Chattanooga’s Julie Darling Donuts

To me, donuts are as quintessentially American as burgers and hot dogs. I know this is not particularly accurate as pastries made from fried dough covered in sugar are prevalent in many cultures but personally I think of the US when I think of donuts. I am sure that it has something to do with their presence in movies and TV shows that aired in England during the 80s and early 90s. (The classic donut-loving-overweight cop joke comes to mind.) And, donut shops were practically non-existent in the UK as opposed to the mass chains and local joints in every town and city in North America. When I arrived in 2003, all I had ever known of donuts were that they were filled with jam and came in packs of 10 at Tescos. Then I was introduced to Krispy Kreme and their hypnotic hot and ready light. (Ironically, a few months after leaving London, a store opened up in my old neighbourhood!) I was hooked for better and for worse; donuts would never be the same for me again and this love affair led me to seek out the best little sugary pillows at every turn.

I had the pleasure of visiting places like Gordoughs Donuts and Round Rock Donuts in Texas earlier this year, both of which were exceptional for different reasons. But for me there is only one donut shop that truly has my heart, and that is Julie Darling Donuts in Chattanooga, TN. Although they did not open until 2010 and were not a formative part of my first USA experiences as a Grad student, I cannot imagine downtown without their charming 50s throwback storefront. 

Chattanooga's Julie Darling Donuts

Not only do they offer the standard delicious flavours but my absolute favorite aspect of Chattanooga’s Julie Darling Donuts is their vast, creative and delicious specialty menu.

Chattanooga's Julie Darling Donuts

Donuts like Coconut Creme Pie, Pancakes and Bacon, Key Lime Pie, and Banana Split

Chattanooga's Julie Darling Donuts

To avoid eating several donuts in one sitting, and in order to be sure we enjoyed our much missed favourites, we had to figure out creative excuses to visit CJDD a couple of times this summer while on vacation in TN. And it was well worth the downtown detours.

Chattanooga's Julie Darling Donuts

Granny’s Apple Pie is exactly as you would imagine with warm spices, a hearty filling and even a little crusty crumb topping.

Chattanooga's Julie Darling Donuts

And the gourmet Oreo; soft, fluffy dough topped with rich chocolate fudge sauce and scattered crunchy creme-filled cookies.

If you ever find yourself in the North Shore/Coolidge Park neighbourhood, seek out Chattanooga’s Julie Darling Donuts on Frazier Avenue and don’t leave without trying their Pancake and Bacon Donuts. (Check their Facebook page before you go as they often have daily specials) You will not regret it!

Not Your Grandma’s Pancake Day!

Yesterday was one of my favourite English ‘holidays’. Pancake Day is not a hyped up, marketing holiday designed for companies to make millions, but an inexpensive celebration that draws the family together for a meal of pancakes (crepes). Those simple and humble ingredients of milk, flour and eggs can be combined to make an irresistible treat. Of course, getting the basic recipe is vital but let’s face it, the reason crepes have become a huge hit across the globe is really more to do with the fillings and toppings. Sweet and Savoury alike, the possibilities are endless and even though Nutella is probably the most popular of indulgences, there is something to be said about the sour crunch of the English classic with  sprinkled sugar and lemon juice.

However, in true Grumbling Belly fashion, where darkness and moments of brilliance collide, I decided to explore some new flavour options last night. One was inspired by my love affair with lemon curd, and the other was born from my need to use up some leftover pumpkin and sage. This certainly wasn’t the usual holiday fare but it was fun and delicious.

What are some of your favourite crepe fillings and toppings?

