Today: A recipe for one of our favorite fall traditions, best enjoyed while walking though an orchard. Or the closest city park.
There is nothing like wandering through an apple orchard on a crisp fall day with a cold cup of apple cider in one hand and a donut in the other. But just in case you can't make it to the farm this weekend, I have cracked the code to perfect cider donuts at home.
These are fluffy with crunchy exteriors and just a hint of warm spice, and they are the perfect way to welcome the season. These donuts start with a reduced apple cider syrup to pump up the apple flavor, but the real secret is the combination of cake flour and buttermilk in the batter, which produces a very moist and tender crumb.
A quick note: The dough for these donuts is very soft and sticky, almost like cookie dough. I highly recommend rolling the dough out on a generously floured piece of parchment paper so it can be easily transferred to the refrigerator if it gets too soft while you are working with it.
Apple Cider Donuts
Makes 10 to 12 donuts, plus donut holes
1 cup apple cider
2 3/4 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated shortening (or lard, if you have it)
1 egg plus one egg yolk
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 1/4-inch and 1 1/4-inch round cookie cutters
Canola oil, for frying
1/2 cup sugar, for topping
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, for topping
First, boil and reduce your apple cider until it reduces to 1/3 cup, and then set it aside to cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Sift your dry ingredients, and cream your shortening and sugar together. Add in the egg and egg yolk and mix on high (with a handheld mixer or stand mixer) until light and thickened, about 5 minutes.
Combine the reduced apple cider and buttermilk. Then alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture to your stand (or handheld) mixer, until just combined. The dough will be soft and sticky, much like cookie dough.
Transfer the mixture to a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour or overnight.
When you are ready to roll and fry the donuts, heat a large pot or dutch oven with at least 2 inches of oil over medium heat until the oil reaches 370° F on a candy thermometer. On a generously floured board or piece of parchment paper, gently roll the chilled dough into a circle about 1/2-inch thick and about 8 inches wide.
Cut as many donuts and holes as possible, making sure to flour the cutters before each cut. Gently re-roll the scraps and cut more holes. If at any time the dough becomes too soft to handle, just put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
Place the cut donuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes, until they are slightly firm and easier to handle. While the donuts are chilling, stir together the cinnamon and sugar for the topping in a shallow, wide bowl.
Brush off any excess flour and fry the donuts for about 1 minute per side, being careful not to crowd the pan.
When the donuts are deep golden brown on each side, remove them from the oil, gently blot off excess oil, and toss immediately in the cinnamon sugar. They'll make you excited about the season even if you don't have a field to walk through.
Photos by Yossy ArefiThis article originally appeared on Food52.com: Apple Cider Donuts