Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Apple cider doughnuts

We're halfway through it -- doughnut month March!  I've done traditional yeast doughnuts, chocolate doughnuts and now for something a little more grown-up and subtle: apple cider doughnuts.  "But, Katy," you say.  "Apple cider is for the fall."  Oh, is it, friend?  I beg to differ.  Apple cider is available all year in most grocery stores and probably gets lonely around February, when people are longing for warmer weather, time in their gardens, and outdoor barbeques and fresh produce.  Well, apple cider, you can just call me your hero, for I shall sing your praises any ol' time of the year!

These doughnuts are of the cake variety, like their chocolate cousins of last week's feature.  The apple cider reduction gives a very subtle flavor.  I personally didn't get much of the apple flavor with the plain cinnamon sugar topping, so I opted for the apple cider and powdered sugar glaze to amp up the apple factor.  Also good -- applesauce for dipping the plain doughnuts.  And, as always, these ringed delights are best served warm or within a few hours of being made.  Though one or two may have disappeared around breakfast time the next day.  There must be a doughnut gnome somewhere in my apartment.  Sheesh.

Doughnut month observation: It seems like people really want to visit me on doughnut-making nights, so if you're looking to play hostess, this is a good trick :)

Apple Cider Doughnuts
(seen here, apparently adapted from Lauren Dawson at Hearth Restaurant)
-makes 22 doughnuts + 22 doughnut holes, using a 3-inch biscuit cutter and rolling/reusing scraps

Notes: I halved the recipe since there are still two more weeks of doughnuts left... and it's officially ice cream season in Pittsburgh.  Also, since buttermilk isn't a refrigerator staple of mine and I'd imagine the same goes for most people, here is a way to make it at home (adjust amounts based on how much you need but the ratio should be kept constant): 1 cup of milk + 1 Tablespoon lemon juice = 1 cup buttermilk
1 cup apple cider
3 1/2 cups flour, plus additional for the work surface
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
Vegetable oil, for frying

Optional toppings:
--Glaze (1 cup confectioners’ sugar + 2 tablespoons apple cider)
--Cinnamon sugar (1 cup granulated sugar + 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon)
--Light dusting of powdered sugar

In a small saucepan over medium or medium-low heat, gently reduce the apple cider to about 1/4 cup, 20 to 30 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg.  Set aside.
Using an electric mixer on medium speed (with the paddle attachment, if using a standing mixer) beat the butter and granulated sugar until the mixture is smooth.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to beat until the eggs are completely incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the reduced apple cider and the buttermilk, mixing just until combined.  Add the flour mixture and continue to mix just until the dough comes together.

Line two baking sheets with parchment or wax paper and sprinkle them generously with flour.  Turn the dough onto one of the sheets and sprinkle the top with flour.  Flatten the dough with your hands until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Use more flour if the dough is still wet.  Transfer the dough to the freezer until it is slightly hardened, about 20 minutes. Pull the dough out of the freezer. Using a 3-inch round cutter for the outer shape and a 1-inch round cutter for the hole (a water bottle cap is my trusty center), and cut out doughnut shapes. Place the cut doughnuts and doughnut holes onto the second sheet pan.  Refrigerate the doughnuts for 20 to 30 minutes. (You may re-roll the scraps of dough, refrigerate them briefly and cut additional doughnuts from the dough.)

Add enough oil or shortening to a deep-sided pan to measure a depth of about 2 inches.  Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and heat over medium heat until the oil reaches 350°F.  Have ready a plate lined with several thicknesses of paper towels and a cooling rack over a cookie sheet.

Make your toppings if you are using any.  While the cut doughnut shapes are in the refrigerator, make the glaze by whisking together the confectioners’ sugar and the cider until the mixture is smooth; make the cinnamon sugar by mixing the two together. Set aside.

Carefully add a few doughnuts to the oil (I did one at a time in a small saucepan), being careful not to crowd the pan, and fry until golden brown, about 60 seconds. Turn the doughnuts over and fry until the other side is golden, 30 to 60 seconds.  **Watch carefully, as your doughnuts' cooking time may differ.** Drain on paper towels for a minute after the doughnuts are fried.  Transfer to cooling rack for a few minutes.  Dip the top of the warm doughnuts into the glaze or cinnamon sugar mixture (if using) and enjoy immediately.

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