Pandemic Boredom and Lemon Blueberry Donuts
More than two years after the emergence of Covid-19, it’s safe to say that 2020 is a year that the world will not easily forget. Two years later, the effects of the pandemic are still rippling across our lives, even if the waves may not be as turbulent. To this day, I still have a little bit of anxiety when on my last few rolls of toilet paper. For many, hobbies and projects became a form of coping during lockdowns and social distancing. Home renovation projects boomed, and ovens began to mass-produce banana bread recipes. I went through several baking stages, from microwave mug cakes to experimenting with baked donuts. My coworkers loved it, as I would bring in the leftovers of new experiments. To this day, one of the most requested flavors to make again is lemon blueberry donuts.
Finding the Perfect Flavor Balance
When brainstorming flavors, blueberry and lemon are two of my favorite flavors to pair when baking. The duo creates a sweet, slightly tangy bake and is a perfect summertime combination. I tried a few different ingredient variations and ratios when experimenting with this recipe. I used fresh blueberries and pure lemon juice without an added extract in one of my first tests. While I do enjoy sour flavors, the lemon was too strong for some. Fresh blueberries work well in pancakes and muffins but present a few issues for donuts. A mix of lemonade and dried blueberries created the best flavor, texture, and presentation.
Choose a Fresh Lemonade
Similar to the rule of thumb about cooking with wine you would drink, the same applies to baking ingredients. Lemon extract boosts the flavor, but the lemonade used for these donuts will heavily impact the flavor. When making any recipe with lemonade, I use my lavender lemonade recipe. You can follow the original recipe for a twist on flavors, but I omit the lavender to simplify the flavor profile when I make lemon blueberry donuts. I use the following ingredients to make a simple syrup:
- 2 cups cold water
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
Allow the syrup to warm over medium heat and occasionally stir until the sugar dissolves, about ten minutes. Remove from heat and add 4 cups of chilled water, add two cups of lemon juice, and stir. Reserve a half-cup for the donuts and three tablespoons for the icing. Chill the rest of the lemonade, which pairs perfectly with lemon blueberry donuts!
Dried Blueberries are the Best Option
Whereas the lemonade used affects the taste, dried or fresh blueberries impact the appearance and balance of flavors. Even though fresh blueberries bake well with this recipe, I found that dried blueberries created the best texture, overall presentation, and flavor balance. When using fresh blueberries, the water content of the berries makes a moist (I know, I said it) donut closer to the texture of a muffin. While that isn’t bad, I like a donut that crumbles. Fresh berries also burst and bleed throughout the donut, blending the flavors and altering the color. Dried blueberries prevent bleeding, creating a neater presentation and pockets of blueberry flavor throughout.
Lemon Blueberry Donut Tips
One of the best advantages of baking donuts over frying is eliminating oil. Fried donuts offer a lighter and more airy texture, though you have to deal with the hassle of checking oil temps, timing the fry just right, and the cleanup. Baking instead of frying produces consistent sizes, eliminates a stovetop covered in splatters, and dough proofing isn’t required. I have a few tips that will make your donuts turn out perfect each time!
- Bring all of the wet ingredients to room temperature. Mixing ingredients at the same temperature will help everything blend evenly, creating a light batter and airy bake.
- Use a baking spray with flour when preparing your pans. Spraying a pan instead of greasing with butter helps ensure complete, even coverage and creates a golden crust on your donuts.
- Transfer the batter to a piping bag to make your life easier when filling the cells. Piping helps avoid batter drips outside the rings and provides more control when filling each cell with batter. I use Wilton piping bags with a 1A tip. The 1A tip has a wider opening than standard round tips and prevents the blueberries from clogging the tip.
- Muffin trays can be used as a substitution if you don’t have donut trays on hand or can’t resist waiting for them to arrive in the mail. If ordering donut pans online, Wilton’s 2-pack is what I use. Even though they won’t be rings, the texture and flavor aren’t sacrificed. Keep in mind that the baking time may vary depending on the size of the muffin tray used.
Lemon Blueberry Donuts
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 5 Tbsp. lemonade
- ¾ tsp. lemon extract
- Heat an oven to 350 °F. Lightly grease two six-cell doughnut pans, and set them aside. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or medium bowl, add the softened butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Using either a beater paddle or hand mixer, combine the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time to the butter and sugar, evenly incorporating after each. Be sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to evenly mix. Add the lemon extract and stir.
- Lightly fold in the dry mix, adding it in two batches. Use caution not to over mix.
- Add a half cup of lemonade and dried blueberries, mixing until smooth.
- Fill each ring of the prepared doughnut pans two-thirds of the way. A simple way is to spoon the mixture into a piping bag and pipe the batter directly into each ring.
- Bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the thickest portion removes clean. Rotate the pans halfway through baking if not using a convection oven.
- Remove the doughnuts from the oven, and allow them to cool in the pans for five minutes. Once cooled, transfer to a wire rack and set aside.
Creating the Icing
- In a medium bowl, add the powdered sugar and lemon extract.
- Add three tablespoons of the lemonade and whisk until smooth. For thinner icing, add additional lemonade by the teaspoon until reaching the desired thickness.
- Dip the top of each donut in the icing, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl. Place each iced donut onto the cooling tray to allow the icing to harden.
Storing Lemon Blueberry Donuts
You can store lemon blueberry donuts at room temperature in a covered container for a day or two. If you have an abundance of leftovers at the end of the first day, you can store donuts in an air-tight container for 2 to 3 days refrigerated or 2 to 3 months frozen. When freezing, record the date frozen on the container to keep track of the freshness. If I’m serving donuts from frozen, I remove them from the freezer the night before and place them in the fridge. Once thawed, I’ll bake them for about 5 minutes in an oven preheated to 325 degrees. Heating them in an oven allows the donuts to warm through and retain the crumbly texture.
Lemon blueberry donuts are one of my favorite donuts, and bakes to make. the flavors work perfectly together, and the texture can’t be beat! They’re amazing as a breakfast pastry, or even as a dessert paired with a glass of fresh lemonade.
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