The Plague, Birthday Donuts, and Labors of Love

So, here’s what happened: I woke up on my second to last day in Nevada with my throat on fire. It was as if some kind of tiny rat had crawled into my sinuses and used the inside of my face as its clawing bag. Everything inside my face felt swollen.

For the last two days of my visit, I was on the maximum dosage of DayQuil and NyQuil, just so I could make it through the day without collapsing into a heap somewhere and screaming for someone to just rip my sinuses out. And when I traveled back to Indiana, I was heavily dosed on DayQuil and kept my fingers crossed that my sinuses were clear enough to keep my eardrums from exploding.

When I finally got home, all I did for the rest of the week was sleep, eat, and watch television. That’s how you know I’m actually sick: my body forces me to do nothing but sit around and watch my favorite romantic comedies, guilt-free. I guess you could call my love of romantic comedies a guilty pleasure, but I don’t feel guilty about them.

I dragged myself out of bed for a wedding dress fitting that first Saturday after I’d come home, and I barely made it through. I felt entirely like shit, a cough had added itself to my symptoms, and I couldn’t even muster up excitement for my dress.  Afterward, I came home, changed into sweats, and fell asleep on the couch for 4 hours.

Finally, I went to urgent care after another few days of feeling like shit, and after M and my mom bugged me repeatedly to go get checked out. The doctor put me on an exciting 14-day rotation of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and codeine cough syrup.

I finished up my cycle of antibiotics two weeks ago, and I finally, FINALLY feel 100% like myself again.

So, being ridiculously sick for almost 3 weeks has meant no Friday Bites (though, believe me, I tried to write them). It’s meant no writing at all. I’ve been cooking, but haven’t had the wits about me to document my dishes properly.

It also means that instead of spending my post-plague time preparing action-packed Friday Bites posts, I’ve been wedding planning instead. Since emerging from my plague-cocoon, I’ve been doing almost nothing but wedding planning and cooking.

More on weddings in my next post.

For now, I’m celebrating chocolate. Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.

And birthdays. And good friends. And chocolate.

I am not saying anything new by saying that baking is a labor of love. I bake for the people in my life that I love the most — my family, M, my friends. I used to be shy about sharing my baking with friends because I was afraid that whatever I made wasn’t good enough. I don’t know at what point that changed.

When I bake, I am thinking of the person for whom I am laboring, whether they are near or far. My fondness for each person goes into the whisking, the kneading, the mixing, the scooping, the shaping, the cooling, the sprinkling, the glazing. It probably also goes without saying that I don’t bake for just anybody.

One of my very closest friends’ birthdays is 3 days after mine. She’s a fellow Aries, and she is one of the best people I know. For her birthday this year, I made Joy the Baker’s double chocolate cake donuts.

When I discovered I could bake donuts instead of deep fry them (I am wary of the deep fry), it was game OVER. I have Joy the Baker to thank for that. For a period of time, I made all kinds of donuts, including browned butter and pistachio ones (also a Joy the Baker recipe).

The recipe I return to the most, and the one that gets the most requests, is one for the double  chocolate donuts.

Donuts are so magical. If you’re making cake donuts, they’re really easy to make.

I whisked together all my dry ingredients: flour, dark chocolate cocoa powder (Joy’s recipe calls for unsweetened cocoa powder, but I love the depth of flavor that dark chocolate cocoa brings), baking soda, salt and brown sugar.

ChocoDonuts_step 1.jpg

In a separate bowl, I whisk together buttermilk, an egg, melted butter and vanilla extract. I love the smells that come out of this particular bowl at all stages — the tanginess of the buttermilk, the smoothness of that butter, and the punch of sweetness from the vanilla. YUM.

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After the buttermilk, egg, butter, and vanilla are whisked to smooth, you pour them into the dry ingredients and fold the wet ones in with a spatula. Fold everything together until combined into a glossy, dark, and glorious cake batter. My batter was a little bit dry, so I added a splash more buttermilk to soften it up.

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Then, using a spoon, I spooned the batter into a well-greased donut pan. This is probably the trickiest part for me, and the reason why I didn’t get a photo of it — because my hands, somehow, got covered in batter. After wrestling the batter into the pan, I popped it into the oven for about 11 minutes.

After taking the donuts out and waiting for them to cool, I made the glaze by mixing together powdered sugar, more dark chocolate cocoa powder, salt, coconut milk and vanilla extract.

This is not a picture of the glaze, but it IS a picture of the donuts waiting to BE glazed.

This is not a picture of the glaze, but it IS a picture of the donuts waiting to BE glazed.

Honestly, the glazing and the sprinkles are the funnest part of donut making (aside from licking the bowl). The glaze makes the donuts look so dressed up and classy. On its own, with just the glaze, the donuts look amazing. The sprinkles though…they make these donuts a party. Every time I use them, I get so excited. I also feel like I’m being transported back to the ‘90s for some reason. If someone were to film me every time I made these donuts, they could probably put together a montage of me saying, “YAAAAYYY!” every time I throw sprinkles on the donuts.

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My favorite part of baking is the act of giving the finished product to a loved one, whether it’s M or a friend, or my mother, or whoever. I boxed these donuts up for my friend in a cute little cupcake box, wrote her a card, and put it in an envelope that matched the donuts’ sprinkle party perfectly.

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I made 10 donuts — 6 for my friend, and 4 left-overs for M and me. By the end of the evening, those 4 donuts were settled very comfortably in M’s and my bellies. I love sweet treats, but I don’t like sickly sweet ones — the dark chocolate cocoa powder made these babies just the right amount of sweet.

By the time I post this, there will be only 5 days left until our wedding. (!!!!!!) Stay tuned for a super fun wedding-themed Friday Bites this Friday. It won't necessarily be food-related, but it will have LOTS to do with weddings.