doughnuts – 

I think it makes sense to start the doughnuts first – that way you can make the stewed rhubarb and pastry cream while they rise.  But, by all means, you can make the rhubarb and pastry cream the night before.

Add the yeast to the warm water in a large bowl and allow the yeast to proof (to foam up) for about five minutes.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients, forming a shaggy dough.  Use your hands to fully incorporate the ingredients  – don’t knead, just make sure you end up with a uniform ball of dough.  It will be a little sticky.  You can add a bit more flour if it’s too sticky to handle.

Dust the dough with some flour, cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1.5-2 hours.  Now’s a good time to get busy with the pastry cream and the rhubarb.

Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured countertop and roll into a 1/2″ thick disc using a floured rolling pin.  Using a glass or a cookie cutter, cut circles ~3″ in diameter.  Note:  if you re-roll the scrap dough to make more doughnuts, these will turn out a little “tougher.”  And uglier.  But still tasty.  Go for it!

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Place the circles on a flour-dusted cookie sheet, cover with a dish towel and set aside to rise again for 30 minutes.

*See below for frying instructions, and how to bring it all together!

For the rhubarb – 

Roughly chop the rhubarb and throw it into a sauce pan with the sugar.  Add enough water to not quite cover the rhubarb.  Place the mixture over medium heat and allow to simmer until the rhubarb has disintegrated and much of the liquid is cooked off.  Stir in the rhubarb liquor and allow to cool and before adding to the pastry cream.

For the pastry cream – 

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar, stirring them for a few seconds until they are well combined and slightly lighter in colour.  Whisk in the flour and salt.  Now whisk the milk in, ensuring that you incorporate it in small increments to avoid creating lumps.

Place the saucepan over medium heat and stir nearly continuously until the cream begins to thicken.  When bubbles start to steam up in the cream and it achieves the consistency of pudding, remove from the heat and stir in the white chocolate and butter until they melt.  Transfer the cream to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap so that the plastic wrap is in contact with the cream.  Place in the refrigerator to cool completely – about 2 hours.

For the vanilla sugar – 

Split the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds into a large bowl containing the sugar.  Use your fingers to combine the sugar and the vanilla beans.

Putting the whole thing together – 

Pour 2-2 1/2 inches (~6 cups) of vegetable oil into a large pot and heat on high until it reaches 350F.  Don’t have a deep fry or candy thermometer?  Yeah, I hear ya.  If not, just place the handle of a wooden spoon or chopstick into the oil.  When that causes the oil to bubble steadily, it’s at the right temperature (note:  if it boils really vigorously or even splashes, it’s too hot!).

Using a slotted spoon, fry the doughnuts two at a time (to avoid sticking), 1 minute on each side or until deep brown.  When they finish frying, give them a quick dunk in the oil and transfer quickly to the bowl of sugar.  Toss to coat in sugar and transfer to a paper towel to cool.  Return oil to 350F between each pair of doughnuts.

Double Rhubarb Cream-filled Doughnuts | www.purplehousecafe.com

Using the handle of a spoon, poke a little hole in the side of each doughnut.  Be careful how you handle them – you don’t want to knock all the sugar off.

Gently stir your cooled pastry cream and cooled rhubarb mix together.  Taste it.  Good eh?  Now try to restrain yourself as you dump the rhubarb cream into a pastry bag fitted with a large tip.  Insert the tip of the pastry bag into the hole you’ve made in the doughnut and fill with cream.

Stop laughing.

Double Rhubarb Cream-Filled Doughnuts | www.purplehousecafe.com

Pour yourself a teacup full of sparkling pink wine and enjoy!  Or, you know, share with some friends.

Homemade Wheat Thins

I hear kids really like Goldfish crackers.  Because my little one is dairy-free and because I’m committed to eating as little processed food as possible, I went in search of a cracker recipe that Ada (and the rest of us) would love.  I find that snacks like this are imperative when you try to get a home cooked meal on the table every night:  something to stave off the post-daycare grumblies while you take the time you need to cook dinner.  Can you relate?

