Somewhere in between rubbing fragrant vanilla bean into sugar and popping these guys into the oven, I found myself at the beck and call of Strawberry.
Out they came, and my heart was singing. A subtle burst of tang. Gooey bursts of warm chocolate dispersed throughout the batter, little nuggets of treasure. Plump, light-as-air cakey batter to encase everything. Two bowls, whisk, an oven, done.
I was skeptical at first. Initial thoughts gravitated to classic vanilla bean with a more exotic fruity frosting, or chocolate whatnots. Some people don’t like the combination of berry and chocolate, and I get it, but I just couldn’t help myself when I saw fresh, fat strawberries sitting, beckoning in the fridge, round-butted, the promise of sweet juice pulsating under firm and uneven flesh. I thought of strawberries dipped in melted chocolate, and couldn’t get the theme out of my head. So after my good daily dose of reading and writing, I jumped up and got to work. It had to work. And I’m glad it did.
You could say the addition of vanilla bean is pompous, but goodness does it add a whole new dimension of flavour and (slight) grandeur to the whole thing. The speckles are endearing, no? It’s exotic, it’s fearless. Each little doughnut is jam-packed with bits and bobs of strawberry and chocolate, so every bite is a great deal of wonder, a different experience, a slight surprise. In between, you can savour a dandy cake-like medium, the vehicle for all those pockets of tang and sweet. A standard batter so silent and unassuming it almost feels guilt-free.
What’s a doughnut without the glaze.
The magic lies in the incorporation of puréed strawberries, without which this recipe just wouldn’t be the same. J’adore. Pink isn’t my favourite colour, and never will be, but the muted tangy notes elevate this from airy-fairy to plain wicked. Despite my not being accustomed to having real chopped fruit in a doughnut glaze, or any topping for any baked good in general, the whole experience made me realise what a difference the real deal makes.
There’s something about a simple doughnut, enjoyed alone at home or at a coffee shop with a large cup of black coffee, which makes a breakfast get-up or solitary pondering session all the more sensual. It’s homey, and pretty bad, but pretty good.
Strawberry Chocolate Vanilla Bean Baked Doughnuts (makes 16)
For the doughnuts:
265g (slightly less than 2 cups) all-purpose flour
170g (3/4 cup) white castor sugar
1 vanilla bean
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
60g melted, unsalted butter
180ml (3/4 cup) buttermilk, or take a tablespoonful of white vinegar and place it in the bottom of your measuring cup before filling it up to the 180ml-mark with whole milk
70g chopped dark chocolate
170g (1 cup) finely chopped strawberries
For the glaze:
60g (1/3 cup) strawberries, washed and finely chopped
230g icing sugar
Preheat oven to 180C (350F) and butter doughnut pans with melted butter. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, chopped chocolate and salt. In a separate, slightly smaller bowl, pour in your sugar. Take a sharp knife and run it firmly down the middle of the vanilla bean, then scrape out the insides. Dump the clumps of black into the sugar. With your fingertips, rub the vanilla bean into the sugar, so most of it is evenly incorporated into the white mass. Tip the vanilla and sugar mix into the bowl with the rest of the dry ingredients and whisk everything together well, for at least 30 seconds or so.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk (or milk and vinegar mix) and melted butter. Pour the wet mix into the dry mix and mix everything together slowly with a wooden spoon until just combined. The batter should be a little lumpy and slightly thick. Not in the least bit liquidy. Pat your chopped strawberries with a dry paper towel just to remove excess moisture, then stir them into the mix. Using 2 tablespoons, dollop the doughnut batter into the greased doughnut pan(s) (I only have one so I did this in batches). Bake in the preheated oven for 15-16 minutes.
While they are baking, make the glaze- no electrical beaters needed!!
Purée the chopped strawberries in a blender, or you could microwave them and then mash with a fork. Put the strawberries into a large bowl, then using a tablespoon, remove any extra liquid that seeped out. It won’t be much, and you need not remove all of the extra juice. Add half of the icing sugar first and the salt, and mix together with the same tablespoon until you get a wet, dark pink mixture. Add the rest of the icing sugar and continue to mix until you achieve a thick, spreadable consistency.
Once the doughnuts are baked, leave to cool in the pan on a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before turning them out. Once fully cool (around another 15 minutes later), dip the tops of the doughnuts into the strawberry glaze, then let them rest on the cooling rack again. Store the doughnuts in the fridge, because the glaze doesn’t sit too well in a warm environment.
Pink kinda pleasure.