polenta and rice doughnuts

rice and polenta doughnuts | A Brown Table

To be honest, I don't eat doughnuts that often. It's rare that I make them at home but when I do it has to be a beignet. If I lived in NOLA, I'd probably try to eat a beignet every day, it would be a goal to achieve, one I'd happily strive for. When I think about it, the concept behind a beignet is so simple yet delightful, a yeasted dough, deep fried to crispiness and then sprinkled with confectioner's sugar. If you've been to Morning Call or Cafe du Monde in NOLA and eaten their beignets, you are also familiar with the hazard, powdered sugar poses. Don't wear black clothes and you might not only end up with sugar on your clothes but also in your nostrils which will make you sneeze. But at the point, it won't matter.

It's National Doughnut Day today. Now normally, I'm terrible at remembering such things (except for Pancake Tuesday because that is mentally ingrained by my mother in my head) but thankfully, Melissa decided to organize a little doughnut special. I decided to go with something closer to a beignet but with different textures, flours and flavors. 

A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting Alice Medrich and she is one intelligent yet humble person. But she is also an amazing teacher and the class that I attended was full of information and tips on how to work with whole-grain flours beyond wheat. Her latest work, Flavor Flours is simply an amazing book to learn from. I took some inspiration from her recipe for beignets to create these rice flour and polenta doughnuts. Because the texture is a cross between beignets and doughnuts, I felt doughnuts would be a more appropriate way to describe them. There's a hint of nutmeg in these guys and I find that confectioner's sugar and/or honey are the best way to enjoy them. Of course, a little tea or coffee or even hot chocolate on the side would be a good way to wash them down.

rice and polenta doughnuts | A Brown Table
DSC_3716 - Version 2 2.jpg
rice and polenta doughnuts | A Brown Table
rice and polenta doughnuts | A Brown Table
rice and polenta doughnuts | A Brown Table
rice and polenta doughnuts | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing these doughnuts,

  • Use regular rice flour but not sticky sweet rice flour when you make these doughnuts.
  • The texture of the doughnut after frying, should resemble a crispy thin coat that encloses light ball of polenta. 
  • Nutmeg is a great spice here but green cardamom is also perfect in this recipe. 
  • Honey or confectioner's sugar work well with these doughnuts. Just make sure the doughnuts are warm when you eat them.
  • These doughnuts are best eaten when made fresh and are hot to eat. 
rice and polenta doughnuts | A Brown Table

polenta and rice doughnuts 

yields: approximately forty 1 inch doughnuts 


100mL water (110F)

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon instant dried yeast

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup (3 1/8 ounces/ 87gm) polenta 

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

3/4 cup (4 1/4 ounces / 117gm) rice flour 

1 large egg at room temperature 

1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg powder, fresh

30mL water, at room temperature

enough vegetable oil for frying (use a neutral oil with a high smoking point)

confectioner's sugar for dusting (or honey)

1. Place the water in a small bowl or jar, stir in the sugar and sprinkle the yeast over the water. Allow to sit aside for 10 minutes until it gets foamy. (If it doesn't foam after the 5 minutes, repeat this step with fresh ingredients).

2. In the meantime prepare the polenta. Bring the 1 1/2 cups of water to a rolling boil in a small saucepan on high heat. Quickly whisk in the polenta by pouring it in a thin and steady stream. Add the butter and continue to whisk for about 4 to 5 minutes until almost all the liquid has evaporated and the polenta is soft but not mushy. Remove from stove and cover the saucepan with a lid. Leave to cool for about 5 to 7 minutes before using.

3. In a large mixing bowl, add the rice flour and make a well in the center. Add the polenta, egg, salt, and nutmeg along with the yeast from step1. Using a large wooden spoon, stir the ingredients with the water to form a thick dough. The dough will resemble a soft and sticky mixture. Allow the dough to rest for 5 minutes before cooking.

4. In the meantime, heat the oil in medium-sized wok or saucepan with a deep bottom on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot (at about 350F) start to prepare the doughnuts for frying. Using a small ice cream scoop (or two tablespoons), scoop out a single ball of dough and drop it into the hot oil, allow the ball to rise and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes until the doughnut is evenly golden brown. Place the doughnut on a sheet lined with absorbent paper towels to drain the excess oil. The outside portion of the doughnut should be crispy yet the inside soft. Immediately dust the hot doughnut with confectioner's sugar or drizzle with honey before serving. Prepare the rest of the doughnuts using the same method. 

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Note: The pretty red Balti was a gift from Le Creuset. 

almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote

almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote | A Brown Table

One of the things I love exploring on this blog is using grains and flours of all sorts of kinds in my recipes. The options are endless, from wheat to kamut and from savory to sweet!  Maria Speck does just the same with her food with passion and her love for whole grains shows. 

