Fall is, indisputably, the most lovely season. Don’t get me wrong; I love summer. I’m deep into a 30-year love affair with summer. But there’s just something so wonderful about a crisp, beautiful autumn, especially after those dog days that feel like a sweaty hug that lasts about two months too long. Autumn, in all of its glory, is so much sweeter because we’ve suffered for it, which means we savor every magical day.
Not only does it provide well- deserved relief from the summer heat, but autumn also brings us the harvest, a bounty of fruits and vegetables that bring on a culinary frenzy. Everything is immediately pumpkin-flavored, and you can’t swing a cat without hitting a crate full of apples. It’s a magical time, and nothing is quite as lovely as putting on a cozy sweater and sipping hot apple cider on a cold** fall evening.
One of my favorite fall treats is cider, in all its forms. Apple cider, hot or cold; hard cider; and of course, apple cider doughnuts. Cider doughnuts, a delicacy, are exactly the type of treat you deserve after a hard day of apple picking — or looking at pictures of apple picking on Instagram — and easier than you’d think to make at home. Made with cider or hard cider (I used Bull City Ciderworks’s Sweet Carolina), the apple flavor is underscored by subtle fall spices and a light glaze. My friend summed it up perfectly when he bit into it and said, “Mmm, this tastes like fall.”
** Fall cold = 54º. You’ll laugh at the idea that 55º could be considered cold come mid-January, but for right now it’s freezing and you’ve earned that extra hot doughnut.
1 cup apple cider
1/2 stick salted butter
2 teaspoon yeast
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of salt
Additional flour for rolling
Oil for high-temperature frying, such as safflower or peanut
1/4 cup apple cider
2 cups powdered sugar
Over medium-low heat, simmer apple cider until it reduces by half, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter. When cooled to lukewarm, stir in yeast, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla extract. Cover and let sit 10 minutes.
Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, spices, and salt. Using a wooden spoon, combine dry ingredients and wet ingredients to make a loose dough.
Add dough to a greased glass or metal bowl, and turn dough so that all sides are oiled. Cover loosely with a towel and allow to rise for two hours.
Flour a surface and turn your dough out, coating with flour until it is no longer sticky. Pat flat and fold in half. Repeat, patting out and folding, 8-10 times. Roll the dough flat, to ¼-inch thick. Use a doughnut cutter (or two cookie cutters to make a 4-inch and a 1-inch hole) to cut your doughnuts. Transfer the doughnuts and holes to a waxed cookie sheet. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.
Heat fryer to 375º. (Or, alternatively, heat 1.5-inch oil in a pan at least 3-inches-deep.)
Fry each doughnut for 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown.
While your first few doughnuts are frying, mix together cider and powdered sugar. Add the sugar a little at a time, until the glaze is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon but is still easy to pour. As the doughnuts come out of the fryer, let the oil drip off and then dunk them in the glaze, turning twice to coat well. Transfer to a drying rack and let cool slightly for 5 minutes before serving very warm, preferably with a glass of cold hard cider to accompany.