gluten-free brioche doughnuts

 This is supposed to be about doughnuts.

That's why you're here, right? Because you've been promised doughnuts? Don't worry, I've got them. Crispy, tender, not-too-sweet yeast doughnuts that taste like brioche, piped full of a tart, spiced plum jam. They taste like early fall. They taste like breakfast. They taste like damn fine doughnuts.

It's Gluten-Free Ratio Rally time once again, and I'm determined to get back in the game. Missing last month—cake!—was disappointing, to say the least. There was no way I was going to let doughnuts pass me by, too.

Which was why, in the midst of everything going on in our little corner of the world, I found myself making plum jam during stolen moments at work. Making doughnut dough at midnight two days ago. And frying up the pastries at noon yesterday, when I really should have been making a nutritious lunch for my suddenly-school-aged boys.

Did you catch that? "School-aged boys?"


This week, I turn into the Mother of Kids Who Go to School. Which, I am perfectly aware, happens regularly to mothers everywhere, all the time. Maybe you've even experienced the transformation yourself. But for such a normal, everyday occurrence, it sure does have the force and momentum of the unknown, doesn't it? I think I'm more unsettled by what's happening than the boys are.

Wylie had his first day of preschool yesterday. Crazy, that this little guy who still feels so young to me, who I still instinctively think of as a toddler, who was practically just born, could be ready for school, even if it is only two mornings a week. Adorable Wylie, who last night asked me to hold him "like a buckle." "Please hold me, like a buckle. Because I'm tired. Sometimes I wake up and I'm tired, so please hold me like a buckle." I have to remind myself that he's the same person who counts to 20 and makes up his own stories and draws amazingly clear pictures of people and craves the company of other kids. Today is his third birthday. He's ready.

And then there's Kalen. He starts school tomorrow. Real school, big kid school, where you go for seven hours a day and need school supplies and have to be able to use the bathroom on your own. We have been preparing for this day for months. Talking about it, gathering the necessary gear, and discussing strategies for soothing away-from-home anxiety. He's nervous, I'm nervous, and I still have no clear sense of whether tomorrow will be disastrous or empowering for him. But every day, as I watch him read for longer and longer stretches of time, or work out a solution to a problem that seemed complicated to my mind, or perform impressive feats of balance and bravery on the playground, I realize that school is not going to be that big of a leap for him. He's been naturally moving in that direction for a long time now, picking up new skills left and right, embracing new experiences. He's ready.

But me? I had no idea it would feel like this. I had thought I would be looking forward to the novelty of kid-free time. I had imagined it would open up a world of possibilities of Things I Can Get Done during the daylight hours. All summer long, I've been looking forward to this time with excitement.

I had not imagined I would be feeling preemptively lonely.

I had also not understood what it would mean for the rhythm of our family. I didn't see coming the sudden, tumbling-over-itself halt of summer, that season that had for so many years simply eased us gently into fall, sleepily and without fanfare. I hadn't realized how much the pace of our daily lives would be dictated by school schedules. Gone are mid-day trips to the library. Bedtime comes too early on a school night to afford us the suddenly-apparent luxury of spending the early evening playing in the backyard, coming inside only at the last minute for a quick, late supper before falling into bed. Josh is trying to accept the hard fact that his ritual of having a lazy breakfast with the boys will now be a special, rare occurrence. And Wylie has no idea that his days will be significantly changed, with his built-in best friend and playmate now gone for most of the day.

Changes, you know? They can be hard to take.

Add to this emotionally-charged mix Wylie's birthday and my in-laws visiting and a very heavy work load at the restaurant, and you can see why I'm having trouble really focusing on the doughnuts right now. (My ratio should be a giveaway - it's messy and scattered, just like me.)

Instead, I'm using all my energy just trying to keep up with the pace of our life, trying to accept where we are right now, bittersweet though it may be. I'm trying to learn to let go, to let my children be themselves out in the world, to encourage independence and self-assuredness.

It's a challenge, for sure. Because all I really want to do right now is slow down and hold on tight. Figuratively, I want to hold on to this fleeting moment in our lives, to fully appreciate this time of transition and growth, but I also want to hold on in the literal sense. I want to hug and snuggle and hold my boys as much as possible, keeping them close to me for as long as I can.

I want to hold on like a buckle.

