How to make apple cider doughnuts, no cider required
I usually leave doughnuts up to the professionals.
Fried, glazed, cake, sour cream. Apple fritters and bear claws. There's no sense in trying to replicate perfection.
Donut Taco Palace is my favorite locally owned shop, but you won't find apple cider doughnuts there. The only place I can find apple cider doughnuts, it seems, is on the internet, where everyone is exchanging recipes and photos of them this time of year.
Maybe they are a Northern treat, or maybe they are too similar to regular cake doughnuts for a doughnut shop to make them special, but when I saw a recipe in this month's Cook's Country, I decided they were the perfect excuse to take my first shot at making homemade doughnuts.
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My kids and I love apple cider, so I was surprised to see that the America's Test Kitchen team tested this recipe enough times to find out that apple juice concentrate paired with cinnamon and nutmeg was, in fact, the best way to infuse the doughnuts with apple cider flavor.
The only addition I made to the recipe was to specify that the apple juice concentrate should be at room temperature when you use it or else the cold liquid will solidify the fat, which is what happened when we made these, and you’ll have to let the whole mixture come back to room temperature so it’s liquid again.
To get the right leavening in this yeast-free dough, America’s Test Kitchen used both baking soda and baking powder, as well as buttermilk to activate the baking soda. Once the dough comes together, you'll pat it out on a floured surface and then cut out the shapes with a doughnut cutter, but I used two biscuit cutters, the smallest and largest in my cupboard, one about 3 inches in diameter and another 1 inch.
Then comes the fun part. Deep-frying isn't as common as it used to be, in part for health reasons and also for convenience reasons. Frying can make a mess and use up all the vegetable oil you have in the house, which is why most people I know who fry things use an air fryer or maybe a countertop deep-fryer. I pulled out a cast-iron Dutch oven and poured about 1 1/2 inches of oil in the pot. It took quite a while to heat the oil to 350 degrees, but once the oil got hot, frying the dough was actually pretty easy.
I used a metal chopstick and metal tongs to flip the doughnut rings, cooking them six at a time. It took about two to three minutes per batch, and once those doughnuts were draining on paper towels, I started the next round. After all the rings were fried, I cooked all the doughnut holes at the same time, flipping and stirring them often to make sure they fried evenly. A metal slotted spoon was the perfect utensil to remove the doughnut holes. (Because I like smaller desserts, the next time I make doughnuts, I might just make the entire batch the small doughnut holes.)
After a quick toss in a cinnamon sugar mixture, these apple cider doughnuts were ready to eat. My favorite way to enjoy them was dipped in a little creamed honey from Austin Honey Company, which tastes like a light, sweet caramel. The kids were impressed that we could make a treat like this at home, and so were the people we shared them with for the rest of the day. Doughnuts don't last long, so plan on making them when you know you'll have plenty of people to share them with, such as a Halloween get-together or kids' birthday party.
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Apple Cider Doughnuts
These sweet treats are a must-have when visiting apple orchards in the fall. But far too often the apple flavor is lost. For our homemade version, we were able to cut out the time-consuming step of boiling cider by simply stirring tart, intensely flavorful apple juice concentrate right into the dough. A slightly higher ratio of flour to liquid ingredients helped us control the dough's wetness without refrigerating it for hours to tighten it up. Using acidic buttermilk activated the leaveners and gave the doughnuts extra lift and lightness. A bit of cinnamon and nutmeg gave the right fall flavors to complement the doughnuts' sweetness. After frying them, we gave our old-fashioned doughnuts a quick toss in cinnamon sugar seasoned with a touch of salt to add a final layer of flavor and a sugary crunch.
— Cook's Country
For the coating:
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch table salt
For the doughnuts:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup thawed apple juice concentrate, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
2 quarts vegetable oil, for frying
For the coating: Whisk sugar, cinnamon and salt together in medium bowl; set aside.
For the doughnuts: Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt together in bowl. Whisk apple juice concentrate, sugar, buttermilk, melted butter and egg together in large bowl. Whisk half of flour mixture into apple juice concentrate mixture until smooth. Add remaining flour mixture; with rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix and press dough until all flour is hydrated and no dry bits remain. (Dough can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.)
Dust counter heavily with flour. Turn out dough onto floured counter, then dust top of dough with additional flour. Using your floured hands, gently pat dough into a 1/3-inch-thick round that is 10 to 11 inches in diameter. Using floured 3-inch round cutter, cut out 9 to 10 doughnut rounds. Using 1-inch round cutter, cut hole in center of each round.
Lightly dust rimmed baking sheet with flour. Transfer doughnut rounds and holes to prepared sheet. Combine dough scraps, then knead into cohesive ball and pat into 1/3-inch-thick round. Cut out 2 or 3 more doughnut rounds and holes (you should have 12 of each). Transfer to sheet and refrigerate while heating oil.
Set wire rack in second rimmed baking sheet and line half of rack with triple layer of paper towels. Add oil to large Dutch oven until it measures about 1 1/2 inches deep and heat over medium-high heat to 350 degrees. Add 6 doughnut rounds and cook, flipping every 30 seconds, until deep golden brown, about 2 minutes. Adjust burner as needed to maintain oil temperature between 325 and 350 degrees.
Using spider skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer doughnuts to paper towel–lined side of prepared rack and let sit while frying remaining doughnut rounds. Return oil to 350 degrees and repeat with remaining doughnut rounds.
Return oil to 350 degrees and, using spider skimmer or slotted spoon, carefully add doughnut holes to hot oil. Cook, stirring often, until deep golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towel–lined side of wire rack. Lightly toss doughnuts and doughnut holes in coating and transfer to unlined side of wire rack. Serve.
— From Cook's Country