I love apple cider doughnuts. I look forward to them every fall. When I was a kid, we used to go to Roger's Orchard in Southington, Conn., to go apple picking, and the highlight of the trip was always getting a bag of warm apple cider doughnuts to nibble on during the ride home. Ever since then at any apple farm I've gone to, I've sampled the cider doughnuts, but I never dreamed of being able to make these delicacies at home until last year when I found a recipe for them in Food Network Magazine. I gave it a whirl and ended up with the best apple cider doughnuts I've ever had in my whole life. I even made them twice last year just to be sure it wasn't a fluke and they were actually that good. They were. I could not wait to make them again this year.
To cut back on some of the work involved, I made mostly doughnut holes this time. The small circles of dough are easier to work with than the hoops of dough needed to make the doughnuts, which often get stretched out into funky shapes or even tear. Keeping the dough very cold helps alleviate some of these problems.
The Best Apple Cider Doughnuts (adapted from Food Network Magazine)
2 red apples, such as Cortland or McIntosh
1 1/2 cups apple cider
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 cup apple cider
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Make the doughnuts: Core and coarsely chop the apples (do not peel).
Combine the apples with 1 1/2 cups cider in a medium saucepan over medium heat; cover and cook until softened, about 8 minutes.
Uncover and continue cooking until the apples are tender and the cider is almost completely reduced, about 5 minutes.
Pour the mixture into a food processor, and puree until smooth (or use an immersion blender). Pour the applesauce into a measuring cup. If you have more than 1 cup, return the applesauce to the saucepan, and boil until reduced to 1 cup. Let cool slightly.
While the apples are cooking, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle, combine 2/3 cup granulated sugar and the shortening, and beat on medium speed until sandy.
Beat in the egg and yolk, and then gradually mix in the applesauce, scraping the bowl. Mix in half of the flour mixture, then the buttermilk and vanilla, and then the remaining flour mixture. Mix to make a sticky dough; do not overmix.
Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper laid on a sheet pan turned upside down, and pat into a 7-by-11-inch rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. (I recommend overnight because the colder the dough is, the easier it is to work with. It's a very sticky dough.)
When you're ready to make the doughnuts, heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees.
While the oil is heating, make the glaze: Simmer 1 cup cider in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1/4 cup. Whisk in the confectioners' sugar, and set the glaze aside.
Then make the topping: Mix 1 cup granulated sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a shallow bowl; set aside.
Line a baking sheet with paper towels, and set it near the stove.
Cut the chilled dough into rounds, using a 3-inch biscuit cutter. Cut out the centers of the doughnuts, using a 1-inch biscuit cutter. Or simply use the small biscuit cutter to cut all doughnut holes.
Using a spider or skimmer, slip 2 or 3 doughnuts or 4 or 5 doughnut holes at a time into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
Transfer to the paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining dough. Check the oil temperature periodically, and adjust the heat as needed.
While I had doughnuts in the oil, I would return the remaining dough to the fridge for a couple of minutes so it wouldn't get too warm and sticky.
Dip one side of each doughnut or doughnut hole in the cider glaze, letting the excess drip off. Roll the doughnuts and doughnut holes in the cinnamon sugar. Serve warm.
While this recipe may seem complicated, it's really not too difficult at all. It's just a bit time-consuming. I find it easiest to make the dough one day and do the frying the next day -- especially if you want the doughnuts ready for breakfast. Pick a random Saturday night to stay in, throw together the doughnut dough, pop it in the fridge, and put your feet up and watch a movie.
Fall asleep dreaming about warm, sugary, spicy doughnuts, and wake up remembering your chilled dough in the fridge. Set your oil on the stove to heat up, start reducing your cider for the glaze, and make yourself a cup of coffee.
Whisk your glaze together, make your cinnamon-sugar topping, and retrieve the dough from the fridge. Flour a biscuit cutter, and start cutting out some doughnuts. Keep checking your oil, and when the oil is hot, start frying your doughnuts.
Glaze, dip, and eat!
The doughnuts are best on the day they're made (even within a few hours of making them), so invite friends over. Doughnuts this good are meant to be shared!
What's your favorite fall treat?