Apple Cider Doughnuts

This recipe is one that is near and dear to my heart. Apple cider doughnuts are everything about New Hampshire autumn wrapped up into one bite.

Let me paint the picture for you…

It’s a Saturday, early afternoon in the middle of October. Around 65 degrees and the sun is shining, perfect weather for jeans and a long-sleeved shirt… maybe a light sweater. You and your friends or family drive 20 minutes to the nearest apple orchard (never a longer drive than that, because orchards are dotted all over the place). You park your car on the grass, pay $5 for a plastic bag that can hold 10 lbs of apples, then get to hiking up the hill through the orange and red-leaved trees towards the apples. You look for the colored markers (red tag for honey-crisp, yellow for granny smith) and get to picking. When your bag is full and close to spilling over, you trudge back down the hill to your car. Drop off the apples in the back seat and head across the street to the orchard’s country store. Look around at some of the local cheeses and pies, then sneak back outside and around to the side of the store that has a little window. It looks almost like a fast food drive through, except instead of the smell of grease there is only cinnamon and nutmeg tickling your nose. Wait in line until you’re finally at the front then order some hot, spiced cider and half-a-dozen apple cider doughnuts. You step to the side and wait while they fry up your doughnuts, fresh to order of course. The girl behind the window (whose family most likely owns the orchard) hands you the Styrofoam cup of cider and a paper bag with the hot doughnuts. Sit at one of the picnic tables, open the bag and pull out one of the still warm, cinnamon sugar covered apple cider doughnuts. Take a bite, say “MMM” as quietly as you can, promise yourself you’re only going to eat one, convince yourself it’s best to eat them all while they’re still fresh, and enter complete culinary bliss.

You can image how much I missed all of this when I moved to San Diego. But at least I have a recipe for these doughnuts. Kind of like how certain smells are nostalgic and send you right down memory lane, these doughnuts do the same. Maybe it’s the smell of hot cider and cinnamon associated with it, or maybe it’s just how unique the taste that makes you think of autumn. No matter where you live, these doughnuts will bring you to a brief moment of picking your own apples on a crisp October afternoon.

1⅓ cups apple cider
2 cups sugar
10 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature
7-9 cups flour
large pinch of salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2-4 quarts canola oil
cinnamon sugar: 3 cups sugar + 6 tablespoons cinnamon

Any Digital Multicooker
4-Quart Dutch Oven
15-20 doughnuts, plus 15-20 doughnut holes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

1. Turn on your multicooker and set it to Steam for 30 minutes
2. Allow to heat briefly, then add the apple cider; let it reach a boil
3. Boil for about 10 minutes until it is roughly half the original amount (⅔ cup); turn off the cooker and let cool
4. With a hand or stand mixer, beat together the sugar and butter for about 5 minutes until fluffy
5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating while you add them
6. Pour in the buttermilk, cooled apple cider, and vanilla. Note that if you have reduced your cider too much, add some un-boiled cider to make sure you have ⅔ cup
7. In a separate bowl, whisk 7 cups of the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg with a fork
8. Add the flour mixture to the apple cider mix; fold with a rubber spatula. If the mixture feels too wet, add more flour 1/4 cup at a time. You want the dough to be just dry enough to  handle it without being overly sticky and able to be rolled it out
9. Dust two sheet pans with flour. Put half of the dough into each
10. Dust a rolling pin with flour, then roll out the two sections of dough to be about half an inch thick; cover the dough lightly with parchment paper
11. Set the rolled dough into the freezer. Either let sit 10 minutes to firm up, OR if you are more patient, let freeze overnight. Freezing overnight will make the dough much easier to work with
12. Put the Dutch Oven on your stove; pour in about 2 quarts of the canola oil, or so it is 3 inches deep
13. Heat the oil to 370°; use a deep-fry thermometer to keep track of the heat
14. While the oil is heating, cut out doughnuts roughly 3 inches in diameter; keep the holes to fry as well
15. Line a plate with a few pieces of paper towel, then have a cooling rack next to it; have the cinnamon sugar ready as well
16. Once the oil is heated, CAREFULLY place in 2 doughnuts at a time. If needed, place them in the deep fry skimmer you use to remove them and gently glide them in the oil that way
17. Cook on one side for about 1 minute until browned, then flip and cook an additional 1 minute on the other side
18. Carefully remove from the oil with your metal deep fryer skimmer and place onto the paper towels
19. Let cool on the paper towels for about 30 seconds, then use tongs to move them to the cooling rack
20. When cool enough to handle but still warm, roll in the cinnamon sugar then set aside to a plate
21. Repeat steps 16-20 until all of the doughnuts are cooked
22. Serve warm and enjoy!

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