Years ago, with a heavy heart and an even heavier low-fat carrot cake on my counter, I stopped trying to lighten my favorite dessert recipes. I guess I learned the hard way that butter exists for a reason, and sugar does too. And that my efforts at lightening tended to, ironically enough, lead to a more leaden baked good. But still.
I felt an urgency to try again.
It started while rifling through the shelves of bakeware at TJMaxx. A donut pan. A perfect donut pan. And I was a goner.
I took it as a sign since it was just last week that I sat on my therapist’s couch and, in an effort to rattle off a list of all the things I love most in the world, told her passionately how donuts took rank just after cake. All this to say, donuts aren’t just any ol’ edible.
So I laid $6.99 down at the cash register and carted that pan home with the purest intentions.
Pumpkin spice seemed an obvious, delicious route, what with the fragrancy of fall and all. I lined up all of my ingredients, got out my mixing bowls, and set about baking.
And really, I was going to add the oil. I was. It’s just, I know how recipes like these go. And often? They don’t need it. They’re moistened and tendered by the pumpkin puree- so much so that all I really needed was a bit of unsweetened applesauce to stand in the oil’s place, and all would be right with the world.
I knew I was taking a chance that the donuts could end up a little dense, a little heavy. But I also knew that saving a few calories in the donut itself would allow me to spend them on a topping. And what sensical person doesn’t love that?
Sweet, sweet success.
The finished product is warm, cinnamony, with hints of clove and allspice. It’s soft and tender. Light enough to let me believe that it doesn’t miss the oil. One bite, and I was proud to have created a donut- something I have long loved- that has less than 120 calories all on its own.
Coating the donuts in cinnamon sugar seemed the natural choice. There’s something wonderfully complementary about brushing them with a thin layer of salted butter and rolling them in sparkly tanned sugar. It creates a slight barrier of crunch to the tenderness inside.
When all was baked, cooled, and coated, I was delighted. They’re fantastic treats for fall, they’re cozy and easy enough for a weekend morning, and they’re light enough to fit into your day with no real inconvenience to your health.
Would I bake them again?
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 ¼ teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/3 cup applesauce
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter (½ stick), melted
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- Preheat oven 350 F. Spray a donut pan with cooking spray.
- In a bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt and spices together and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together applesauce, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin, and milk until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the mixture and stir until just combined, taking care to avoid overmixing.
- Carefully spoon the batter evenly around the circles of the donut rings. Fill each nearly to the top. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until donuts spring back when gently pressed. Turn donuts out onto a wire rack and allow to cool for a few minutes.
- While the donuts are cooling, melt butter in one bowl and combine the sugar and cinnamon in another. When donuts are still hot, use a pastry brush to spread a thin layer of butter onto each donut before dipping each into the cinnamon sugar, turning and swirling to coat. Use your fingers to sprinkle the sugar more evenly if necessary. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Information & Notes:
Nutrition for 1 plain donut without topping: Calories 119, Fat 1g, Carb 29g, Fiber 1g, Sugars 14g, Protein 3g
Nutrition for 1 donut with butter and cinnamon sugar topping: Calories 169, Fat 5g, Carb 33g, Fiber 1g, Sugars 18g, Protein 3g
Recipe adapted from Blue Eyed Bakers