Friday, April 19, 2013

Quest: Walnut, Mahleb and Orange Blossom Water Doughnuts


I had been craving Lebanese cookies, the butter-rich, walnut loaded, orange blossom water infused, mahleb spiced pastries I have only rarely been lucky enough to find at Arab Bakeries. Perhaps a peculiar craving, but I thought it would make a terrific doughnut flavor...and it turns out that I was right!

The best part is that I finally worked out the correct ratio to be able to cut out any additional oil by increasing the nuts. I've also made another breakthrough with the discovery of cream of tartar. Cream of tartar is an acid that when wet will react in the same manner that vinegar does to create gas and lift to the doughnut. The first attempt at adding cream of tarter actually produced too light of a crumb, the doughnuts fell apart when I turned them out, but the flavor was great. That prompted the addition of more nuts which resulted in a stronger nut flavor and more body to the crumb which suited the flavor profile I was after. These are rich with walnut, highlighted with just a hint of mahleb (an Arab spice of ground cherry pits) and accented with orange blossom water which provides more of an exotic scent than flavor and thoroughly satisfied my craving!

'Angel Wing' Doughnuts (that's what Grandma always called them)

1/2 cup milk of choice
2 teaspoons vinegar
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
1/2 teaspoon ground mahleb
1 teaspoon ground flax seed
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup walnuts
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cups white sugar 
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 to 3/4 cup powdered sugar for dusting/coating
  1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Grease a non-stick doughnut pan with cooking spray. 
  2. Measure the milk in a liquid measure and add all remaining liquid ingredients, adding vinegar first to curdle the milk. 
  3. In the bowl of the food processor, combine all the dry ingredients except powdered sugar and blend until the nuts have been pulverized and the mixture looks uniform. 
  4. Slowly pour in the liquid to blend it into the dry ingredients, alternatively blend the dry and the wet by hand in another bowl. Immediately spoon the mixture into the prepared doughnut pan. The batter is thick, just divide it among the six holes, placing it directly on the middle hole, use a finger to push it off the middle 'hole' spot and smooth it a bit to fill them evenly.
  5. Bake 15-16 minutes and remove the pan from the oven, turn the doughnuts out onto a cooling rack and immediately place them bottom sides up back into the doughnut pan. The middles may have baked over the hole section of the pan a bit, but carefully just press them back down into the pan, remove any extra crumb/clumps from the middles. Flipping them during the baking process crisps up the bottoms and gives them an overall better doughnut form.  Return them to the oven and bake until they begin to develop a golden color, approximately 5-6 minutes. 
  6. Remove to a cooling rack. 
  7. Once cool, coat in powdered sugar. Place powdered sugar in shallow bowl and press each doughnut in to coat both tops and bottoms, tapping away the excess. 
This recipe makes 6 doughnuts. 

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