Maria's latest book Simply Ancient Grains focuses on cooking whole grain is a spectacular treat> Not only does she include a variety of grains in her book but she eloquently includes them in a refreshing collection of unique dishes that are flavorful and as delicious as they sound. There are rye waffles with parmesan and rosemary, red rice shakshuka and feta, a teff polenta verde, a freekeh soup with spicy harissa, shrimp and dates, jugu cakes (an African-Indian peanut biscotti) and many more such delicious treats to cook at home and enjoy! Maria also shares several helpful tips and ideas on how to plan meals for days ahead for busy weeks that I found really useful.

If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area, Maria will also be signing copies of her new book in the last week of May but she's also going to visit several other cities around the country and you can find her entire book tour schedule here. The best part, she's even cooking and serving up treats from her book at some of these spots! 

I selected this sweet honey flavored polenta tart to share with you from her book. It's a unique way to look at tart crusts! I find the soft texture of corn in polenta to be very comforting and how it would taste in a tart had me rather curious. So I had to try this recipe out. The flavors in this dessert are simple yet stand out elegantly. There's honey and butter glazed layer of sweet almonds that give a toffee like flavor along with with a delicious cinnamon and thyme flavored fresh plum compote that's served over the polenta tart. A little whipped cream or creme fraîche on the side and it's perfect with a glass of white wine or champagne (which is my drink of choice). 

almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote | A Brown Table
almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote | A Brown Table
almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote | A Brown Table
almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote | A Brown Table
almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote | A Brown Table
almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote | A Brown Table
almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this dish,

  • I don't have a ceramic tart pan but my metal one worked fine. Just grease the pan well before baking.
  • I used slivered almonds instead of the original sliced almonds as listed in the recipe, mostly because I ran out of them. They work great but note that the texture of the tart will be different.
  • I used lemon thyme over regular thyme in the recipe because I grow some in a container on my terrace. It gives a little hint of citrus to the plums.
  • I like creme fraîche over whipped cream to serve with most desserts but you can go with either. 
  • To prepare the tart before baking, I've listed two ways to do it. One involves spreading the polenta with a wet spoon while the other involves pressing it down with the flat side of a measuring cup and clingfilm (which I used). Both are easy to do. 
almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote | A Brown Table

almond polenta tart with sherried plum compote 

(from Simply Ancient Grains by Maria Speck)

yields: 8 servings


for the polenta 

2 cups water

1 1/2 cups whole or low-fat milk

1/4 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1 cup (150g) polenta, preferably medium grind

for the compote and to finish

2 pounds fresh plums, pits removed and cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces (if plums are small cut into wedges)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons honey, or more as needed

1/4 cup dry sherry or apple juice

1 tablespoon brandy (optional)

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (I used lemon thyme)

4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, preferably the European-style

1 cup sliced almonds ( I used slivered)

softly whipped lightly sweetened heavy cream for serving for serving (optional) /creme fraîche can also be substituted

1. To prepare the polenta, add the water, milk, honey and salt to a large heavy saucepan, heat on medium-high and bring to a bare simmer, stirring occasionally. Using a large whisk, add the polenta in a slow and steady thin stream and continue t whisk for 1 minute. Reduce the heat if the mixture starts to bubble profusely. Reduce the heat further, cover the saucepan with a lid and cook for 10 minutes. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon every few minutes to prevent the polenta from sticking to the bottom. Remove the saucepan from the stove and let it sit, covered for 10 minutes, stirring well once or twice. 

2. Butter a 10 inch tart pan and place it on a wire rack. Transfer the polenta to the pan and spread evenly to form a smooth layer. You can dip a wooden spoon in cold water and then spread the mixture. The other way to do this, is to place a large sheet of clingfilm over the polenta in the pan and using the flat base of a measuring cup spread the mixture out evenly in a layer. Set the prepared tart pan aside to firm for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Prick the surface of the polenta with the round end of a spoon about 12 times by inserting the spoon at a 45 degree angle into the tart. Dip the spoon in cold water between each insertion to prevent sticking. This will allow even baking of the tart and prevent heaving during baking.  

3. To bake the tart, place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400F.

4. While the oven preheats, prepare the plum compote. Add the plums to a large mixing bowl. Add the cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of honey, sherry, brandy and 1 tablespoon of thyme.  Toss gently to combine, taste and add more honey if desired. Cover and chill to macerate, stirring gently once or twice. (I left it to chill for about two hours)

5. Add the butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons of honey to a medium skillet. Heat on medium and stir occasionally with a spoon until blended. Fold in the almonds and stir until the almonds are coated and the mixture starts to foam, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately spread the almonds on the surface of the polenta, using the back of the spoon. 

6. Bake the prepared tart for about 20 minutes until the small bubbles appear around the edges and the almonds turn a glistening golden brown. Transfer the tart pan to a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes to allow to set before cutting. 

