Donuts, donuts everywhere! The donut craze in the Twin Cities has been well documented by Dara, and indeed, many bakeries in the Twin Cities are cranking out good donuts. But this time of year, I scout out a donut of a different variety: Behold the autumnal tradition known as the apple cider donut.
Apple cider donuts are dense cake donuts made with apple cider and buttermilk. Deep fried until golden brown, the tender morsels are usually coated generously with cinnamon and sugar. Depending on the maker, the apple cider flavor can be more or less pronounced, and cinnamon and nutmeg levels vary by maker as well. Although coated in sugar, they’re not cloyingly sweet. My guess is that it has something to do with the tanginess of the cider and buttermilk in the batter.
Finding a cider donut can be tricky. You likely won’t find them at a bakery. They seem to take up residence among piles of apples at farmers market apple stands.
So get thee to a fall farmers’ market! Upon arrival, grab a coffee, milk, or hot apple cider before you get in line for your donut. Then, find your cider donut, take a bite, and smile.
And just in case you’re interested in making your own cider donuts, here’s a recipe that pumps up the apple flavor by reducing the cider.
Apple Cider Donuts
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 18 donuts, and 18 donut holes
1 cup apple cider
3 1/2 cups flour, plus additional for the work surface
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
Vegetable oil for frying
Cinnamon sugar (1 cup granulated sugar + 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon)
In a saucepan over medium or medium-low heat, gently reduce the apple cider to about 1/4 cup, 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.
Beat the butter and granulated sugar until the mixture is smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, until the eggs are completely incorporated. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the 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 two baking sheets with parchment paper and sprinkle them generously with flour. Turn the dough onto one of the sheets and sprinkle the top with flour. Flatten the dough with your hands until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Use more flour if the dough is still wet. Transfer the dough to the freezer until it is slightly hardened, about 20 minutes. Using a 3-inch or 3 1/2-inch doughnut cutter, cut out doughnut shapes. Place the cut doughnuts and doughnut holes onto the sheet pans. Refrigerate the doughnuts for 20 to 30 minutes.
Add enough oil to a deep-sided pan to measure a depth of about 3 inches. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and heat over medium heat until the oil reaches 350°F*. Place a couple of cooling racks on a jellyroll pan.
While the cut doughnut shapes are in the refrigerator, make the cinnamon sugar by mixing the two together. Set aside.
Fry and top the doughnuts: Carefully add a few doughnuts to the oil, being careful not to crowd the pan, and fry until golden brown, about 60 seconds. Turn the doughnuts over and fry until the other side is golden, 30 to 60 seconds. Let them settle on the cooling rack for a minute after the doughnuts are fried. Dip them into the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
Serve with coffee, hot cider, or milk.