As I write, the 2014 Calgary Stampede is in full swing. The city is full of cowboys and cattle, and on every street corner is a pancake breakfast, a smoky barbecue, or some impromptu two-step dancing. It seems like the entire population turns out for the party, which truly covers the entire town, but the epicentre of the celebrations is (unsurprisingly) the Stampede fairgrounds, because that is the place where you can buy mini donuts.
The Stampede is home to all the standard carnival fare – corn dogs, candy apples, kettle corn, etc. – but for me, and for many of my fellow Calgarians, mini donuts are the real prize. It sounds so simple: they’re really just tiny little plain donuts that are cooked fresh while you watch, and when you order them they pile a bunch into a white paper bag and sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top. They’re incredibly soft, perfectly sweet, a little bit greasy, but always undeniably delicious.
I knew I wanted a spin on a mini donut for one of my Stampede posts, but I refuse to deep-fry anything at home – not because I think it’s bad, but because I love deep-fried things too much and that would be a slippery slope for me. Anyway, these tasty little morsels are baked in the oven, then lightly dipped in melted butter (spiked with bourbon for an added kick), then rolled in cinnamon sugar.
I adapted the basic recipe from this one on Allrecipes, and it’s probably the easiest muffin mix you will ever put together from scratch. No eggs, nothing fancy, just throw it in a bowl and mix it together. However, I wouldn’t suggest eating them before the butter bath and sugar coating, as they’re quite plain on their own. The original called for 3/4 teaspoon of nutmeg in the batter, which seemed like a lot of nutmeg to me (to each her own, I guess), but I swapped it for allspice because it’s one of my favourites. You could stick to cinnamon or nutmeg if that’s more your thing.
The finished donut-muffins are slightly crisp on the outside, with a sweet crunch from the cinnamon sugar, and dense but soft centres. My Canadian friends, these very closely resemble a bourbon-spiked Timbit in shape, flavour and texture. You’re welcome. The flavours of cinnamon and allspice are complemented with just a hint of boozy bourbon. If you’d rather not include the bourbon, feel free to leave it out entirely.
I hope you enjoy these Stampede treats. If you’ve never been to Calgary before, do try to come out for the Stampede next year and try some mini donuts for yourself. Until then, content yourself with my non-fried version, which is just about nearly as good. 😉
- ¼ cup canola oil (or melted butter)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup milk
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon bourbon, to taste (optional)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease or spray a 24-cup mini muffin pan.
- In a medium bowl, combine oil or butter with sugar, allspice and salt and whisk together. Add milk, baking powder and flour and mix just until combined. Transfer batter to prepared pan, filling each cup ½ full. Bake in preheated oven until the tops are lightly golden, about 13-16 minutes. Remove muffins from pan and set aside to cool slightly.
- In a small bowl, combine melted butter and bourbon. In another small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Lightly coat each muffin in the butter mixture (either by dipping in the bowl or using a pastry brush), then roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture to coat. Repeat with remaining muffins.
- Best served the first day, but will keep covered at room temperature for 2-3 days.