Oh-my-goodness....I am in such a food coma right now I can hardly move. As you can probably surmise, I did manage to make the cider doughnuts tonight for dessert. For dinner I made pork chops, fried in a bit of oil and butter with a cider reduction sauce, and since my house already smelled like fried, I decided to go for it. I was a bit concerned because I can count the number of times I have deep fried something on one hand. Actually on one finger. I think that I have fried chicken once. That's it. And deep fat frying can be kind of intimidating...what with all that hot oil bubbling on the stove.
I found an article on http://www.washingtonpost.com/ in which columnist Kara Newman details the origin of doughnuts, which were considered to be a winter food because that was the time of both harvest and hog slaughter (doughnuts used to be fried in lard). Unlike yeast doughnuts, which can be quite light and fluffy (and not worth eating, in my personal opinion), cider doughnuts are cakey, crumby, and dense. They have no overwhelming taste of cider, although a cider reduction is on the ingredient list, and are subtly spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. Nobody is really sure when folks started making these delicious treats, but they are served at many apple orchards, along with mugs of hot cider. In New York at Hearth Restaurant, pastry chef Lauren Dawson puts them on the menu seasonally and serves them cider-glazed with apple compote and whipped cream. I like them coated with cinnamon and sugar and think that the doughnuts alone are PLENTY. My kids dipped them in a glass of cold milk. Yum.
A couple of hints: I did not have a doughnut cutter so I used a 3-inch biscuit cutter and cut out the holes by hand, which was not difficult. If the oil gets too hot, the doughnuts will brown too quickly and the middles will be doughy, so turn down the heat if necessary. A "spider" (those Chinese tools with a wire nest-looking-thing on a stick Martha Stewart is always using) would have been very helpful for turning the doughnuts when frying, but I used a holey spatula instead and it worked okay. I do think investing in both a doughnut cutter and "spider" will be helpful for next time.
Here is an adaptation of Lauren Dawson's recipe.
Apple Cider Doughnuts
Makes 18 doughnuts and doughnut holes
1 C apple cider, reduced to 1/4 C by simmering for 20 minutes
3 1/2 C flour
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/8 t ground nutmeg
4 T butter at room temp.
1 C granulated sugar
1/2 C buttermilk or sour milk
Vegetable oil for frying
Roll finished doughnuts in:
1/2 C sugar
1 t cinnamon
In a bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Reduce speed and add cider and buttermilk, mixing until just combined. Add the flour mixture and continue to mix until the dough just comes together.
Line 2 baking sheets with waxed paper and dust them with flour generously. Turn out the dough onto one pan and pat down to about 1/2 inch thickness. Dust with more flour if sticky. Put dough into the freezer for 20 minutes. Using a 3 inch doughnut cutter, cut out doughnut shapes. Place the cut doughnuts and holes onto the second pan. Scraps can be re-rolled and cut out. Refrigerate doughnuts for 20-30 minutes more.
Add enough oil to a deep-sided pan to measure a depth of about 3 inches. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and heat over medium heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees. Have a plate ready with several layers of paper toweling.
Carefully add a few doughnuts at a time to the pan, taking care not to crowd. Fry until golden brown on one side (about 60 seconds) carefully turn and fry the other side 60 seconds more. Remove and drain on paper towels. When all the doughnuts are fried, gently turn them in a bowl of cinnamon sugar. Eat immediately.