As soon as apple cider appeared this fall, I started thinking about apple cider doughnuts. I'd see them mentioned here and there, crave them more, and hope I could find time to make them the next weekend. I'd never made them before and didn't have a particular recipe in mind, but I was sure there must be some reference to doughnuts made with apple cider in at least one of my books. There wasn't. I found buttermilk cake doughnuts, yeast-risen doughnuts, baked doughnuts, beignets, and nearly every imaginable version of fried dough except apple cider doughnuts. Thankfully, a quick online search led me to The Washington Post and a story from 2004 with the recipe I used here. At that point, so many fall weekends had slipped by it was already Thanksgiving, and I decided a breakfast of apple cider doughnuts would be the best possible way to start the day. Actually, working on these doughnuts while I had several other reasons to be puttering around the kitchen worked out well. It's not exactly a quick-as-can-be kind of process. The apple cider had to be reduced, and then the dough needed to be chilled, and then the cut doughnuts and holes required refrigerator time before being fried. In between each of those steps, I was organizing pots and pans and making sure everything was ready for the big meal later in the day.
So, I warned you this recipe requires a little patience, but one taste of the warm, glazed doughnuts will convince you it was all worthwhile. First, butter needs to come to room temperature. Let that sit on the counter while a cup of apple cider is reduced to one-quarter cup which takes about 30 minutes. Then, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and freshly grated nutmeg in a mixing bowl. With a mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar, and add eggs and mix until incorporated. The reduced and cooled apple cider and some buttermilk should be added next and mixed to combine. Next, the flour mixture is added and mixed just until the dough forms. The recipe instructions guide you very well through the next few steps. You prep two baking sheets with parchment sprinkled heavily with flour. The dough is turned out onto one of those sheets, and the dough is sprinkled with more flour and flattened with your hands to a one-half inch thickness. That sheet pan with dough is then placed in the freezer for 20 minutes. Once chilled, the dough is cut into doughnuts and doughnut holes which are placed on the second prepared baking sheet. That pan with cut shapes is then refrigerated for 20 to 30 minutes. While the cut doughnuts chill, the oil is brought up to 350 degrees F in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan. Frying is the quickest step of all since the doughnuts only require 30 to 60 seconds per side. They're then placed on a sheet pan lined with paper towels to drain, and the glaze is made. Confectioners' sugar and apple cider are whisked together for the glaze, and the warm doughnuts are dipped into it and then devoured.
Doughnuts are always at their very best when freshly made and still warm. But, if you wanted to attempt making these in advance, I suggest waiting to glaze them at the last minute and re-warming them in the oven right before dipping them in the glaze. The thin glaze runs down the sides of the warm doughnuts and leaves just the right amount of coating. These did make for a deliciously sweet start to Thanksgiving day, but I don't think there's ever a bad time for doughnuts.