Thank you to the wonderful Meg, of Gluten-Free Boulangerie, for hosting this month. Please check out her blog, where she lists all of the participants in this month's rally, and all of the mouthwatering doughnut and fritter creations!

Brioche Doughnuts
Yields 2 dozen 2½-inch doughnuts

Like I said, I made this dough around midnight the other night, realized at the last minute that I was almost out of my pastry flour blend (blame it on Wylie's birthday cake), and decided that it was far too late to worry about making more. I ended up using a mishmash of flours, but the grain/starch balance is still approximately what I had planned on: about 37% grains to 63% starches. If you don't feel like using the flours or quantities listed, substitute whatever you have on hand, keeping the ratio around 1:2 for grains to starches.

The ratio for these doughnuts is: 9.7 flour:.25 yeast:3 milk:1.2 honey:3.34 eggs:2.5 butter. Not my best ratio, for sure. As easy as this dough was to work with, and as nicely as it fried up into doughnuts, I'm sure it could be tinkered with more to produce a cleaner ratio. Feel free to have at it!

250 grams cornstarch
157 grams Tara's gf pastry flour blend
50 grams certified gluten-free oat flour
28 grams brown rice flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp psyllium husk powder
12 grams fine sea salt
150 grams whole milk
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk from a large egg
60 grams honey
13 grams active dry yeast
1 tsp vanilla extract
125 grams unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into small pieces
canola oil, for frying
confectioner's sugar, for dusting
½ cup Italian prune plum jam (recipe follows) or other favorite jam, for filling (optional)

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the cornstarch, pastry flour, oat flour, brown rice flour, xanthan gum, psyllium husk powder, and salt, and mix on low speed until combined.

In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the milk, eggs, egg yolk, honey, yeast, and vanilla to dissolve the honey and yeast.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour in the liquid mixture, mixing until combined. Increase the speed to medium and slowly add the butter pieces until they are all incorporated.

Turn the dough out into a medium-sized bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour, then refrigerate for 12-48 hours. Because this dough lasts so long refrigerated, you don't have to fry the full batch of doughnuts at once. You've got the freedom to cook them over the course of a couple days, which is good, since having lots of day-old doughnuts hanging around is never ideal; they're best fresh from the fryer.

Whenever you are ready to make the doughnuts, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Line two baking sheets with parchment or wax paper. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured board until it is ½ inch thick, and using a 2½-inch diameter cutter (I use my biscuit cutter), cut out 24 discs of dough (you can re-roll and cut the scraps without a problem). Place the discs on the prepared baking sheets, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise for 90 minutes. The doughnuts won't increase in size much, but they'll be pillowy soft and tender, without a trace of chill. Alternately, you can use a traditional doughnut cutter to cut rings and doughnut holes. They'll rise and cook just the same, and you won't have to bother with filling them.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 4 inches of canola oil to 340ºF. Working in batches, use a spatula to gently place the doughnuts in the oil, making sure not to crowd the pan, and adjusting the heat to maintain the 340ºF temperature. Flip the doughnuts with the spatula when the bottoms are uniformly golden brown. When the doughnuts are puffed and both sides are golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a wire rack until just warm to the touch.

Toss doughnuts in powdered sugar. Fit a pastry bag with a small (¼-½ inch) round tip and fill with jam. Push the tip into the side of each doughnut and pipe 1-2 tsp of jam into them. Serve warm, or at room temperature within the first 3-4 hours of making them.

Italian Prune Plum Jam
Yields 1 quart. Far more than you need for the doughnuts, which is good, because you'll want lots of jam leftover to enjoy through the fall.

2 pounds Italian prune plums, pitted and sliced into wedges
300 grams (1½ cups) light brown sugar
1½ tsp roasted Saigon cinnamon
4 tsp fresh lemon juice

In a large, non-reactive saucepan, thoroughly combine the sliced plums, sugar, and cinnamon. Let sit at room temperature for one hour, until the plums have released much of their juice and the sugar is mostly dissolved.

Add the lemon juice, and bring the fruit to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours, or until the fruit is broken down and the liquid has thickened. Purée the jam using an immersion blender, and test for thickness - continue simmering if you want a thicker jam.

Transfer the hot jam into clean glass jars, seal, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks, or can according to the manufacturer's directions.
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