Apple Cider Doughnuts – bringing the cider mill home

Spiced Cider Doughnuts, 1/5
Spiced Cider Doughnuts – recipe in post

I don’t usually buy ‘donuts’. The dry and sugary mess at places like Dunkin’ D’s… just don’t cut it for me. Every once and awhile I go to a local bakery and get a nice French Cruller, or Beignet – but chances are you won’t find me perusing the goods of a Tim Horton’s, or pressing my nose against the glass at Krispy Kreme.

Then there’s that rare exception. In fall, a magical thing happens – pumpkins and apples hit the shelves, and local cider mills open for business. In Michigan, this here is the season for Spiced Cider Doughnuts.

Spiced Cider Doughnuts, 2/5
Now, I’ve never made doughnuts before, so I went recipe hunting. I know a lot of people are doing baked doughnuts these days, but the way I see it, doughnuts are cake (or, American cake style doughnuts like these are cake) and I can eat cake whenever I want. Also, I shouldn’t have any excuse for thinking they’re healthy. They aren’t. Also also, I don’t have a doughnut pan. Can somebody remedy this for me, please?

Where was I? Right, I went recipe hunting. It didn’t take me long to stumble across this recipe from Hearth restaurant, in New York – I’ve never been, but the murmurs I hear are enough to make my mouth water. They serve their Cider Doughnuts with a glaze, and lightly sweetened whipped cream… but for nostalgia’s sake, I rolled mine in cinnamon sugar, just like my local cider mill does.

Spiced Cider Doughnuts, 4/5

Have you ever had a freshly made doughnut? Still warm, they aren’t just cakey… they’re crisp on the outside, and tender on the inside. Such a contrast to my expectations! My only disappointment with these doughnuts was in my lack of doughnut-making experience. Several were dry, and over-done… I suspect because I rolled my dough too thin, causing them too cook too quickly. Making mistakes (and learning from them) is why I’m here. Learn from me. Eat doughnuts. You’re welcome.

Spiced Cider Doughnuts, 3/5

Recipe note: there’s a debate going on about the best oil to use for doughnut frying. Traditionally, doughnuts are fried in oils that are solid at room temperature – i.e., trans-fatty shortenings – because once the donuts have cooled, the oil solidifies and appears less greasy. Other’s say they swear by using vegetable, canola, or safflower oil. I chose to use canola for my doughnuts, and found it worked perfectly with no excess greasiness. For a ‘better’ solid-at-room-temperature fat you can use palm kernel oil, or coconut oil.
Apple Cider Doughnuts
Recipe adapted from Hearth Restaurant, NY
Makes approx. 20 doughnuts and doughnut holes

1 cup apple cider (plain or spiced)

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
pinch of cloves
4 TBSP (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
Oil, for frying (see recipe note)
To coat:
1 cup granulated sugar
2 TBSP ground cinnamon
1.   In a saucepan over medium-low heat, simmer the apple cider until it has reduced to about 1/4 cup. This should take about 20-30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2.   In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside
3.   Using an electric mixer (with a paddle attachment if you have one) beat the butter and sugars together until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until each is well incorporated. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides as needed. Reduce speed to low and add in the buttermilk and the reduced apple cider until just combined. Then add the flour mixture, and continue to mix until the dough just comes together into a ball.
4.   Line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper, and dust them thoroughly with flour. Turn the dough out onto one of the sheets, and sprinkle a little more flour on top. Press the dough out until it is about 1/2 inch thick, then place the sheet in the freezer and chill until slightly firm, about 20-30 minutes. When flattening the dough, I suggest over-estimating 1/2 inch rather than under-estimating. Some of my doughnuts were on the thin side, which caused them to cook too quickly, resulting in dry interiors. 
5.    Once the dough  has chilled, cut out the doughnuts. You can use a doughnut cutter if you have one, or use a 3inch round cutter and 1inch round cutter, like I did. Place the cut out doughnuts and doughnut holes on the second parchment-lined sheet. Re-roll any scraps of dough to make more. Place the cut doughnuts and holes in the fridge and chill for another 20-30 minutes.
6.   Meanwhile, get your oil going. Be sure to use enough oil or shortening to measure about 3 inches deep. Attache a thermometer to the side of the pot and heat over medium until the oil reaches 350f. Line a plate or tray with a few paper towels, and set aside.
7.   In a shallow dish, mix together the sugar and cinnamon coating. Set aside.
8.   Fry the doughnuts just a few at a time, being careful not to crowd the pan. Adding too many doughnuts at once may cause them to steam each other, and will also lower the oil temperature too quickly. Keep an eye on the thermometer and be sure to return the oil to 350f. if it varies.
Fry the doughnuts for approx. 50-60 seconds, or until golden brown. Carefully flip the doughnuts (chopsticks work well, here) and fry the other side until golden, another 30-50 seconds. Drain the doughnuts on the paper towels for a minute or two before rolling in the cinnamon sugar topping.
9.   Serve fresh with a hot mug of spiced cider, or a cup of tea or coffee. Enjoy!
Spiced Cider Doughnuts, 5/5

What’s your favorite doughnut-eating experience? Tell me in the comments below!