Basic Crepe Recipe

(makes about 8-10 crepes)

1 cup of plain (AP) flour

1 egg

1/2 tbsp melted butter

pinch of salt

1 cup of milk

1/2 tbsp butter

(Mix all ingredients until smooth and place in the fridge for a couple of hours before cooking. For more tips on crepes see Peppermint Chocolate Crepe Cake)

Drunken Pumpkin Crepe Filling (savoury)

Drunken Pumpkin Crepes

(makes about 4 servings)

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large shallot chopped

1 large garlic clove chopped

1 tbsp of finely chopped fresh sage

1 tsp grated orange zest

2 tbsp whiskey

1 tbsp brown sugar

1/2 can of pumpkin puree (not pie filling)

2 tbsp of grated Parmesan cheese

(toasted pine nuts- optional)

salt and pepper to taste

4 slices of prosciutto

Heat butter and oil on medium heat. Add shallots, and brown for about a minute, then add garlic and sage. Stir for another minute. Mix in orange zest and remove from heat to incorporate alcohol (make sure you always remove your pan from heat when adding alcohol). Immediately add whisky. It will bubble up quite furiously but will start to settle. Put back on heat and sprinkle in sugar. Stir occasionally as it simmers and begins to reduce. After about 5 minutes add the pumpkin and simmer for another couple of minutes. The colour should get darker as the pumpkin absorbs the sauce. Then stir in the Parmesan, and add salt and pepper to taste. (If you want to use pine nuts, go ahead and add them into the pumpkin mixture at the end)

Lay crepe out flat and place a slice of prosciutto down the middle. Spread 1/4 of the pumpkin mixture on top of the prosciutto and then fold each side of the crepe over the middle (almost like a burrito).

Drunken Pumpkin Crepes

 White Chocolate Raspberry Lemon Crepe Filling

White Chocolate Raspberry Lemon Crepes

(makes about 6 servings)

1 cup of fresh (or defrosted unsweetened) raspberries

1/2 jar of lemon curd (available in the jam section of the grocery store)

1 cup of white chocolate chips

2 tbsp of ricotta cheese

Mix the raspberries with the ricotta. (If using frozen, defrost them in a sieve so the excess water can drain away.) Spread the chocolate chips over the fresh hot crepe and allow them to begin to melt for a minute. Add a few healthy dollops of lemon curd, and the ricotta raspberry mix. Fold over and indulge!

White Chocolate Raspberry Lemon Crepes

Chocolate Peppermint Crepe Cake

Crepes, my first pancake love. Simple, warm, with a squirt of lemon juice and a dusting of sugar. Perfect! Truth is there are so many great ways to enjoy them. My mum and aunt used to make crepe suzette (sizzling with orange juice and Grande Marnier) and then in Cyprus I discovered the amazing combination of Nutella, bananas and crushed toasted hazelnuts. Soon, I was seeking out Creperies for date nights, for dinner and dessert and exploring all flavour combinations, sweet and savoury.

In secondary school one of the first things we learnt to make in Home Economics (for boys and girls!) was pancakes. My first attempt was pretty poor and I came home with a Tupperware filled with soggy shreds of broken pancakes. Now, I am quite the crepe flipping diva but as much as I love them, I really don’t make crepes very often because there is no real healthy way to craft the batter effectively unlike American style pancakes. However, we had some new Waco friends over for dinner last night and I decided this was the perfect opportunity to re-kindle my original pancake love affair. I have seen a crepe cake trend emerging on Pinterest so it seemed only natural to attempt my own version.

It’s not easy to describe in a blog how to make the perfect thin crepe and so I am going to defer to the internet on this one! There are lots of  video tutorials to follow and you don’t need a special crepe making machine, just a good medium sized shallow pan (and a little practice!) . But as always, I do have a couple of tips for you.

  • Unlike american style pancakes, your pan should be on medium high heat and make sure you use a non-stick spray or butter. This will ensure they don’t stick.
  • They don’t take long to be ready for the flip. As soon as you see the little tiny bubbles appear, pull the edges away with a spatula all the way round and then turn them over.
  • Use a mixer to remove all the lumps. Your batter should be very smooth.
  • Allow your batter to rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes before making crepes.
  • Stick to a good recipe. The consistency of crepe batter is crucial so don’t experiment too much, especially if you’re making them for the first time.
  • The batter keeps in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • I think crepes are best fresh. You can make them ahead of time, if you are going to re-heat them. But with something like a crepe cake, were they are cold, I think crepes are best if served on the same day.

