Saturday, November 12, 2011

Apple Cider Donuts

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
15 cloves
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.

Apple Cider Donuts
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 egg
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.



  1. very good photos and the recipe is favolous and particoular

  2. LOOOOOOOVE this!  Your pictures are fantastic, as per usual, and I just love seeing how we captured things both similarly and differently.  Also?  We are so very similar in our takes about CA and its weather and its charm.  There are indeed 4 seasons... but so very subtle.  (Although frankly, I like the in-your-face SNOW and HEAT and so forth of the rest of the nation.)

    Next time -- Blue Bottle!  Ice cream!  And more yummy goodness!

  3. Not to be an annoying East Coaster but...your "Hot Apple Cider" should really be called "Mulled Apple Juice". Apple cider is unfiltered raw apple juice, and when you heat it and add spices, you're mulling it, like mulled wine. You can go from cider to juice, but not from juice to cider, and it doesn't have any spices in it to start with.

    Can't wait to try these doughnuts, and I may try mulling my apple juice as per your recipe as well - I'm living in Japan right now and mulled cider and those doughnuts are some of the things I miss most about fall!

  4. You are absolutly right, every place has its pros and cons and there's no point in saying that you live in a better one. I love my land (Piedmont) and accept all of the bad and good it has, foodwise or else. Now, for exemple, we have amazing apples, but no one here makes apple cider, it's not part of our culture unfortunately. I'll love these donuts from afar.

  5. Thanks, Jackie!  I actually love the SNOW and cold winters, too, but I *am* very thankful I don't have to deal with hot and humid summers out here. Even 80 degrees F is too hot for me!

    Yes! Can't *wait* for our Blue Bottle adventures. :)

  6. Wow! beautiful photos! could you e-mail me one of these fantastic donuts!? ;)

  7. Sneh Roy | cook republicNovember 15, 2011 at 1:14 AM

    Gorgeous pictures. Oh how I miss fall! This recipe sounds so exciting and I am now very excited to try them out. Lovely styling too!

  8. Looks amazing. Wish I could've been behind the scenes, just to sneak a piece!

  9. they look sooo good!

  10. these look like photos straight out of the cookbook of my dreams :)

  11. Love the images and the recipe; thanks for sharing...definitely something to try!

  12. STUNNING photos. Really beautiful. I don't usually make fried things but those donuts are so tempting. Yum!

    I lived through the hottest month on record for any state this summer here in Oklahoma. I guess the grass is always greener, huh?

  13. Your photographs are just amazing... the recipes, the design, your words, everything is just beautiful. You're very welcome to my reader, and my kitchen!

  14. I'm sorry, but I can't feel sorry for you and your year-round hot weather!  You should have PITY on your East Coast friends!  Their disdain for California's lack of seasons is obviously their way of coping with the fact that they have to slog through knee-deep (or more) drifts of snow for 3 months of the year!  Pity us poor winter fools!

  15. I would have taken a day trip to California for this baking adventure! Also I'm drooling. Dammitttt. 

  16. your shots are beyond gorgeous, as usual!  i love this post & it's so nice that you have a very talented friend to bake & shoot with!  these donuts sound fantastic & so does the cider.  thanks for sharing :)

  17. Your cider doughnuts are gorgeous and I love the mood in the photos- feels like fall. My husband and I went to an orchard this fall and had such a good time strolling amongst the trees munching on our cider doughnuts. This post brought me back. Lovely.

  18. Yup. That's my kind of breakfast...looks SO good!

  19. My goodness! Your blog is just beautiful! I'm in love. Funny, I was just talking to a doc that I work with and he was telling me about some Apple Cidar donuts that he made last week using a baking pan of some sort instead of frying. hmmmm. Anyway, I was very intrigued about the apple cidar part and almost jumped out of my seat when I saw this on FG. 
    thanks so much!

  20. These look delicious and maybe it will be the start of a new Christmas morning tradition! Your photos are awesome here and thanks for linking up to her blog too! Love to be introduced to new bloggers

  21. Ok, I'm originally from NY, now living in CA, and I'm definitely one of those "NY has better (blank) than California," but I've got to admit something: I've NEVER had an apple cider donut! So ashamed of myself. I'm going to 'right' this 'wrong' ASAP :)

  22. These photos are so warming and beautiful!

  23. I keep hearing about these donuts, but never had them since I'm from the South and now live in California.  I think it's high time I get a little taste of the east coast in my kitchen!

  24. I swooned for jacqueline and now I swoon for you. It is all too much magic!

  25. I love the mood in these photos! Beautiful recipe and brilliant images.

  26. These are incredible pictures!


  27. those doughnuts are sexy as hell :) beautiful shots 

  28. These look delish! Just FYI to all the West Coasters who haven't had cider donuts out here, if you're in NorCal you can go to Apple Hill in Placerville for fresh apple donuts, fritters, pies, pressed ciders, and unusual apple varieties. I just went for the first time last weekend, and it was pretty great! (These donuts look super authentic, based on my limited experience.) Nice work as always, Steph! :)


I love hearing from you and reading your comments! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog. Happy feasting!