The last couple weeks:
Full—of visitors mostly, and conversation, and good food too. The three always happen to coincide, don’t they? Earnest walks, feet pounding pavement to the tune of miles of city blocks, great big swathes of condensation disappearing into the air as we talk, scarves up to our ears, gloved hands stuffed into pockets. The cold is omnipotent and inescapable.
The couch served double-duty as a bed, throws unfolded and refolded and finally heaped together over the rip in the couch. Towels bunched up on the rack, foreign toothbrushes and contacts and creams on the counter. Squished together like sardines around the table. Plates and bowls cycled over and over. Coffee and coffee and coffee and coffee. The twice-daily sauna turning us into captives of the heat, shedding layers as if on cue as the radiator whistles on.
And then there was Thanksgiving. I can’t even think about it. So much food. My role as the preparer of brussels sprouts, though, thankfully, not much else. Watching as the guys prepared the turkey, standing on tiptoes with my cameraphone poised above the headless carcass. It was salted, backbone cut out, pushed down hard until its breastbone cracked. Piercing it with a meat thermometer a million and one times, unsure why its internal body temperature kept vacillating. As a result, dry white meat but done in 90 minutes. For dessert, a pumpkin pie. There was also homemade cinnamon ice cream—thanks Alanna for implanting the idea in my mind! It tasted just like Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
The return to normalcy. Decompression. Time once again ours. Sleeping in and in and in. Leftovers. Sitting on the couch which was once again a couch and streaming Breaking Bad until Walt started getting annoying. Christmas tree shops set up on street corners, and wreaths, big ones and decorated ones and plain ones too. Cracking open my computer for the first time in what felt like weeks. Black Friday emails days late, but overflowing my inbox nonetheless. I also ate my first apple cider doughnut.
And then I had to make them.
Because what I ate was cushiony and soft, full of air pockets, a real treat for gluten-vores. It was also heady with autumn spices and dusted with coarse sugar, really underscoring the apple cider flavor just like they should. In short, it was completely unlike anything I’d expected, and it was amazing.
I’m not usually a fan of cake doughnuts. In fact, I’m not sure the doughnut I had on Saturday was a cake doughnut – it was far too luscious and fluffy. But I love anything apple cider flavored, so I decided to make my own version with yeast.
This recipe is close. It’s not fluffy enough in my opinion, but then again, I wonder if the doughnut of my dreams is exactly that: not real. Nevertheless, there’s something really exciting about making doughnuts at home (another one of those look-what-I-made! foods), and these taste delicious when they’re fresh out of the, um, fryer? Is that what you call your pot when you’re using it for deep-frying?
YEASTED APPLE CIDER DOUGHNUTS
Makes 12 doughnuts plus 12+ doughnut holes
Adapted from Chow
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out
1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp fine salt
2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp granulated sugar
3/4 cup apple cider
2 large egg yolks
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
Neutral oil for frying
1/2 cup sugar (optional)
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon (optional)
Whisk the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl to combine, and set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix the yeast and 1 tsp of sugar. Heat 1/2 cup of the apple cider until it’s warm but not hot, and add it to the yeast mixture. Stir to combine. Let it sit until it’s foamy, about 5 minutes. Then, add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, remaining 1/4 cup apple cider, egg yolks, oil, and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together and begins to form a ball.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Scatter the butter pieces over the dough and knead until the butter is fully incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes. You might need to add up to 1/4 cup of additional flour to keep the dough from being too sticky.
Oil the sides of a large bowl. Form the dough into a ball, and place it in, turning to coat. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Punch down the dough, transfer it to a lightly floured work surface, and roll it out until it’s about 1/2 inch thick. Using a 3-inch round cutter, stamp out as many dough rounds as you can. Use a 1-inch round cutter to make the inner hole (or, in my case, an icing tip that was about 1.5″ in diameter) and place the doughnuts—and doughnut holes—on the prepared baking sheet. Gather the dough scraps and repeat. Discard any remaining dough scraps. Cover the doughnuts and let them proof until they’re about 3/4 inches in height, 30 minutes to an hour.
Fill a heavy-bottomed pot with about 2 inches of a neutral oil. Clap a candy thermometer on the side. Heat the oil on medium heat until it reaches 360 degrees F. It should take a little while, so in the meantime, prepare a rack where the doughnuts will drain by laying over it a few sheets of paper towels. If you’re planning on topping the doughnuts, prepare the cinnamon sugar in a large plate and set it close by.
Once the oil is ready, add the first doughnut. Fry until golden brown, about 30 seconds, then flip it over (I used chopsticks). Add the second doughnut and repeat. Move the first one to the rack when it’s ready, and continue frying the rest. I was able to balance frying three at a time. Once the doughnut has cooled a little, dip it in the cinnamon sugar until it’s generously covered. Move on to the doughnut holes.