7. To serve the tart, cut it into 8 wedges with a sharp serrated knife. Place each wedges on a dessert plate and spoon a generous amount of the prepared chilled compote with a little bit of the juices on top. Garnish each serving with a little fresh thyme leaves and if desired a little bit of a dollop of the whipped cream. 

polenta coconut almond baked pudding with burnt sugar blood orange sauce

polenta coconut almond milk baked pudding with burnt sugar blood orange sauce | A Brown Table

Somewhere between my meyer lemon tree and a stack of sweet potato vines, sits my Moro blood orange tree. Unlike the lemon tree, it hasn't produced any flowers this season but there are tiny little leaf buds between each and every portion of the stems of this little tree. So until the day arrives that this plant will hopefully produce some fruit, I make do with ransacking the stores and markets in the neighborhood for the blood oranges. And some of those blood oranges went into making this sauce to be drizzled over this pudding.

Ahh, how I love puddings! They are convenient and comforting yet can be made fancy to suit one's needs. I like to think there's something sweet waiting for me in the refrigerator when I come home after work, so every now and then I'll make up a batch of puddings that will satisfy my sweet cravings. This pudding is made with sweet polenta and the creamy delicious flavors of coconut and almond milk and there's also a lightly burned caramelized blood orange sauce that goes over the pudding. Happy flavors and tasty puddings.

By the way this Califia coconut almond milk combination is rather delicious!

polenta coconut almond milk baked pudding with burnt sugar blood orange sauce | A Brown Table
polenta coconut almond milk baked pudding with burnt sugar blood orange sauce | A Brown Tablepolenta coconut almond milk baked pudding with burnt sugar blood orange sauce | A Brown Table
polenta coconut almond milk baked pudding with burnt sugar blood orange sauce | A Brown Table

Here are some tips that you might find useful when preparing these puddings,

  • You can skip blood oranges and use regular oranges to prepare the sauce. Remember to adjust the sweetness of the sauce accordingly.
  • The puddings will rise during baking and then sink a little after they are chilled. I trim the crust off the exposed end of the pudding to give the dessert a smooth finish. 
  • I gently bake the pudding for about 2 hours in the oven at a lower temperature so it doesn't burn but helps to get rid of most of the liquid.
  • You can adjust the sweetness of the dessert to your liking by changing the amount of sweetener added. 
  • Garnish as needed with candied orange chips if desired
polenta coconut almond milk baked pudding with burnt sugar blood orange sauce | A Brown Table

burnt sugar blood orange sauce

yields: approximately 1 cup


2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup blood orange juice, fresh and strained 

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon water

  1. Place the brown sugar in a small thick bottomed saucepan and heat on a medium-high flame for about 3 minutes until the sugar just begins to darken and caramelize (watch the sugar carefully to avoid it from burning). As soon as the sugar begins to caramelize, remove the saucepan from the stove and carefully stir in the orange juice. Return to stove and stir until the caramelized sugar has completely dissolved. 
  2. While the sauce is cooking, stir the cornstarch and water to form a slurry in a small bowl. Stir this mixture into the sauce and quickly whisk. Continue to cook with constant stirring, the mixture will begin to thicken and begin to boil. Continue to stir constantly and cook for one additional minute. Remove the saucepan from stove and pass the sauce through a sieve to remove any clumps. Transfer the sauce to a container and refrigerate until completely chilled. 

polenta coconut almond milk baked puddings 

yields: 4 servings


1 cup (6 ounces) polenta 

1 tablespoon toasted unsweetened shredded coconut 

2 tablespoons sugar

1  1/2 tablespoons cornstarch 

1 tablespoon water

a little coconut oil for greasing

  1. Add all the ingredients from the polenta to the sugar in a large thick bottomed saucepan. Bring the contents of the pan to a boil on medium high heat and then reduce the heat to a medium-low. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and water to form a slurry and fold this slurry into the polenta. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook and stir the the polenta until there is little to no visible liquid left, this should take about 8-10 minutes. The mixture should resemble a thick porridge like consistency. Remove from stove.
  2. Grease 4 X 4 ounce heatproof glass canning jars with a little coconut oil. Using a ladle fill the jars up and using a spoon flatten the mixture to release any trapped air bubbles. Bake the jars for 2 hours at 250F on a baking sheet on the middle rack of a preheated oven. Rotate the tray halfway through the baking process. Remove the hot jars and allow to cool to room temperature. Wrap the mouth of each jar with cling film and refrigerate until chilled for at least 3-4 hours. The puddings will shrink a little in the refrigerator.
  3. To release the puddings, run the blunt edge of a knife between the jar and the pudding. Tap the jar over a plate to release the pudding. Trim off the crusty end of the pudding using a sharp serrated knife and place the pudding in a serving plate. Garnish the pudding with a candied orange slice and drizzle generously with the burnt sugar blood orange sauce. Prepare the remaining three puddings similarly.

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Califia and all opinions stated here are purely my own.