Pancake/crepe Batter:

1 cup all purpose (plain) flour

2 cups of milk

2 eggs

1 tbsp melted butter

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

Sift flour and salt. Make a well in the center and add the rest of the ingredients. Combine together with a fork and then mix on medium speed with a hand held mixer until perfectly smooth. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. For the crepe cake, I doubled the ingredients to make about 12-14 pancakes. Make crepes and set aside separated with parchment paper until ready to assemble the cake.

(For the filling and topping, I adapted a delicious cupcake recipe that I was introduced to by a friend. The original recipe can be found here on Your Cup of Cake an excellent baking blog)

Chocolate Mint Filling:

1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream

1 cup of dark chocolate chips

1 tsp mint extract

1/4 cup of powdered sugar

1/4 cup of dutch processed cocoa powder

Melt cream with chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds on 50% heat. Stir well until all the chocolate is melted. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. (If you chose to make this ahead of time and it hardens in the fridge, you can add a little extra cream and place it back in the microwave for a few seconds)

Mint Cream Cheese Frosting

4oz cream cheese at room temperature

3 tbsp of butter at room temperature

3 cups of powdered sugar

drop of mint extract

1/2 tbsp of cream or milk

green food colouring

Cream the butter and cheese for about 2 minutes until smooth and fluffy. Add powdered sugar, milk and extract. Mix until smooth and then add food colouring a tiny bit at a time until it reaches your desired shade of green.

Assembling the cake:

Lay crepe on serving dish and spread a thin layer of the filling. Leave about a 1cm space around the edges.

Chocolate Mint Crepes

Mint Chocolate Filling

Pipe the buttercream over the top

Mint Cream Cheese Frosting

Mint Cream Cheese Frosting

and then drizzle with a little melted chocolate.

Mint Chocolate Crepe Cake

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Pancake Week – Bacon Chocolate Chip

What a way to end the week! I know what you’re thinking? Chocolate and bacon….in a pancake? Maybe the bacon and pancake make sense if you like to have the whole breakfast platter….it’s not completely absurd to take a bite of bacon and then some pancake. But chocolate and bacon? When my brother and husband approached me with the idea to try and make these one Christmas, I too thought it was rather crazy. It’s not the first time this combination has come up. My sister in law introduced us to it in the form of a candy bar with smooth silky chocolate and crunchy little pieces of salty bacon. It was surprisingly tasty but I am not the biggest bacon fan much to the hubby’s disappointment so I still wasn’t sold on the idea that these pancakes would be for anyone else’s benefit but their own. However, I was very wrong! These were an instant success….a delectable triumph! Everyone who has eaten them since has been pleasantly surprised and actually rather shocked (as I was) to find them so moreish. Obviously this is not your every weekend pancake if you are being healthy but once you’ve tried them,they will become your go to pancake indulgence. In fact, I was so sold on the chocolate bacon combo after this, that I made them in brownie form too for some of my more adventurous friends.

Bacon Chocolate Chip Pancakes

 Cook about 7 strips of bacon until crispy, break into very small chunks and set aside. Ladle out a portion of batter onto your griddle pan over low heat and then sprinkle dark chocolate chips and the bacon bits over top. Do not use fake bacon bits (or even the ‘real’ store bought bacon pieces) as they don’t have the same texture or flavour. I haven’t tried turkey bacon because John is completely anti-‘facon’ so I can’t recommend either way but I am curious enough to attempt it one day when he is not around!

I prefer dark chocolate in general but you can use semi-sweet if you like your chocolate a little sweeter.

The key with making these is letting the batter cook through fairly well before flipping at the last minute just to brown the other side. If you flip the pancake too soon, the chocolate will burn while the pancake is cooking and become very bitter. You have to serve these with real maple syrup. Trust me when I say the maple flavour is the hidden gem in this recipe and if you’re going to indulge in these pancakes, you should to do it right or not at all! 🙂

And so concludes our pancake week…. just in time for the weekend! I hope you have been inspired to try some of the pancake variations or more so come up with your own favourite combinations. The options are endless once you are armed with a great pancake batter and the knowledge to cook them perfectly.

Happy pancaking everyone!

