The days are getting a wee bit longer; there's still some light in the sky as I trudge to the car at the end of the workday. The woodstove has been downgraded from nightly companion to "only if it's in the teens" status, since the prolonged bitter cold put such a dent in the woodpile. Before too long (earlier and earlier, as global warming has its way) it will be sugaring season, and the maples that delighted us last fall give us another of their many gifts.
My personal savant skill (other than being able to quote extended passages from conversations and movies verbatim) is the ability to taste something in my head, and write recipes that make that flavor happen. Sometimes a food thought will come into my head, and I'm pretty much unable to proceed on any other task until I go invent it. That's how these doughnuts happened.
I've had an ambivalent relationship with sweet potatoes for most of my life. I know a lot of people think of them as vegetable candy, and you can see the sugar oozing out of them when they bake, but on their own they have left me a little underwhelmed for some reason.
Once I started baking professionally, things changed. Especially when mixed with whole grain flours, sweet potatoes do great things for baked goods. Color, moisture, depth of flavor and sweetness are all there. The moisture from the potatoes softens the bran in the whole grain flour, which helps it bake higher and makes for a lighter, more tender result.
Normally my idea of a doughnut is yeast-raised (I'm still a sucker for a jelly doughnut) or fried (the cider doughnuts from the Cold Hollow Cider Mill are life-changing). But when you put together sweet potatoes, whole grains, maple, and bacon, it's ok by me to bake 'em up and throw 'em down.
These doughnuts have enough nutrition to make a reasonable breakfast while still maintaining treat status. And uh, BACON.
Don't worry if you don't have a doughnut pan; all of these pieces parts are perfectly qualified as muffin material, too.
If you're lucky enough to have your own real maple syrup connection, or will be spending some of this years' bright early spring days out snowshoeing or in one of Vermont's many sugar houses, treat yourself to a batch of these bad boys.
Doughnuts. Maple. Bacon. With just enough whole wheat and sweet potato to make you feel good about it. Every once in a while, you can have it all!
Sweet Potato Maple Bacon Doughnuts
Yield: 12 to 14 large doughnuts or muffins, or 22 to 24 mini doughnuts or muffins
setup: baking bacon
Before you collect the rest of your ingredients, let's use a standard restaurant technique and bake up the bacon. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place 3/4 pound of bacon in a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Put in the oven for 10 minutes; the bacon will start to shed some of its fat. Continue baking for another 8 to 10 minutes until the bacon is crisp. Take the bacon out of the oven and drain off the fat. Cool, transfer the bacon to absorbent paper, then chop into 1/4" chunks.
setup: smashing sweet potatoes
While the bacon is in the oven, find a spot under the bacon rack to tuck in your sweet potato on a piece of foil to catch any drips if it starts to ooze. Once the bacon is done the sweet potato will likely need another 15 minutes to be soft and cooked through. Remove it from the oven and peel it as soon as its cool enough to handle.
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces, 99g) vegetable oil
3 large eggs
3/4 cup (4 1/8 ounces, 118g) maple sugar
1/2 cup (3 3/4 ounces 106g) light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces, 319g) mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup (12 ounces before cooking) cooked, diced bacon, divided
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons (8 ounces, 227g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose or White Whole Wheat Flour
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans, or line the wells of a muffin tin with papers and grease the inside of the papers.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the oil, eggs, sugars, sweet potatoes, vanilla, maple flavoring, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder until smooth. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated. Stir in 2/3 cup of the bacon.
Fill the wells of the doughnut pans nearly to the rim; use about 1/4 cup of batter in each well. For muffins, fill the wells of the pan 3/4 full.
Bake the doughnuts for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean; for muffins bake for 23 to 25 minutes. While the doughnuts are in the oven, make the glaze below.
Remove the doughnuts from the oven and loosen their edges. After 5 minutes, tilt the doughnuts out onto a cooling rack.
Frost the doughnuts while they're still lukewarm, and sprinkle the tops with the reserved bacon from above.
Yield: 1 1/2 cups
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces, 43g) unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (5 1/2 ounces, 156) pure maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon maple flavoring (optional but worth doing)
2 ½ cups (8 ounces, 227g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted or whisked through a strainer
milk as needed to adjust consistency
Put the butter, salt, and syrup into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
Remove from the heat and put a strainer over the saucepan; measure the confectioners' sugar into the strainer and use a whisk to to push the sugar through and eliminate lumps.
Whisk the glaze together and add the maple flavoring if you have it. Maple is a tricky flavor to bake with (syrup alone doesn't have the intensity you're hoping for after being int the oven), and the Boyajian maple flavor makes a big difference to how maple-y the finished product tastes.
Dip the doughnuts and put the back on the rack so you can get sexy drips down the sides. Sprinkle the rest of the bacon over the tops before the icing sets.