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Day 235: Party Food and Grilled Cinnamon-Sugar Mini Donuts with Caramel Dip

I didn’t want to jam up the title with a bunch of finger foods that I’ve already written about earlier this year. Really, the one thing I was most excited about was a new invention – grilled mini donuts dipped in warm caramel. (Please don’t tell me if someone has done this already, I’m certain someone, somewhere has already thought of it.) But first, let me lay the groundwork for you.

Tonight I ended up cooking for a fabulous party with tents full of wine and food and cheer spread out over rolling fields just east of Red Deer, at the home of a prolific author (him) and singer (her), who brought her band up from Nashville to perform on the patio, violins and all. It was glorious.

I made some familiar things: bison meatballs with blueberry sauce, gruyère gougères (a.k.a. cheese puffs) which barely made it outside and down the stairs; crostini with bruschetta and olive-fig-walnut tapenade, which didn’t go over as well (I heard reports of guests discreetly throwing it into the bushes), arancini (complete opposite reaction – I could not make enough of these), and ceviche (I think 2 or 3 out of about 100 loved it, or at least could identify it enough to brave tasting it).

For dessert: espresso brownies with espresso ganache, mini pavlova with berries, and the aforementioned -are you tired of my own horn-tooting? – grilled cinnamon-sugar mini donuts with caramel dip. Unique finger-food sweets for a party are sometimes tricky, but this one was a blast. I had wanted to make chocolate panini (sandwiches made out of thinly sliced baguette and squares of dark Lindt chocolate, grilled until crispy-melty), but already planned chocolate in the form of brownies, so was pondering what I might do with a panini grill and a caramel theme. Solution: press mini donuts until flattened, warm, crisp and grill-marked, and serve with caramel to dip. Mike and I tested leftovers from Globalfest, and then packaged powdered-sugar and cinnamon-sugar varieties from Safeway and 7-11, then TimBits: honey dips, cinnamon-sugar, cruller and sour cream glazed. A tasty experiment. The cinnamon-sugar mini donuts and TimBits (cinnamon-sugar and honey dip) worked best, although with the honey dips a lot of the honey melts off, so I tossed them in a shallow pan of cinnamon-sugar as soon as they came out of the machine. (If you don’t have a panini grill, you could do this on a grill pan with a skillet on top to weigh them down.)

In keeping with the donuts-dipped-in-coffee theme, it occurred to me after sending the first batch out that the caramel dip could be served in a coffee cup, set on a plate with the donuts around it for dipping. (This photo does not do justice – it was around 10 pm and so not much light to work with!)

McDonald’s tarnished the idea of caramel dip a bit with their apple-caramel dip attempt at health food; really this is just caramel sauce, served as a dip. It’s easy enough to make, but you could go the easy route and pour it out of a jar.


Caramel Sauce

Recipe link

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August 23, 2008

To make espresso caramel, dissolve 2-3 tsp. instant espresso in 2-3 tsp. water, and stir it into the cream before adding it to the sugar mixture.


1 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup honey, maple syrup or corn syrup

3/4 cup whipping cream


1In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, water and honey over medium heat; stir until the sugar dissolves. Turn up the heat to medium-high and cook without stirring, swirling the pan occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the mixture turns a deep amber colour. If you like, you could wash down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water.

2(Some recipes call for butter at this point - if you like, stir in about 1/4 cup.) Turn the heat down to low and carefully stir in the cream (it will splatter) until smooth.

3 Serve warm or refrigerate - rewarm in a saucepan over low heat, or in the microwave.




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12 comments on “Day 235: Party Food and Grilled Cinnamon-Sugar Mini Donuts with Caramel Dip

  1. robyn
    August 23, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Those look SO GOOD!!! I don’t know if you have ‘those little donuts’ at the Stampede like we do at the PNE, but those would work so well!!

    And anyone too lazy to make the caramel sauce (like me), Superstore has an amazing Dulce de Leche in a jar for $3. Sometimes I just eat it with a spoon. Heaven.

    PS – I would NEVER throw one of your concoctions in a bush!

  2. Dana mccauley
    August 23, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Very clever to panini press your donuts! I love that idea and my borrow it if you don’t mind. Nicely done!

  3. Katharine
    August 23, 2008 at 11:56 am

    THROWN IN A BUSH!! W.T.H!? You might have to show me exactly how to make those one day….wink wink….

  4. maplesugar
    August 23, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Love the grilled mini donut idea and I second the PC Dulce de Leche sauce – I got to sample it for PC when it came out and OMG that stuff is addictive :)

    I was thinking of investing in a panini press – I have an addiction to Artigiano’s paninos *swoon* and given the price and drive I’m thinking I need to get my own press finally. Would you go with a Breville(sp?) from Williams Sonoma or the $30 version from Superstore or do you have another that’s your fave?

    Erica :)

  5. JulieVR
    August 23, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    The Williams-Sonoma ones are nice, if pricey; I can’t speak for the $30 Superstore version. Mine is a middle of the road Breville (not from WS, but Gourmet Warehouse in Vancouver). It really doesn’t need a bunch of bells and whistles, though! I havent tried enough different machines to really have a fave…

  6. elektra
    August 23, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    cooking for the rich and famous. you’re a star! my friends and I have a theory that you are on a trajectory of your own celebrity…

  7. JulieVR
    August 23, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    I’m glad you think so! Perhaps by the time I’m of retirement age I’ll be a small c celebrity. I can launch a new-millenium Golden Girls or something…

  8. robyn
    August 25, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    Oh! Can I be a Golden Girl with you??

  9. Nikohl
    July 4, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    HI there!!!
    Ilove this idea and we are planning to have these for my wedding. A couple questions, are these “cake” donuts or yeast? Also, is this something we can request Safeway to have in advance, like a pre-order? LOVE this story. THanks for the inspirations.

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