Woo-hoo Duke! Final Four bay-bee! Take that, Baylor! Way to go fellas! I never doubted you for one second!
Well, maybe for just one second there on Friday night, when you couldn't seem to get the ball anywhere near the rim during that less-than-stellar first half. Luckily, Purdue seemed to be aiming for the crowd behind the basket, so it all worked out in the end.
I was lucky enough to not only be in graduate school at Duke in 2001, when the Blue Devils won the National Championship title, but I also had season tickets to the games. Well, they were season tickets that I shared with a group of classmates, who had all camped out with me over the course of a weekend for a chance to score those coveted seats in a random lottery drawing. A rainy, sleepless, sangria-filled weekend, after which I had a next-to-impossible Statistics quiz that I probably barely passed.........but one that was totally worth the price of admission to legen (wait for it) dary Cameron Indoor Stadium.
During my second year of school, I lived on the same floor in my apartment building as Jason Williams, one of Duke's point guards. I would often run into him in the stairwell when I took my dog Cameron (yes, after the stadium) out for a walk. A few times she even jumped up on him, as terrifying visions of my dog biting the star player's hand flashed through my head. From then on, we took the elevator. I didn't want to get run out of town (although they probably would've welcomed me with open arms in Chapel Hill.)
Another player, Mike Christensen, also lived in my building. I'm not really sure why I was allowed to live there, what with the apparent height requirement and all. Anyhow, I might have occasionally swiped his copy of the Wall Street Journal from the lobby when I knew the team was at an away game, and then I might have returned it later in the day. I said "might." I'm not admitting to anything. But what good is a day old newspaper anyhow? Wow, it feels good to finally get that out in the open.
Basketball games make me nervous, especially very close Duke basketball games. When I'm watching at home, I've been known to get up and run out of the room when my team starts to miss shots and lower their chances for a win. I just. Cannot. Watch. When I'm viewing the game at a sports bar or with a group of friends, it's not quite that easy. I need to play it cool, so I usually end up digging my nails into the chair/counter/floor and gritting my teeth. Tequila helps too. It's amazing that I haven't gone gray from all of the close calls this year. Sheesh!
I'm not trying to sound over-confident, because I'm not, but I've got a pretty good feeling about Duke's chances this year. It's time. My BFF Coach K (O.K., I've only met him once) deserves another win. We shall see......
I thought that it would be fun to create a recipe in honor of North Carolina's finest athletes by using one of North Carolina's finest ingredients, the sweet potato. Now I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I dig sweet potatoes in a major way. I would eat them every day--in fact I practically do. They are such versatile little tubers that they can work with almost any type of recipe. I thought that doughnuts would be fun to try, what with the whole hoop-basketball shapes of the respective doughnuts and holes (kind of a stretch, I know.)
These doughnuts are much easier than your standard doughnut recipe, in that no rising time is required. The sweet potatoes in the dough keep them nice and moist, and the addition of the addictive maple sugar pecans adds a nice crunch to the doughnuts themselves as well as to the maple icing. Start these treats at tip-off, and they'll be ready by halftime 🙂 Here are a few extra tips for preparing these decadent "Go Duke"-inspired doughnuts:
- Maple sugar can be difficult to find in certain areas of the country, and it can also be quite pricey. Feel free to replace it with brown sugar in the pecan recipe, but replace ½ teaspoon of the vanilla with maple extract.
- This recipe makes more of the Maple Sugar Pecans than are necessary for the doughnuts, but the nuts are very addictive, so you will likely thank me later 🙂
- It is very important that you use an oil/candy thermometer for the purposes of frying the doughnuts. If the temperature is too low, the dough will absorb too much oil and you will be left with greasy doughnuts. If the temperature is too high, then the outsides will burn before the insides cook (yuck!) Take a minute and return the heat to the correct 360F degree temperature before frying a new batch.
- The glaze can also be made using confectioner's sugar, milk, and maple extract (as opposed to more maple syrup), but the taste of pure maple syrup is sooooo much better. Try to find Grade B for a deeper flavor.
Sweet Potato Doughnuts with Maple Pecan Frosting
Makes 12-15 doughnuts and doughnut holes
For the Maple Sugar Pecans
3 cups pecan halves
¼ cup maple sugar
1 ½ teaspoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons brandy or dark rum
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
⅔ cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon butter
For the Doughnuts
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups flour
½ cup sugar
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped Maple Sugar Pecans
Canola oil for frying
For the Glaze
3 cups confectioner's sugar
4-5 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2-3 tablespoons milk
In a medium bowl, combine the maple sugar, salt, and cinnamon. In a medium skillet, combine the brandy, vanilla, maple syrup, and butter. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Cook until the liquid has reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in the pecans and continue cooking, until the skillet is almost dry, 3-4 minutes more.
Immediately toss the nuts in the reserved sugar mixture until they are well-coated. Spread on a baking sheet and let cool completely.
Prepare the doughnuts: Prick the sweet potatoes all over with the tines of a fork and then wrap them individually in paper towels. Microwave them for 8 minutes on high, rotate, and then microwave for another 8 minutes, or until tender. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, carefully remove the peel and discard. Mash the remaining sweet potato.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs with the sour cream until well combined. Add 1 ½ cups of the mashed sweet potato and beat until incorporated. Mix in the vanilla.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the sweet potato mixture until it is fully incorporated (the mixture will be very sticky.) Mix in the Maple Sugar Pecans.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and knead for 30 seconds. Roll the dough out to a ½-inch thickness. Using a 2 ½-inch round cutter, cut circles out of the dough. Cut out the center of the circles using a 1 inch round cutter. Save the centers to make doughnut holes and re-roll the scraps as needed.
In a deep skillet or saucepan, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 360F degrees. Add the doughnuts to the hot oil in batches, cooking until browned on both sides, 4-5 minutes total. Drain the doughnuts on paper towels and repeat the process with the remaining doughnuts.
Prepare the glaze: In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioner's sugar, maple syrup, and enough of the milk to form a moderately thick glaze.
Dip the doughnuts halfway into the glaze, invert, and place them on a wire rack set over paper towels. Roll the doughnut holes in the glaze until they are coated and place on the rack. Sprinkle the doughnuts with additional chopped Maple Sugar Pecans and allow the glaze to set. Serve immediately!