Pancake Week – Almond Joy

Now that you all know about my love of coconut, it only makes sense that you should know how much I love coconut with chocolate! Growing up, whenever Mum would take us to the sweet shop for a treat, the dark chocolate Bounty bar was one of my favourites (For my American friends, the closest equivalent would be Mounds). Bounty is made by Mars but for some reason in the states, they added almonds to each half and I was equally excited to arrive here in 2003 and become acquainted with Almond Joy. One Saturday morning when I was out of bananas but still craving coconut pancakes, I decided to try and create a healthier version of one of my favourite candy bars.

Almond Joy Pancakes

Replace 1/4 cup of the flour with 1/4 cup of dutch processed cocoa powder. Add 1 cup of shredded coconut, and 1/2 tsp of almond extract. If not using sweetened coconut, make sure to add some honey to help counteract some of the bitterness from the cocoa powder.

There are lots of ways to create almond joy pancakes and I thought it only fair to inspire you to find your favourite by offering a few alternatives. Instead of cocoa power, add dark chocolate chips during the grilling process (for important tips about adding chocolate to pancakes, see the upcoming post on Friday). If you don’t like using extracts, you could always mix in some almond butter (watch out for the salt level though) or just add some ground unsalted raw almonds for an extra crunch. Of course, if you’re not trying to be healthy you could just sprinkle some chopped Almond Joy over top!

Pancake Week- Coconut Banana

Continuing with our pancake week, I thought for day two I would share with you the variation that began my recipe experimentation in Cyprus 6 years ago. I absolutely love coconut. I  don’t remember where or when I first tried fresh coconut but I remember instantly loving it. Any dish containing coconut almost always become a favourite.

On our honeymoon in Gatlinburg,Tennessee, we ate at the Pancake Pantry and as soon as I saw coconut banana pancakes, I set the menu aside and knew beyond a doubt what my choice would be when our server approached! They were as incredible and if you are ever staying in the Smokies, I strongly recommend a breakfast stop at the pantry.

I had not really ever made American style pancakes until we got married in 2006 and as I mentioned yesterday, it was only because we got our hands on some Bisquick in Cyprus that I remembered our delicious breakfast in TN (and my general love of pancakes) and decided to begin a new tradition in our home. After the first couple of times making plain ones to secure my pancake making skills, I threw in some banana and coconut and was delighted to be able to relive such a wonderful memory from our honeymoon. Now these, are a much loved staple in our pancake rotation. 

Coconut and Banana Pancakes

Add 1 diced ripe Banana and 1 cup of shredded coconut to any batter mix of your choice. I like the texture provided by the coconut but have used 1 tsp of Coconut extract at times when I don’t have the shredded kind.

These pancakes take you to tropical paradise.

Pancake Week!

I love Pancakes! Pancake Night was up there with Christmas and birthdays when I was growing up in England. Yes, my non-UK friends, we have a whole night dedicated to pancake eating. Although not many people actually know why we do this anymore, it was like our version of Fat Tuesday. Back in the day when the majority of the population were Christian, people would begin Lent several weeks before Easter which meant, among other things, no dairy. Pancake night (also known as Shrove Tuesday) was a way for them to use up all the milk and eggs in the house the night before Lent. Of course, now it’s just about eating pancakes!

To clarify, in the UK, when we talk about pancakes we mean crepes ..you know, the thin, warm vehicles used for any delicious fillings your mind can conjure.   You can imagine my shock and delight when I arrived in the States for my first visit at age 12 and heard that people have pancakes for breakfast!! Of course I had no idea they were the thick, fluffy, buttery, syrup-drenched kind when we first ordered them but they did not disappoint in transporting me to the same pancake heaven of our once a year celebration. Upon our return to the UK, one of our American friends living in London at the time gave Mum a box of Aunt Jemima mix for our next pancake day and we got to enjoy both types. Although I love them equally, I still have never been able to make crepes for breakfast (it’s a nonsensical mental block, I know). Therefore I will be dedicating this week to my love of the morning (American) pancake and will blog again soon about my first pancake/crepe love as I believe they need to be shown the proper, individual respect they deserve.

