Alright, guys. I realize it’s September. The past two months I’ve been trapped in an anxious aestivation of moving apartments, stolen cameras, and appliances in an endless state of disrepair. It’s been rough. But it hasn’t been all bad; things have been moving at least, perhaps even too fast to warrant written (or photographed) records of each item eaten, each adventure endeavored.
Before I knew it, the muggy weight of Summer had disappeared and I found myself plunged feet-first into Fall. I painted my new kitchen a comforting shade of verdigris. I bought pants to replace all those I tore into shorts a few months ago (I still don’t like pants). I find myself with a hot coffee between my hands more often than iced. Such are the signs.
And the next idea hit me like a well-positioned bag of leaves to the gut: apple cider doughnuts. Natives to farmers’ markets and apple orchards, why shouldn’t this delectable dessert/breakfast be immediately available to ME, in my OWN kitchen? Ian brought back a pound of maple sugar from Vermont, and it was obvious that this would find a home atop them. With a recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen, I took a stab at my first fried doughnut, and I’m confident you could accomplish the same minor feat at home. All you might need is a pot big enough for a couple quarts of oil, and maybe a doughnut cutter if you live close enough to a kitchen supply store. Or a big and lil’ cookie cutter if you don’t. Make do. No one should be denied doughnuts.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Apple Cider Doughnuts with Maple Sugar
makes 16 doughnuts and 16 doughnut holes
1 cup apple cider
3 3/4 cups flour, plus some extra smatterings for working
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
4 Tbsp butter (1/2 a stick), room temp. or a lil’ melty
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
peanut oil for frying
1/2 cup maple sugar (or cinnamon sugar if you want to make it: 1/2 cup sugar + 2 tsp cinnamon)
There are a couple of tricks for successful donuteering:
– Don’t be afraid to smother it with some extra flour to make the dough workable and less sticky. You will know what I mean when you get there.
– Be patient with the time it needs to spend in the freezer/fridge chilling out. You will be much happier with the shape and not-falling-apart-ness of your doughnuts.
– Oil. Peanut’s kinda not too bad for you, and if you filter all the solids out afterwards you can save it for another frying batch later. You want 2-3 inches of oil in your pot, so choose a pot that’s not going to be so wide that this is hard, or an extremely large amount of oil. I used about a quart and a half total. When you heat the oil, use a thermometer if you have one, or rip one of the doughnut holes into a piece or two and throw one in periodically to see how it cooks. You want it to take about a minute to reach the deep golden brown on the outside. Any faster and it may not cook inside, and any slower and it’ll be overcooked. Keep an eye on the heat throughout to make sure the cook time stays constant.
Otherwise, you’re good to go:
1) Put the apple cider over medium-low heat and reduce to a quarter of the volume, about 1/4 cup. Just let a bunch of the water evaporate until it’s just concentrated appley goodness. Set aside to cool.
2) In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg.
3) In a large bowl, combine sugar and soft butter. Take your spatula and smush them around until they’re incorporated into a paste. Add the eggs and beat it around until you have a smooth, yellow soup.
4) Add the cooled reduced apple cider and buttermilk and stir to combine. Add the flour mixture to the larger bowl a little at a time, mixing with the spatula until a shaggy dough comes together.
5) Set out some parchment paper and toss some flour over them. BE GENEROUS. This stuff will like to stick and you do not want it to. Turn the dough onto your sheet and press with your hands until evenly flat, until a little less than 1/2 inch thick. Put parchment paper onto a baking sheet and slide into the freezer for 15-20 minutes, until the dough is chilled and firm.
6) Remove from freezer and start cutting out your doughnuts. I used a 3 inch cutter, but if you have cookie cutters, use a 3 inch cutter and a lil’ 1 inch one (or shot glass???) to cut out the inside. You should get one hole for every doughnut, unless you’ve managed to unlock some weird other dimension of doughnutry. I somehow ended up with 16 doughnuts and 17 holes ……… Transfer cut doughnuts to another floured sheet of parchment paper and freeze again 15-20 minutes. You can re-roll and re-roll your scraps of dough to get as many doughnuts as possible out of this equation.
7) Pour oil into your skillet/pot/whatever up to about 2-3 inches. Heat over medium until it’s hot and ready, about 350°F. Or until you plop a little doughnut guy in there and he immediately starts to bubble. If it sinks to the bottom and nothing happens … your oil is not hot enough. If you’re wary though, get a thermometer. If it starts to smoke, turn that shit off and do not burn down your house.
8) Plop a few doughnut holes in to start, and to get the hang of it. You don’t want to crowd the pan. Let them cook 45-60 seconds on one side, and then turn them over to cook on the other for 30-45. Transfer with a slotted spoon or something to a cooling rack equipped with a few layers of paper towel. Roll in a little dish of your maple sugar while still somewhat hot and oily. Proceed to cooking the rest of your doughnuts. YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE SO MUCH FUN.
9) Eat right away. Share as many as possible. Plan a brunch like this and serve them alongside the rest. The choices are yours.
These guys are certifiably delicious: they have everything you desire of a cider doughnut. Right out of the pot, they have a crisp exterior and moist, cakey, spiced interior. A day or two later, they take on the softness of your typical farmers’ market cider doughnuts, which hey, isn’t too bad at all. Your friends will like you for this. As if they didn’t already.
Take it easy (and it’s good to be back!)