I love the community that gathers around food, whether it’s our family of three at the dinner table every evening, or a picnic with friends in a park crowded with sunshine and other people, or an elegant meal in a hushed restaurant. Mostly, though, I love the stories that come from food.
Last week, in Santa Fe, I heard about the crisp matzoh balls made by an African-American cook in segregated Baltimore in the 1950s. She knew how to cook but that kitchen seethed with bitterness. I heard about a conversion to Jesus over an expensive dinner and a great bottle of wine in Las Vegas. I listened to the survivor story of a young woman who lost everything she knew and learned her strength in the forest, foraging for mushrooms and cattail hearts. I learned about fried walleye in the Midwest. I laughed to hear about the first date of two friends, which included fat-free ice cream. (And she still fell in love with him.) I learned about the molasses pucker of shoofly pie in Mennonite culture.
Some incredible writers shared their stories generously, the stories that formed around meals and hunger, unexpected tastes and something as great as cherry pie. The Cook n Scribble writing retreat, organized by Molly O’Neill, returned something to me that had been missing for awhile. I found my wild mind of writing again. What had been careful and constantly intended for print came back to me with the unbounded energy of a small child jumping off the porch into green grass. I’m writing again. Not here — although that’s happening right now — but on my own, in 10-minute bursts, every morning. Letting go of the need to make the words perfect, I’m following the rhythm of it again and seeing what comes out.
What does this have to with the doughnuts up there? This is what came out when I looked at the photo.
But I think I know why. I’m inspired by the people who give of themselves, simply, when you meet them. It doesn’t have to be complicated. A cup of tea and connected conversation. A tour of a farm, the farmer speaking plainly about why she loves it there. Friends across the table at dinner, shouting slightly to be heard above the noise of the restaurant. Last-minute whispers in bed before the day disappears.
If you haven’t started reading the Roost blog, may I suggest you do? It’s singular, a strong quiet voice in a world of yelling. The photographs are gorgeous and evocative. It looks like no one else’s blog, a dish of lentil cakes with pesto, wilted greens, and lemon-thyme fries. Coco loves food. She also healed her husband by feeding him meals on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which is more restrictive than simply gluten-free. Clearly, they are both thriving.
It’s about thriving, about being alive, about listening to the mind that says: “go here. meet these people. there’s something for you.”
Also, there are doughnuts.
GINGER-CITRUS GRAIN-FREE DOUGHNUTS, adapted from Coco at Roost
These are the lightest, fluffiest doughnuts I have ever eaten. They’re best eaten within a few hours after baking them but when isn’t that true of doughnuts? These? They’re a revelation.
I have to admit that I’ve never really been wowed by an all almond-flour treat before. I applaud them for all the people who can’t eat other grains. However, the ones I have sampled and made have usually come out dense, a little dull. These? These have changed my mind.
It’s the technique that’s important, as well as the proportions. By combining the dry ingredients, then mixing them in the blender until the batter is super smooth and cohesive, the final doughnuts come out wonderfully light. It reminds me of what I have been learning all about all gluten-free baking lately. Sometimes you have to veer sideways into an unfamiliar technique to find your way home to a familiar treat.
150 grams (about 1 1/4 cup) finely ground almond flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon dried lemon peel (substitution: zest of 1/2 lemon)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
3 tablespoons honey (the darker the better here)
1/4 teaspoon orange flower water (optional)
Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a doughnut pan with a neutral-tasting oil.
Combining the dry ingredients. Whisk together the almond flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and lemon peel in a large bowl. When they are well-combined, put them into a blender.
Making the batter. Pour the coconut oil, eggs, honey, and orange flower water into the blender. Blend on high speed until the batter is cohesive and smooth, with no sign of flour.
Pour the batter into the doughnut pan, dividing evenly between the six doughnut holes.
Baking the doughnuts. Bake until the doughnuts are firm to the touch, with just a bit of give, about 12 minutes. If you bake the doughnuts too long, they will be dry, so err on the side of ever-so-slight underbaking.
Allow the doughnuts to cool in the pan for 15 minutes then transfer them to a cooling rack.
Frost or glaze as you wish.
Makes 6 doughnuts.
To top these doughnuts, we combined a couple of tablespoons each of honey and Lyle’s Golden syrup with a smidge of butter. We heated them up on the stove until they were a thin liquid. We brushed this on tops of the doughnuts then sprinkled on some powdered sugar.