I’m not going to go into a big song and dance about why I decided to develop a recipe for apple cider doughnuts (it’s fall, people), but I will say that they are the only reason I take even a modicum of interest in apple picking. If your apple picking spot does not sell apple cider doughnuts — dusted in sugar, preferably warm, and in a brown paper bag for eating before, during and after picking, forgive me, but you’re at the wrong orchard. And I’ll say this too: I’m really fond of ALL doughnuts (not just the apple cider variety), and yet it has been over a year since I posted a recipe for them (my last doughnut post was for buttermilk bars — slightly sweet, somewhat tangy, delightfully bar-shaped doughnuts, coated with the most aromatic of vanilla bean glazes). Now, I can’t really explain how or why I let the many months of doughnut-less posts happen, but I can tell you this: The fall is not only bringing you apple cider fried-yumminess, I’ll also be sharing yeasted red-currant jam filled doughnuts in a week or so. Happy? Hope so!
Developing this recipe was kind of a cinch, for a couple of reasons. First, the dough for my apple ciders is a tweaked version of the dough for my buttermilk bars. (I removed the vanilla paste and a bit of buttermilk, added spices and concentrated cider, and subbed some brown sugar for the granulated). Second, I had bookmarked two apple cider recipes kind of a long time ago (Smitten’s and Food 52’s/Apt. 2b Baking’s) and not only were the recipes super similar to each other (and to the one I was in the process of developing), but they also clued me into the fact that an apple cider doughnut is in fact nothing more than a buttermilk cake doughnut with some concentrated apple cider and a few spices — sorry if I’m bursting any bubbles here.
With this in mind, I concentrated my cider and went about my dough making, dough resting, dough shaping, and dough frying. I sprinkled my doughnuts with a cinnamon/sugar mix while still warm and popped one (or ten) of the doughnut holes in my mouth, as well as one (or five) of the actual doughnuts. The brown sugar in the dough gave the doughnuts the prettiest of hues, as well as a bit of a molasses tang and the addition of nutmeg and cinnamon, brought out the warm, subtle sweetness of the apple cider . . . kind of. In fact, although my doughnuts were deliciously spicy and tangy and sweet, I wasn’t getting a ton of apple flavor at all. Then it hit me: Apple cider doughnuts never really taste all that much like apples. They taste a whole lot like apple season, but actual apples? Not so much. And you know, the experts (aka a food writer for the Washington Post) agree with me. Unless, of course, you choose to use boiled cider, rather than concentrated cider, in your recipe. Then my friend, you will have apple flavored doughnuts.
So I leave you with this: These apple cider doughnuts will satisfy your hankering for the spicy sweetness of one of fall’s most delectable treats. No, they will not knock you over with their apple-flavor. But with their warmth, and tang and crunchy, sugar-coated exterior? Absolutely. And truth be told, I ordered some boiled cider from King Arthur, and once it arrives, I will be making yet another batch of these beauties using it instead of concentrated cider. I cannot wait to tell you all about it.
Apple Cider Doughnuts
For the doughnuts
- 3 1/2 cups cake flour
- 2 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp shortening
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter melted
- 4 egg yolks room temperature
- 1/2 cup minus 1 tbsp, buttermilk, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups apple cider
- Copious amounts of oil for frying
For the coating
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
To make the doughnuts
- Pour the cider into a small sauce pan and over medium to medium high heat, reduce the cider to about 1/3 of a cup. This can take a half hour, or longer, so be patient. Remove the now concentrated cider from the stovetop and let cool to room temp.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Sift again and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugars, shortening and melted butter on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. With a rubber spatula, scrape down the bowl of the mixer.
- With the mixer on low, add the room temp yolks, one at a time, stopping and scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add the room temp buttermilk and the concentrated cider and mix until combined. Scrape down the bowl.
- With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients all at once. When only streaks of flour remain, remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a rubber spatula, incorporate the remaining flour. Transfer the dough (which will be very sticky — somewhere between a cookie dough and a cake batter) to a clean bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Heavily flour (I used cake flour) a work surface and your hands. Remove the dough from the bowl, place it on your work surface and pat the dough or roll it out until it is about 1/2" thick. The dough is extremely soft, so be gentle and do not be afraid of using extra flour. Flour a 3 1/2-inch cookie cutter and a 1-inch cutter, and begin cutting out doughnut shapes (cut out all the large shapes first and then go back and cut out the centers with the smaller cutter). Use additional flour if necessary, and re-flour your cutters each time you use them. Transfer the doughnuts to a parchment-lined baking sheet as you work. Once you have cut all of your doughnuts, and holes (I recommend rolling the holes a bit in your hands to make a proper ball), you may re-roll your scraps and cut out additional doughnuts/holes.
- Using a pastry brush, lightly brush your doughnuts/holes to remove excess flour. Place the baking sheet of doughnuts/holes in the refrigerator, and refrigerate overnight, or for several hours.
To make the coating
- Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl and whisk. Set aside.
To fry the doughnuts
- When ready to fry, fill a large, heavy pot with 2-inches of oil, attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot and heat the oil on medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 350 degrees, or a bit above (the temperature will drop when you add your doughnuts, but while frying, you want your temperature to stay at 350).
- Line a cooling rack with a thick layer of paper towels, about 4 thick, and place it near your pot.
- Once the oil is at temp, carefully transfer a couple of doughnut holes to the oil (you may need to roll them in your hands before placing them in the oil to help them get back their round shape). I fry the holes first so i can see what the temp of the oil is and to get a sense of how long it will take to fry my doughnuts. Fry the holes for 1 to 2 minutes, using wooden chopsticks or any two thin utensils to gently flip the holes over after one side has browned. When both sides are nicely browned, using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the holes to the prepared cooling rack and gently pat them with additional paper towels. Continue frying the holes and then move onto the doughnuts. Avoid overcrowding.
- While still warm, but cool enough to handle, place the doughnuts/holes in the bowl of cinnamon sugar and use a spoon to sprinkle additional topping over the doughnuts until nicely covered.
- The doughnuts will keep for a day or two, but they are best eaten on the day they are made.