Among the highlights of visiting an apple orchard are those hot, crispy apple cider doughnuts. After a day of picking apples, they are a treat. There’s no need to wait until the next apple-picking season to enjoy these fall favorites when you can make your own.
Many recipes call for the doughnuts to be fried. We’re taking a simpler approach with a rich cake batter version baked in specialty pans. They can be brushed with butter, then dredged in cinnamon and sugar, or dipped in glaze.
Cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg usually hold court for that nostalgic apple-cider doughnut flavor. You can also consider anise, ginger, allspice and cardamom. For more depth of flavor, you’ll want to simmer the apple cider into a reduction.
The doughnuts are best served warm, or eaten on the same day.
Apple Cider Doughnuts
Makes about 2 dozen 2-inch doughnuts
FOR THE DOUGHNUTS:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Zest of 1 lemon
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup apple cider (see note)
¼ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
FOR THE CINNAMON-SUGAR DIP:
4 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray pans with nonstick cooking spray.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon zest.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter, brown sugar and sugar. Mix on high until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time.
Add the cider, buttermilk and vanilla. Mix on low speed, then add the flour mixture until combined.
Transfer the batter to a piping bag or large zipper bag with a corner snipped off, and pipe into the doughnut pans, about 2/3 full.
Bake until the doughnuts spring back, about 10 to 14 minutes. Turn onto a wire rack. Brush with melted butter, then dip in cinnamon sugar. Serve warm.
Notes: For more apple flavor, reduce 1 cup of fresh apple cider to 1/3 cup by heating in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until it has cooked down.
If you don’t have doughnut pans, you can use a muffin tin.
Adapted from “The Barefoot Contessa” by Ina Garten
Vanilla: Whisk 1 cup confectioner’s sugar with 1 teaspoon milk and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract until well combined.
Maple: Whisk 1 cup confectioner’s sugar with 1 teaspoon milk and 2 teaspoons maple syrup until well combined. Spoon over doughnuts.