Hubby and I do not have many rituals and habits as a married couple but one of them is homemade pancake brunch on Saturdays. Now that I am all grown up and get to decide when and how I eat, I have declared every Saturday, pancake day!  When we first lived in Cyprus together, I was a US pancake virgin and depended on our care package from my mother in-law to include Bisquick until I found a local store that carried it.  Since then, I have found many different  healthy scratch made recipes I like and depending on the occasion (and what I have in the cupboard), I will whip up my own batch every Saturday morning.  While this in and of itself  may not seem very blog worthy, what I have learned is that you can make ‘ANYTHING’ pancakes using pretty much all basic recipes and that makes it worth sharing for a week!

All you need is a bit of creativity and some fun ingredients and (as confirmed by Pinterest) pancakes can be flavoured for any occasion and season. This week I will be sharing some of my favourites from the straight up blueberry to the crazy bacon-chocolate.  Today we shall begin with some good old basic tips and then blueberry pancakes. Not an original variety BUT the tips below are essential to making the best pancakes out there so why not begin with the simple beauty of blueberry pancakes?

Pancake cooking tips:

  • Never over-mix the batter, just stir long enough so everything is combined well.
  • Prepare wet and dry ingredients separately before mixing them together. This will ensure that any spices, salt etc gets well combined into the batter without having to over stir.
  • Do not mix your batter ahead of time. You can prepare the dry ingredients ahead of time but the wet ones really do need to be mixed and added at the last minute. The batter will literally turn grey if left for a while and no one wants grey old pancakes!
  • Grease the pan- I use non-stick spray and re-spray every three or four pancakes to help keep the outsides crispy. (Remember to move the pan off the heat when spraying!) Obviously you can also use a knob of butter if being more decadent!
  • It’s all about the little holes! I know it’s tempting but don’t peak under the pancake while it’s cooking, or try and flip it until you see little bubbles/holes appearing over the entire surface of the pancake.
  • Cook pancakes on medium-low heat. As not many of us have a hot plate in our kitchen like those great American Diners, cooking at home on lower heat is better. If the heat is too high you will run into a couple of problems- 1) the outside will burn but the inside will still have a batter consistency and taste uncooked 2) the surface will cook quickly and, even though you will have bubbles, the pancakes will splatter when you flip them making a horrible mess. if the heat is low they will flip perfectly and only need about a minute on the second side.
  • Pancakes are best enjoyed straight from the pan. I don’t really recommend cooking pancakes ahead of time. Depending on the recipe, they might become a bit spongy or soggy. If you need to keep them warm so you can sit down and eat together with family and friends, place them into a baking/sheet pan, uncovered in the oven on low (about 200 degrees F). If you cover them up, they will steam and become soggy.
  • If you’re going to have them with syrup, it has to be real maple syrup. It’s natural and tastes a ga-zillion times better than the nasty other kinds of syrup. I know it’s more expensive but why take the time and care to make the most delicious pancakes and then not chose the best tasting accompaniment?
  • Buttermilk is really the only ingredient that can make your pancakes truly fluffy. I have seen lots of healthier recipes that call for 1/2 the amount in low fat buttermilk and the other 1/2 in non fat milk and this seems to work fairly well. Even though I have to use all soy milk, I add an extra 1/4 tsp of baking powder and baking soda and that is an OK substitute. But, you can literally see the difference in the batter when using buttermilk both in the mixing and in cooking.
  • There are some really great healthy batter options out there made with oatmeal or wholewheat so you can feel good about a more frequent pancake treat. If going for the wholewheat option, I have found using half wholewheat and half plan flour is the best option for texture and flavour

Blueberry Pancakes

Wash a pound of fresh blueberries and drain on a paper towel. Make sure they are dry before adding so you’re not putting extra liquid into your batter.

Some people prefer to drop the blueberries on top but I like them to be coated in batter so they really form part of the pancake.

These are simple, delicious and I love to watch the blueberries pop when I break into the pancake with a fork. Serve with sliced bananas for an extra fruit punch.