Recipe and photos by Brandon Matzek
June 5th is National Donut Day. If you aren't planning to celebrate at one of San Diego's artisanal donut shops, then go ahead and make a batch (or two) of Cinnamon Chile de Arbol Donut Holes at home.
Inspired by Nomad Donuts in North Park, these tender nuggets of fried dough are rolled in a lip-tingling blend of cinnamon, sugar and toasted chile de árbol (ground). The sweet and the heat in each golden bite balance each other, forming an addictive breakfast treat.
Making donuts at home is a simple task that requires pantry staples: a heavy pot, neutral oil and a candy or deep-fry thermometer. The batter is made with flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, milk, an egg and butter - similar ingredients to pancake batter. The use of baking powder (versus yeast) here classifies these donuts as the "cake" variety and also makes the process much easier. Once you've mastered the basic donut recipe, try switching up the toppings (see below).
Take your National Donut Day celebration to the next level by making several of the varieties listed below and inviting your friends and family over. Serve with plenty of hot coffee for dunkin'.
Cinnamon Sugar: 1 tsp. cinnamon + 1/2 cup sugar
Vanilla Glaze: 1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar + 3 tbsp. milk + 2 tsp. vanilla extract
Lemon Glaze: 1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar + 3 tbsp. lemon juice
Chocolate Glaze: 1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar + 4 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder + 3 tbsp. milk + 2 tsp. vanilla extract
Lavender Sugar: 1/2 cup sugar + 2 tsps edible lavender flowers (pulsed in a food processor)
Cinnamon Chile de Arbol Donut Holes
2 whole dried chiles de árbol
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
3 tbsp. sugar
4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. fine-grain sea salt
1 cup milk
1/4 unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Vegetable oil, for frying
Toast chiles in a small skillet over medium-low heat until dark and fragrant (1 - 2 minutes). Let cool, then remove and discard the stems. Coarsely chop toasted chiles de árbol, then transfer (seeds and all) to a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Grind into a fine powder. Place chili powder in a small bowl with cinnamon and sugar, stirring to combine.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and sea salt.In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk and egg until combined. Whisk in the butter, then pour the wet ingredients in the bowl with the dry ingredients. Using a spatula, mix until combined. Don't overwork the batter here. A few visible lumps are fine. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a large cast-iron pot halfway with oil (about 4 cups), and heat to 350°F. Spread the cinnamon-chili sugar out on a large plate and set aside. Working in batches, carefully drop heaping tablespoons of batter, five or six at a time, into the hot oil, and fry until golden brown (2 - 3 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, transfer donut holes to a paper towel-lined plate. Let cool for just a moment, and then roll the warm donut holes in the cinnamon-chile sugar. These donut holes are best enjoyed immediately, but will last for up to 1 day when covered and stored at room temperature.