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22 Responses to Apple Cider Doughnuts – bringing the cider mill home

  1. Ashlae October 9, 2012 at 1:47 am #

    Fall is pretty magical, huh? I could get used to pumpkins and cider and crinkly leaves all year around. And doughnuts. They look delicious, lady.

    • Willow October 9, 2012 at 11:56 pm #

      Ditto – thanks!

  2. leaf (the indolent cook) October 9, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    Looks totally awesome. I read about apple cider doughnuts on North American blogs all the time and want to taste them so badly!

    • Willow October 9, 2012 at 11:56 pm #

      Definitely worth trying at least once – it’s an Autumn trademark around here!

  3. Marie | Feeling Foodish October 9, 2012 at 11:30 pm #

    I tried a new cider doughnut recipe too this year and it was just okay. I want to improve it by trying to tweak it some more.

    You may want to try making yeast-based doughnuts for a lighter, puffier doughnut. I think they are a bit more popular than cake doughnuts (ie, baking powder based)….

    Still, yours look good! But I know what you mean about the chain store doughnuts – definitely nothing special compared to that still-warm cider mill doughnut. YUM.

    • Willow October 9, 2012 at 11:55 pm #

      Indeed – I would love to do yeasted doughnuts next time. For these I really wanted to replicate the classic cake doughnuts, though, and thought they turned out quite nicely. :)

  4. Thyme (Sarah) October 9, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    Could not take my eyes off of this photo on Foodgawker! Beautiful! I miss NY cider donuts.

  5. urbanstrawberries October 10, 2012 at 2:19 am #

    My kids will do anything for me once I serve them these! Love the post, love the pics. Can’t wait to try the recipe. Thanks!

  6. Courtney J October 10, 2012 at 4:08 am #

    I want to eat all of these doughnuts now. They look amazing! Gorgeous photo. :)

  7. Leonie October 11, 2012 at 7:46 am #

    Actually I don’t like doughnuts like they sell them in dd shops or supermarkets, but yours look wonderful!

  8. Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes October 17, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

    So beautiful!

    Fried Donuts are on my must make list – I love baked donuts bit every once in a while I need that crispy soft contrast!

    One of our local apple orchards makes freshly fried apple cider donuts – they are amazing!!

    • Willow October 17, 2012 at 8:00 pm #

      And I’ve been meaning to try baked! Just need to get my hands on a doughnut pan. :)

  9. Kitchen Butterfly October 21, 2012 at 7:01 am #

    These doughnuts are absolutely gorgeous, and the photos do all the job of making them scrumptious!

    On the oil recommendations, I wouldnt recommend palm oil, for its red colour, the strong peculiar taste and the fact that it solidifies at room temperature with a rather unpleasant mouth feel. (I know palm oil as I am Nigerian and cook with it on a regular basis). There is also palm kernel oil, extracted from the actual nut within the palm fruit which is similar to coconut oil so if you’re referring to that oil, then perhaps.

    Thanks for sharing

    • Willow October 21, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

      You know, I hadn’t realized there was a difference between palm oil, and palm kernel oil – I’ll edit the post to specify that! Thanks for educating me. :)

  10. Kitchen Butterfly October 21, 2012 at 7:05 am #

    And me again – I love the first photo, especially the black background. Can i ask if it’s fabric or wood? Thanks

    • Willow October 21, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

      Thanks! It is a wood background – a piece of edge-grain wood I bought and stained.

  11. Anonymous December 12, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    Please read and correct step 3, if you actually read the recipe you will see that you would be left with a bowl of flour mixture and your wet ingredients and butter, sugar mixture will magically make a ball of dough. please add in that you add the flour, I am a pastry chef with a bachelor’s degree and i am also a baking and pastry teacher, leaving out a detail like this for people who do not bake often would confuse them. this post is not about the fancy pictures but the quality of the recipe. so please when you are posting a recipe make sure it is accurate and proof read

    • Willow December 12, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

      That was a pretty major error on my part – thank you for pointing it out. The post has been corrected. I always proof read each recipe before publishing, but there are still minor typos and errors that get through from time to time. To err is human, after all.

  12. Anonymous September 30, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    As a young mother we had moved to the Catskills and fall was apple picking and doughnuts time. A particular momentous time for us was on halloween, a neighbor would bake homemade yeast doughnuts and that was her treat to the families in the area. She was the most popular! They would actually come straight from her oven to our bags, and of course with cider chaser!

    • Willow Arlen September 30, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

      Wow, how generous! Wish I had neighbors like your! :)

  13. Linda November 4, 2013 at 1:42 am #

    Just came back from upstate NY visiting family and trying every apple cider doughnut within range. They are my weakness and something new for this native Floridian. I am anxious to try your recipe. I tried a baked one with salted caramel topping that was pretty good but the traditional one is my favorite. Thanks for the beautiful inspiration…..

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