When the rage of the summer sun passes and the air begins to crisp and cool, my mind always wanders to apples. I love going to an orchard and picking my own, tasting the several varieties as I go along, or buying freshly-pressed, chilled cider from a local farm or roadside stand. And the thought of cider brings me, inevitably, to cider donuts.
The cider donut is one of the harbingers of autumn, a clarion call to get out the sweaters and start thinking of putting the garden to bed. Oh, and it’s just dang tasty. First, it’s a donut, so that’s good enough, but then it’s spiced, it’s appley, and it’s fresh because you made it at home. Right?
Well, if you haven’t been making them, maybe you should. We’ll break down how to make amazing cider donuts—following the guidance of Irvin Lin of EatTheLove.com—including how to amp up the apple flavor and the temps you need to get them just right. It’s going to be sweet. Let’s dig in.
Cider donuts: cake or raised?
I am a firm member of the cider-donuts-are-cake-donuts camp. I have seen excellent recipes for raised (yeast) cider donuts, but I’m just not convinced. I think it has something to do with the origin of cider donuts. A farmstand that is frying and selling hot cider donuts is probably not going to have a large proofing station where they can temperature-control the rise needed to make light, pillowy raised donuts. And if you’re making batches throughout the day, not having to deal with proofing times is a real bonus.
Cake donuts just make sense for this application. You can whip them together in very little time and sling them hot and fresh all day long.
And besides, all great cake donuts have a little hit of spice (nutmeg, mace, or allspice, usually), so the spices in these cider donuts just make sense.
Cake donut thickness
Cake donuts are, of course, leavened with baking powder and baking soda, not yeast. They can seem awfully tiny when you roll them out and cook them, but believe me, when they hit the oil, they expand a lot. Roll the dough for these donuts out just shy of 1/2″ thick. They will come out plenty chunky!
Cake donut temperatures
Right out the gate, let’s get some thermal knowledge going here. As with all things deep-fried, there is a thermal balance to be struck. If our oil is too hot, the outside of our donuts will burn while the inside is still doughy; if it is too cool the donuts will not cook properly and will get soggy, greasy, and oil-logged. To hit the sweet spot right in the middle, we want to keep our oil temp as close as possible to 350°F (177°C).
Of course, when we put a piece of dough that is wet into oil that is hot, the water will immediately start to cook off, taking with it the heat of the oil. Which is to say: the oil temp drops when you add donuts. Adjusting the flame under your frying pot to try to maintain a correct temperature can be a game of blind-man’s bluff if you don’t use a thermometer. A ChefAlarm® is the perfect deep-frying thermometer, with both low- and high-temp alarms so that you can more easily keep your oil temps in the right range.
As for the donuts themselves, final temp is, to some extent, a matter of taste. You need the flour and the eggs to cook to 165°F (74°C) for food safety reasons. If you like your donuts on the doughier side, you can stop there. (I mention this, because while we were frying them here, someone asked for a donut cooked that way.) But 185–200°F (85–93°C) is really just about right. You should play with your pull temps to find what you like. And what could be better than multiple batches of donuts for, you know, science? Use your Thermapen® ONE to find the right temp for you.
Cider donuts that taste…cidery!
One flaw that some cider donuts have is the complete lack of any apple flavor. They taste like cake donuts, sure, but not like apples! To fix this problem, we up the apple quotient a good deal. This recipe calls not only for apple butter—a jam-like condiment made by cooking apples well past applesauce until they are brown, rich, and spreadable—but it also calls for one medium, finely chopped Granny Smith apple that is simmered in two cups of unfiltered apple juice until the juice is reduced to only 2/3 cup. (If you overshoot that reduction, you can make it up with more apple juice or even water, bringing the liquid amount back up to 2/3 cup).
By using apples three ways like this, you end up with a concentrated, multi-faceted appleyness that really shines through in the donut. It’s very good.
While I believe that any time of year is good for any donut, these apple cider donuts really do have a special place in fall. They are warmly spiced, studded with apples, and full of delicious cider flavor that positively smacks of autumn and the changing season. Delight yourself, your family, your neighbors, or even your tail-gating crew with these perfectly cooked gems at your next gathering. Let the nostalgia carry you away with these delicious donuts. Happy cooking!Print
Adapted from a recipe on EatTheLove.com.
- 6 Tbsp butter
- 1/4 C packed brown sugar
- 1/4 C granulated sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 5 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground mace
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 2 large eggs
- 4–1/2 C (630 g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 C apple butter
- 2 C unfiltered apple juice
- 1 Granny Smith apple
- 1/3 C buttermilk
- Cinnamon sugar for coating (16:1 sugar to cinnamon by volume)
- Peel and chop the apple finely, put it in a pot with the apple juice, and bring it to a boil. Allow it to reduce until the liquid is almost syrupy. You want 2/3 C of liquid left. While it reduces, you can work on the rest of the dough.
- Preheat your pot of oil over medium-high heat. Use a probe and the ChefAlarm with the high-temp alarm set to 350°F (177°C) and the low-temp alarm set to 325°F (163°C).
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the two sugars and the butter until light and fluffy, about 3–4 minutes.
- Add the eggs and mix. It will look broken and ugly, and that’s ok for now.
- Add two cups of flour, the salt, baking powder and soda, and the cinnamon and mace. Mix to combine.
- Add the apple butter and mix.
- Add two more cups of flour and mix, then the reduced apple juice and the cooked apple, along with the buttermilk. Mix to combine. (If the apple juice is reduced beyond 2/3 cup, add more juice to compensate for the lost liquid. You want a full 2/3 C of liquid.)
- Add the final half cup of flour and mix in. The dough will be rather sticky.
- Flour your work surface and turn the dough out onto it. Press and/or roll the dough out to about 1/2″ thick—a little thinner is ok.
- Use a donut cutter or a biscuit cutter and another small circle to cut out the donuts.
- When the oil is up to temp, place a few donuts gently in the oil.
- Cook the donuts for about 60–90 seconds per side. (You can start the timer on the ChefAlarm to time each side.)
- Temp the donuts using your Thermapen ONE. You want the internal temp to be between 185°F (85°C) and 200°F (93°C).
- Remove the donuts to a paper towel-lined rack to drain. Coat in cinnamon sugar.
- Continue frying donuts in batches until they are all cooked. Don’t forget to cook the holes, which will take less time to cook.
- Serve with cold milk, hot coffee, or, of course, cider!
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