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. 

indian sweet rice with dried figs and nuts

Indian Sweet Rice with Dried Figs and Nuts | A Brown Table

Let's start this Monday with some exciting news! This Wednesday, October 8th, I will be co-hosting a Supper club in San Francisco along with my dear friends, Phi of Princess Tofu and Alanna of The Bonjon Gourmet! This is a first for me, I've entertained at home quite a bit but never on a professional level, so I am definitely a little enthusiastic and excited about this fun venture. Phi and Alanna were kind enough to ask me to join them and I leaped at the opportunity because it's all about sharing our love to cook and create new recipes.

The entire menu will be centered around fresh figs grown locally and we've come up with some fun and delicious way to use figs in every course of the menu. The girls went to Santa Rosa over the weekend and picked bucket loads of figs of all sorts of colors, shapes and sizes from the trees, my only regret is not being able to join them in their adventures because they had a blast! Do check out their respective blogs for more of their trip. 

Indian Sweet Rice with Dried Figs and Nuts | A Brown Table

Fig season is a good one, full of fat and juicy figs that need to be eaten. Alas, this season is short but thankfully, someone figured out how to preserve figs by drying them centuries ago! This recipe that I am sharing with you today is a sweetened rice pilaf mixed with sautéed dried figs and nuts. I honestly, can't remember the exact first time, I ate sweet rice or "meetha chawal" but I do remember that I love it enough to make it a few times every year. 

Basmati rice is fragrant to begin with but saffron and the other spices add a sweet aroma that makes this dessert truly comforting. One way to describe this rice dessert would be a sweet pilaf. I like to serve this as a dessert after a fairly light meal (and sometimes even eat it for breakfast).  

Indian Sweet Rice with Dried Figs and Nuts | A Brown Table

Here are some of my tips on making this sweet rice, 

  • I can't stress the importance of using a good quality Indian variety of basmati. Not only is the grain long and fine, the starch content is different and the aroma will also be very fragrant. 
  • When cooking basmati rice, I like to wash the rice thoroughly to get rid of any starch that might result in stickiness during cooking.
  • Ghee can substituted with any vegetable oil that has a neutral flavor.
Indian Sweet Rice with Dried Figs and Nuts | A Brown Table

indian sweet rice with dried figs and nuts

yields: 4-6 servings


1 cup long grain basmati rice

3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil

1 cup dried black mission/brown turkey figs (or any other type of dried figs), stalks removed and chopped

1/4 cup raw almonds, sliced

1/4 cup raw pistachios, chopped

6 whole cloves

1 inch piece cinnamon stick

6 green cardamom pods, cracked

1 teaspoon saffron strands soaked in 4 tablespoons of boiling water for 30 minutes

2 cups water

1/2 cup brown sugar

1. Wash the basmati rice under running cold tap water until no traces of white starch can be seen. Soak the rice in bowl in fresh cold tap water for 1 hour. 

2. While the rice is soaking, heat 1 tablespoon of the ghee or oil in a  deep thick-bottomed saucepan ( a non-stick pan can also be used here) on medium-high heat. Once the ghee is hot, sauté the chopped figs for about 1 minute, then add the almonds and pistachios and fry them for another 1 minute. Remove the sautéed figs and nuts and place them on a paper towel to drain any excess oil.

3. In the same pan, heat the rest of the ghee on medium-high heat. Add the cloves, cinnamon and cardamom and fry the spices for 30 seconds. Drain the excess liquid from the soaked rice and add the rice to the pan with the spices, stir and sauté for about 2 minutes with constant stirring. Add the saffron mixture, water and sugar to the rice, increase the heat to high and bring the contents to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to medium-low, cover with a lid and cook until the liquid evaporates. The rice will be long and tender once cooked which should take about 35-40 minutes. Remove from stove and allow to cool with the lid on for about 5-6 minutes. Fluff the rice up with a fork and stir in the fruit and nuts. Serve warm.