Homemade Wheat Thins | www.purplehousecafe.com

Luckily, the first recipe I stumbled across turned out great…and taste exactly like Wheat Thins (one of my faves).  Did you know that the flavour the makes Wheat Thins taste like Wheat Thins is vanilla?  Yeah, me neither.

Here’s what you need:

1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2 tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt (plus more for sprinkling)

1/4 tsp. paprika

4 tbsp. butter

1/4 cup water

1/4 tsp. vanilla

Here’s what you do:

Preheat your oven to 400F.

In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Add the butter and, rubbing it between your fingers, work it into the dry ingredients until it’s crumbly.  Add the wet ingredients and stir until it forms a cohesive dough.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead until just combined (try not to overwork the dough!).

Separate the dough into four parts.  Roll out the dough, one quarter at a time, onto a baking stone or a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper or lightly greased, using a rolling pin.  (Disclaimer:  I used my baking stone for these crackers.  According to the original recipe, you’ll get a crispier cracker using a baking stone.  I didn’t try the recipe on a cookie sheet so I don’t know).  Roll it until it’s quite thin (a couple millimeters).  Use a sharp knife or a pizza cutter to cut the crackers into squares.  Sprinkle a bit of salt over the cookies.

Homemade Wheat Thins | www.purplehousecafe.com

Homemade Wheat Thins | www.purplehousecafe.com

Bake the crackers till just browned – 5-10 minutes in most ovens – but keep an eye on them because they crisp up quickly.

Repeat the above steps with the rest of the dough (and be careful rolling out dough on your hot pizza stone!).

Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of http://traceysculinaryadventures.blogspot.ca/2011/02/homemade-wheat-thins.html#.UUdQUxfU-xo

Granola Bars: A healthy, homemade snack

In my continued quest to eat less processed food, I started making our snacks from scratch.  These granola bars are really quick to make, and usually last us through the week (well, after the initial finger-scooping of warm, gooey oat clumps fresh out of the oven).

Granola Bars | www.purplehousecafe.com

Here’s what you need:

2 cups oats

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup honey

1 egg

1 cup (or so) of your choice of dried fruit, nuts, or chocolate.  I highly recommend the chocolate.

Granola Bars | www.purplehousecafe.com

Mix all ingredients and press into greased 11 x 13 pan. Bake at 325F for 20 minutes or until edges are browned. Take out and let cool entirely. Cut into bars for snacking.

Granola Bars | www.purplehousecafe.com

Candied ginger is an EXCELLENT choice in granola bars!

Granola Bars | www.purplehousecafe.com

Recipe adapted from Super Healthy Kids http://www.superhealthykids.com/

Shaved Brussels sprouts salad

Shaved Brussels sprouts salad
Here’s a simple little thing:  shaved Brussels sprout salad.  Brussels sprouts are a staple in our diet.  We usually eat them roasted, but this is a neat twist.  Honestly, I would never have thought they’d taste so good raw!
Brussel Sprout Salad | www.purplehousecafe.com
Here’s what you need:
3 cups Brussels sprouts

1/2 small red onion, sliced finely

2-3 slices of proscuitto, sliced into ribbons

Juice of one lemon

1 tsp. honey

1 tsp. whole grain mustard

1 tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Grated Parmesan cheese to garnish

Here’s what you do:

Brussel Sprout salad | www.purplehousecafe.com

Soak the onion slices in a small bowl of cold water while you prepare the rest of the salad.

Whisk together the lemon juice, honey, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper until emulsified.

Trim the Brussels sprouts of their outer leaves and the root ends.  Slice finely and then use your fingers to separate out the slices so they look almost like a slaw.

Toss the shaved sprouts in a bowl with the onions (drained of the water) and the dressing.  Serve with grated Parmesan.

Enjoy!

Brussel Sprout Salad | www.purplehousecafe.com

Recipe adapted from http://food52.com/recipes/7650-shaved-brussels-sprout-salad-with-red-onion-lemon-and-pecorino.