I looked out the window the other day around 5:30 pm and saw something foreign: the sun. it was still light outside, even after 5 pm. Granted, this is wonderful news, but so much more is expected of you when the days are longer and it starts to warm up, right? You have to dig out from under your mountain of blankets, for one. You probably have to stay up past 9 pm; saying it “feels later” because it’s been dark since midafternoon just doesn’t work as well when it’s not dark. Perhaps most importantly, you need to start thinking about putting on actual pants. Sans stretch. With actual waistband. Whatever shall we do?!?
Maybe the rest of you have kept up your fitness routines, but I haven’t. I only work at full capacity when everything stays on its routine, and the illness cycle running around this house over this past fall and winter really threw me. Something had to give: that something was the gym. And, okaaaayyy, also I sampled quite a few baked goods, so my normally stellar eating habits fell by the wayside. Just this morning, I was cut off by a Doritos truck on my way to Whole Foods. That, my friends, is the universe trying to tell me if I don’t watch out, I could die at the hands of junk food, or at least have my attempts at quality eating be derailed by snacks.
So I got all ready the other day, ignored my introvert-ish tendency to think everyone stops what they’re doing the minute I walk onto the gym floor to stare at me in abject horror (so self-conscious) and marched my way onto a treadmill. I had made it; I had arrived. Somewhere in the distance, the theme from Rocky was playing. I was going to work out and it was going to feel so good. Would I be able to handle my old cardio routine? Psssh, of course I would; it hadn’t been that long, right?
Right. It was terrible: maybe 6 minutes in and I swear I couldn’t feel my legs anymore, but I pushed through it and did pretty well, considering I have the leg strength right now of a mortally wounded gnat. I’m going back again today, and the day after that, and until the end of time I suppose, until I wrangle myself back into shape. Because at some point, I have to wear shorts without crying.
I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest Achilles heels in terms of food is the nighttime snack. I can eat with the discipline of a certified nutritionist any day of the week…until 8:30 pm, and at that magical moment, I start wanting sweet treats like an addict. I don’t know what happens to me, but I am overcome by need. I’m ashamed to say it, but there have been nights I’ve emptied the freezer looking for something, anything, I have stored away in there from old baking projects. it’s terrible.
My solution? Ideally, it’s to ignore the snacking impulse, but that’s asking quite a lot right now. In the short-term, it’s these donuts. Now I know some of you are saying to yourselves “oh, but Shannon, what about some nice fruit or something?” and to you I say, get real. Because yes, sometimes my sweet little Clementines cut it, or a handful of almonds or something, but that’s not most evenings. So, donuts it is.
Hear me out: no, donuts aren’t healthy, in a general sense. But look closely: these aren’t really donuts. They’re baked donuts, and they’re not even that, because they’re actually healthy little muffins, baked in a donut pan. Turns out any muffin can be made irresistibly cute by making it in a donut pan, and it fools your senses into thinking you’re actually eating a real live donut.
How healthy are they, you ask? Well, my friends, they’re from the Gwyneth Paltrow crazy-healthy cookbook, so you tell me. There’s no sugar, dairy, or egg in these, and although I do not make them gluten-free, you can easily make them GF by switching out the regular all-purpose flour for your favorite GF variety. I make them a little bit differently than the book does, but I don’t think anything I do to them changes how good they are for you. And for all the things they don’t have, they overflow with big fat figs, some ground flaxseed, a little maple syrup, and crunchy millet. It’s like all the bad stuff leaves and there’s more room for the good stuff.
If you’re having a difficult time mind-tasting a millet-fig muffin, I’ll describe them for you. You may remember millet from when I made the toasted coconut + millet chocolate bark: it’s a fun ingredient that adds a little bit of soft, sprinkle-like crunch to your baked goods, and I love the texture. These donuts have a vaguely malty, pretzel-like flavor, which is delicious when balanced against the sweetness of the dried figs in here; it’s a really great, sweet-salty, unexpected combination, and it’s incredibly satisfying. They completely fulfill my snack needs in the evening, and coming from someone who routinely performs pantry-raids under cover of night looking for chocolate chips? That’s saying something.
If you don’t have a donut pan, please: make them as muffins, but I think some of the Jedi mind-trick here lies in their donut appearance. If you do go the muffin route, you can cut your figs a bit larger and up the baking time by a few minutes. These muffins will hook you, but in a really virtuous and healthy way. I think by now they’re actually my favorite muffin/donut, because of their lovely flavor, but also because they’re supremely light, and I don’t feel all weighed down after I eat one. Or two, whatever. You’ll love them. And if you need further confirmation, ask Faygie, because she made the muffin version on her blog a while back, and she loved them too.
Adapted from the perhaps slightly more virtuous millet fig muffins in It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great by Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen. Still not ashamed to say I love this book, and by now, I’ve probably made more things out of it to eat in daily life than I have most of my other cookbooks.
Millet + Fig Donuts
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour*
- 1/2 cup raw millet
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup ground flaxseed
- 2/3 cup grapeseed oil**
- 2/3 cup good-quality maple syrup (the real stuff, people)
- 2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk (I’ve used both vanilla and regular in these, and both work well)
- 1 cup chopped dried figs (you can use either mission or calmyrna, or mix it up with both)***
By the way, I don’t know if you noticed, but the order of the liquid ingredients has a practicality to it: by going oil/maple syrup/almond milk, you grease the cup measure with the oil so the maple syrup slides out easily, then finishes with the almond milk. Professional.
*as i mentioned above, these can easily be made gluten-free; indeed, they started out their life that way in the book. Simply switch out your favorite GF flour for my flour, same measurements. If the flour you use doesn’t have xanthan gum already in it, add 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum as well.
**the original recipe calls for olive oil, but for whatever reason, I don’t love the taste as much when I use it, which is why I prefer grapeseed oil. If you’re a stickler for olive oil, use the lightest, most delicately-flavored one you can find, but it still may alter the taste slightly. It does for me, but everyone is different in what they notice.
***remember to chop your figs small enough to fit through a 1-inch hole with ease: it’s how you’re getting your donuts into the pan, and you don’t want any fruit plugging up the hole in the batter bag. Obviously if you’re making muffins, this doesn’t matter.
Preheat the oven to 375˚F and lightly spray a donut pan with cooking oil. Or whatever you oil things with, hippies. Just kidding.
In a large bowl, whisk flour, millet, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and flaxseed together until blended. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, almond milk, and grapeseed oil until combined (maple syrup can be heavy and stick to the bottom, so whisk thoroughly.) Add the maple syrup mixture to the flour mixture and fold it in with a rubber spatula until almost combined. Add the chopped figs and continue to fold until the ingredients are completely combined and the figs are evenly distributed.
Fill a plastic storage bag (think Ziploc) with the batter. Use scissors to cut around a 5/8 inch hole in the bottom corner (so the circumference of the hole will measure a little over 1 inch.) Fill your donut pan cavities evenly with the batter; donuts will puff up, so don’t overfill.
Bake for 10-11 minutes, until donuts are puffed and pale gold, checking at the 8- minute mark for doneness. Do not overbake these; they lose something when they’re too dry, but that’s easily avoided by a watchful eye. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat process with remaining batter.