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This is, without question, the best baked doughnut recipe I have ever had. And believe me, I've been looking for a long time for one that could measure up with their fried counterparts. That's why when I came up with this idea, I knew the ingredients involved would solve the one major problem I had with baked doughnuts: the dry, crumbly and tough texture. Not anymore.
How to Make the Best Baked Doughnuts
As I mentioned above, I've tried many baked doughnut recipes. The problem was they were left dry and crumbly. No matter what I did (sour cream, buttermilk, mayo, ricotta cheese), they totally, for lack of a better word, sucked. Like they were edible, some of them were even good, but nothing compared to the fried and true version.
So, I decided to change up my strategy. Instead of asking how I could make a baked doughnut moist, I ask, what's a recipe that's already got a great texture I could adapt into a doughnut?
Behold: The Sticky Toffee Doughnut.
We've got a couple of things working in our favor here. The first, and most important though, is the dates. Listen, if you don't like dates, know that before trying sticky toffee pudding, neither did I. These do not taste like dates (nor do they have the texture of dates). These taste like deep toffee caramel manna from heaven. The basically just borrow the moisture, and the dense texture and sweetness from them to create the world's most perfect dessert.
The second thing we've got going on is the toffee sauce. We're going to use this in two ways: to brûlée the top of our doughnuts (yes you read that correctly. Yes it is the best thing ever) so they get an amazing crackly crispy top (and so the flavour of the toffee sauce caramelizes). THEN we're going to use the left over toffee as a dipping sauce for our doughnuts.
So there's no way this can't be the best baked doughnut recipe ever.
Oh, and we make them without yeast, so it's super easy. Woohoo!
Step by Step Instructions
First, we need to soften up and dissolve those dates. The best method I've found for this is to pour some boiling water on them, and then add some baking soda. Set those aside while we get everything else going.
In a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla, mix until combined.
Combine the flour and the baking powder. Gradually add to the egg mixture. Do not overmix.
Add the date mixture and fold into the batter. This part can be trickier than it sounds. The batter doesn't like to integrate with the dates very well. Mix it as best you can without completely beating it and getting the gluten going - that will make the doughnuts tough.
Using a couple of spoons, we're going to gently place the dough into a prepared doughnut pan. We want the doughnuts to be about ⅓ full (this amounts to using between 2-3 tablespoon per doughnut). These guys have quite a bit of rise to them.
While the doughnuts are baking, we can make the toffee sauce. Just melt the cream, butter and sugar together and let it boil away until the sauce thickens.
After baking for 10-12 minutes, the doughnuts come out. Drizzle a little toffee sauce on the top of each one. Use a pastry brush so it's evenly coating the surface. Then we're going to broil the tops for 2-3 minutes, to get that brûlée action. Watch these so carefully though, they will burn incredibly quickly.
That's it! The best baked doughnut recipe is complete. After that, we just need to dip them in the warm toffee sauce as we eat them.
Making them Ahead
One of the best parts of this recipe is that the doughnuts actually get better after day one. I would recommend making and baking them a day ahead of time, and then making the toffee sauce and brulee them the next day, when you're ready to eat them. The texture is out of this world, and they come out of the oven piping hot as if you just baked them!
Can Doughnuts Be Frozen?
Yup, sure can. Would this be the best baked doughnut recipe ever if they couldn't? Again, I would just hold off on the toffee sauce and brulee aspect, do that when they're defrosted and ready to serve. I would place them on a baking sheet, freeze the doughnuts, and then throw them into a big freezer bag once they were frozen. This will hopefully prevent them from fusing themselves together.
No Doughnut Pan? No Problem.
If you don't have a doughnut pan, that's ok. You can make these into muffins and they will be just as good! Follow all the same instructions, but add the batter to a lined muffin tin, filling the cups ⅓ to ½ way up the sides.
Also, this is just a sticky toffee pudding recipe with slightly more flour. You can totally just through it in an 8x8" baking sheet and make it into pudding.
If you're interested in a doughnut pan, you can find one here.
The Best Baked Sticky Toffee Doughnuts (with Dates)
For the Doughnuts
- ¾ C pitted dates
- 1¼ C boiling water
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ C room temperature butter
- ¾ C granulated sugar
- 1 egg room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1½ C flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
For the Toffee Sauce
- ½ C butter
- ½ C heavy cream
- 1 C brown sugar
Make the Doughnuts
- Preheat your oven to 350F.
- Prepare your doughnut pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Chop the dates finely and add to a medium bowl. Pour boiling water over the dates, and add baking soda. Stir well and set aside.
- In a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla, mix until combined.
- Combine the flour and the baking powder. Gradually add to the egg mixture. Do not overmix.
- Add the date mixture and fold into the batter.
- Carefully spoon the batter into the doughnut pan. The doughnuts should be ⅓ of the way full, or between 2 and 3 tablespoon of batter for each one.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Brush the toffee sauce over each doughnut - then broil for 2-3 minutes (don't let them burn!
- Take out and serve immediately with additional toffee sauce.
Make the Toffee Sauce
- Melt butter, sugar and cream together in a saucepan over high heat, stirring constantly.
- Once it starts boiling, turn the temperature down to medium low, or the sauce is just bubbling.
- Let it cook for 8 minutes, keeping an eye on it so it doesn't spill over. After it's thickened, take off the heat. It can store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
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