Sometimes I feel as if my East Coast friends delight in going out of their way to point out all of the awesome and cool things we're missing here in California, as if to make up for the fact that we do have (relatively) mild weather and access to an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables all year round. "The blueberries are better!" I'll hear, or "The corn is far superior." Or "You don't have seasons here." (Actually, we do. Just subtle ones, and you have to have lived here for a long time to perceive them, but that's part of the charm.) And sure, every place has what it's good at, what makes it special, and that's what's neat about it--that's why I love traveling, so there's no need to go about rubbing it all in anyone else's faces, people! Harumph.
Rant aside, enter apple cider donuts. I first heard of these beauts last year, during one of my friend's "California doesn't have x" conversations. Then, this year, another friend based in NYC instagrammed a photo of apple cider donuts about to be devoured (Ah! You foodies on Instagram and Twitter torture me so!) and Jackie, a fellow tortured foodie/photographer, and I decided that something must be done about this situation. So we set out on our own apple cider donut -making adventure! (If this were a movie, cue the montage of hilariously random escapades on the Quest for the Cider Donut.)
These donuts! were yummy--crispy fried outsides, with cinnamon sugar crunch, and fluffy, cake insides. mmmmmm. They don't really taste much like apple, to my surprise--though I'm told they aren't actually supposed to--but they are nice and cinnamon-y and spicy. Jackie and I took to dipping ours in our mugs of hot apple cider (something my grandpa taught me to do with Chinese donuts and sweet soy milk), which made these donuts even more delicious. ...or coffee! they are good with a hot cup of dark roast, too.
Then we took to photographing our creations! It is so much fun to watch another photographer in action, and it's amazing to see how different people perceive the exact same subject in such drastically different ways: it's a wonderful reminder of how diversity makes this world a much more interesting and exciting place. Sure, you could attribute the differences in our images to cameras or lenses, but when it comes down to it, I'd like to think that a lot of it is about the photographer, our individual experiences, how we see and interpret the world. Such fun to remember that not everyone has the same set of eyes, or heads and hearts behind them!
Jackie also managed to capture some rare photos of my kitchen in action, so if you've ever wondered what behind-the-scenes desserts for breakfast headquarters looks like, please go check out her post about our donut adventure! Somehow, she's managed to magically make my perpetually messy kitchen look dreamy. :-D
P.S. If you remember, Jackie and I went traipsing around Hakone Gardens together in the summer. Check out our posts from that afternoon here and here!
Read on for recipes....
Hot Apple Cider
makes 1 pot
6 cups unfiltered apple juice
1 cup water
4 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise pods
1/2 orange, sliced
1. Combine ingredients in a pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Enjoy hot.
adapted from Hearth Restaurant, via smitten kitchen
makes twelve 3 1/2" donuts and twelve 1" donut holes
1/2 cup apple cider, recipe below
1 3/4 cups AP flour
1 tspn baking power
1/2 tspn baking soda
1/4 tspn ground cinnamon
1/4 tspn grated nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
1/4 tspn salt
2 Tbspn butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup buttermilk
oil for frying
for sugar coating:
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbspn ground cinnamon
1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, gently simmer the apple cider for about 20-30 minutes, until reduced to 2 Tablespoons. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. In a bowl, mix to combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth and light. Gradually beat in the sugar and brown sugar. Add the egg, reduced apple cider, and buttermilk and beat until combined.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing until just combined--do not overmix.
5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle lightly with flour. Turn the dough onto the parchment and flatten until 1/2" thick. Freeze for 20-30 minutes, until slightly hardened.
6. Using a 3 1/2" circle cutter and a 1" cutter, cut out donut shapes and donut holes. Return the cut dough to the freezer for another 20-30 minutes.
7. Meanwhile, heat the oil until 350 degrees F.
8. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon for the sugar coating. Set aside.
9. Remove the donuts from the freezer and fry a few at a time, cooking each side for about a minute until golden brown before flipping to the other side. Remove from oil and drain briefly on a paper towel before rolling in the sugar coating. Let cool briefly before serving.