Fall has arrived in full force, giving us small tastes of what came before with its harvest moons and portending what’s to come in dribs and drabs. Not knowing allows for hope and tempers the dread of winter. Though lately, travel and winter sports make the colder months more fun. In this season we can count on the blazing leaves, the gnarled gourds, the apples, oh the apples. Brusque winds, clear breezy blue skies, acorns falling out of deep deciduous oaks, pumpkins and of course, my personal favorite apple cider doughnuts.
For me pumpkin and apple picking aren’t just part of the fall kitsch we all embrace along with scarves, sweaters and giant piles of raked leaves. I grew up in a small town in upstate New York, a contemplative kid full of inward gazes, literature and poetry, all in an attempt to figure out where I fit in. My parents grew up in the housing projects in the Bronx and Brooklyn, city folk through and through, and wholly out of place in the land where they raised us. Cows grazing, the Appalachian trail running through our backyard and acres of fresh berries and open fields were the stuff of horror films to them when they first moved there. But this town is what shaped me. My school bus driver from middle school until the day I got my drivers permit, owned the apple orchard we picked our apples in every year. Her husband was the town plumber. Her father gave my boss from my after school job at the fish store a job fish mongering at the orchard after his business went under. My brother worked in the orchard making wine. And on a random Wednesday, before the encroaching darkness, is when our family could be found, the only people roaming through the orchard, catching all that the trembling tress had to offer before the city folk arrived (aka the me of today). My town is a farming town, a blue collar town, with some city sensibilities. And the narrative of our town is a huge part of who I am. My roots grow firmly in Brooklyn, but stretch to this small upstate hamlet. Tangled deep in my system of veins and arteries, you’ll find them. If you look. And this brings me to these baked cider doughnuts. They represent the purest joy of the season to me, a journey inward through external pleasure.
While all that swelled with summer is still partly in bloom, but the colder winds move in, warm cider doughnuts are where it’s at. I’ve been looking for this recipe forever. Most recipes for cider doughnuts call for lard and frying oil. I just can’t do it. Not with the utter lack of restraint with which I reach for these. And finally, after years of searching and testing, I found the perfect recipe from Melissa, aka the Faux Martha. And trust me on this one. These are GOOOOOD. They only use a small amount of butter, they’re baked and contain no lard. I’d argue that these are not bad for you as far as desserts go, which also doubled as breakfast all week. They have the sweet warmth of sugar and cinnamon, a hint of nutmeg and lots of cider. These are no joke. The difference between these and what you can get at the orchard is minimal. That is huge. As with the orchard cider doughnuts, these are best if eaten immediately, warm and sugary. If you pair with homemade ice cream (as pictured) it’s a heady mix of all that I grew up with and all that symbolizes fall.
I hope you’re all doing well. If you want to do better, make these! Have some hot cider and embrace the present.
BAKED APPLE CIDER DOUGHNUTS
Slightly adapted from the Faux Martha
For The Batter:
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup + 2 tbsp. apple cider
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. aluminum-free baking powder
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg, fresh
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 large egg
For The Topping:
- 3 tbsp. butter
- 1/4 c. apple cider
- 1/3 c. granulated sugar*
- 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon*
For The Batter:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a small pot, melt butter. Stir in cider, and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, whisk together flours, baking powder, sea salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Into the cooled butter mixture, whisk in sugar, honey, and egg until evenly combined. Side note, dip honey measuring utensil in the melted butter first for easy honey removal.
Stir together wet and dry ingredients until just combined. Over-mixing will create a tough donut.
Spray doughnut pan. Add batter to a piping bag (or as I always do, put into a ziplog bag and cut off one tip) and pipe evenly into the pan.
Bake for 7 minutes. Allow to cool 1 minute before removing donuts onto a cooling rack.
For The Topping:
Meanwhile, make topping. Melt butter and stir in cider. In a flat-bottomed bowl, mix together cinnamon and sugar*.
Quickly dip each doughnut in butter mixture and lightly coat one one side in the cinnamon/sugar mixture.
Place back on cooling rack. Best served same day, slightly warmed. If storing leftovers, lightly cover, if at all.
Serve warm the day of. If reheating all of them, set oven to broil. Place a cooling rack on a baking sheet. Place donuts on top and bake for about 1 minute on each side. If reheating 2-4 for yourself, pop into the mircrowave for 12-15 seconds.