Fall to me comes down to apples. Growing up in AZ, I never ate apples. They just weren’t any good. Red Delicious? More like Red un-delicious. Grainy, mealy, disgusting. The dread of getting an apple in my lunch sack. Now don’t get me wrong – I loved apple pie, apple turnovers, baked apples. But a fresh apple? No thanks. I just didn’t care for them whatsoever.
Then like many things, the Midwest intervened. A while ago, I thought it would be fun to take my friends kids apple picking. We ran through the orchard, loading up on McIntosh, Jonathan, Golden Delicious, Banana Apples. By the end of the day my backpack weighed 40lbs. (Whoops. I have a tendency to over-do it in these situations.) Walking back to the car, I grabbed an apple off the tree, gave it a quick rub on my tshirt and took a bite. Oh. My. God. What WAS this? It was crisp and bright and bursting with flavor, so unlike the apples of my youth. I ate another, of a different variety, just to check. Just as good. Could I have been wrong all these years?
Short answer, yes. Fresh apples – the key word being FRESH – are quite fantastic. Nothing like the mealy grocery store specimens we all too often find, regardless of where we live. If you live near a U-Pick orchard, be sure to rally the kids and go next year. They’ll have a great time.
Another tip … these wonderful folks usually have fantastic cider and if you’re really lucky, they’ll have cider donuts. I bonded with a neighbor over these donuts. Until he moved, I used to leave a greasy paper sack on his doorstep every year after my picking escapades. He still calls around this time under the pretense of catching up but I know he really wants a cider donut fix.
It’s hard to describe a really good cider donut mainly because the apple flavor doesn’t bang you over the head. Cakey with just a whiff of vanilla and a hint of something you can’t quite place. The flavor isn’t so much apple-y as pure fall. The esscence of apple orchards actually.
What I’ve discovered is that as downright tasty as they are, they’re rather difficult to find. Good ones anyway. So, despite my aversion to frying, I decided a few weekends ago to try to make my own. I tend to do that.
So after a quick google search it turned out this recipe was getting quite a workout in the blogosphere. Good enough for me. I used a rooty tooty single varietal Jonagold cider – because that’s what I had on hand from Farmer Pete (talk about amazing cider.) The dough came together easily. I actually left it in the freezer for a few days before I could get back to it, the result of an over ambitious project schedule. It didn’t seem to make a whit of difference.
I’ve always like my cider donuts rolled in a thick cinnamon sugar coat. That was until I tried the glaze included in the recipe. As always, I can be swayed by a good sugar glaze but if you prefer cinnamon sugar you can go that route too. Or do both!
I must say, these are quite delicious and much much better when they are hot. Next time, I’ll roll them a bit thinner and cut the hole larger in the center – mine were a bit fat and puffy. I wasn’t too keen on how I suddently found myself with 18 warm donuts though. It could be a hazard so gather up a bunch of friends and eat them hot from the fryer.
STRESS BAKING THERPAY FACTOR: 50/50. Recreating something you love is hugely rewarding. Figuring out what to do with a skillet full of used oil, not so much. Dealing with 18 donuts on your own … well, we all know how that story ends.
APPLE CIDER DONUTS – Adapted from a recipe in the Washington Post
Makes 18 donuts
For the donuts:
1 cup apple cider
3 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
a few gratings of fresh nutmeg
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup buttermilk
Vegetable oil for frying
For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 Tablespoons apple cider
- In a saucepan over medium or medium-low heat, reduce the apple cider to about ¼ cup, 20-30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to beat until completely incorporated. Scrape.
- Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the cooled reduced apple cider and the buttermilk, mixing just until combined.
- Add the flour mixture and continue to mix just until the dough comes together.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment and sprinkle them generously with flour.
- Turn the dough onto 1 of the sheets and sprinkle the top with flour.
- Flatten the dough with your hands until it is about ½” thick. Use more flour if the dough is still wet.
- Transfer the dough to the freezer until it is slightly hardened, about 20 minutes. Pull the dough out of the freezer.
- Using a 3” round cutter, cut out round shapes.
- Using a smaller 1” round cutter, cut out the donut holes.
- Place the cut donuts and donut holes onto the second sheet pan.
- Refrigerate the donuts for 20-30 minutes. (You can re-roll the dough, refrigerate them briefly and cut additional donuts.)
- Add enough oil to a deep-sided pan to measure a depth of about 3”.
- Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and heat over medium heat until the oil reaches 350°F. Have ready a sheet pan lined with a cooling rack for draining.
- For the glaze: While the cut donut shapes are in the refrigerator, make the glaze by whisking together the powdered sugar and the cider until the mixture is smooth. Set aside
- To fry: Carefully add a few donuts to the oil, careful not to crowd the pan, and fry until golden brown, about 60 seconds.
- Turn the donuts over and fry until the other side is golden, 30-60 seconds.
- Drain on the cooling rack for a few minutes.
- Dip the top of the warm donuts into the glaze and serve immediately while warm.