When life hands you cider…

One of my favorite stories Mom and Dad tell is about Mom making doughnuts for the first time after they were married.  Dad talks about how fragrant, delicious, and telling the smell was wafting from the back porch, and as he made he way around the house trying to find my mother how he was just completely filled with dread, fearing the worst.  When he finally found her on the back porch frying away in the Fry Daddy, he asked her, “who died?”  And when she replied, “Nobody, why?”, he retorted, “because my Mom only makes doughnuts to go to a funeral!”

Now, I’ve made doughnuts plenty of times without having a funeral to go to, but in case you’re ever wondering, doughnuts (or in this case, Death Donuts) are really the perfect food for such an occasion.  The last time I made doughnuts on our porch here in VA, it was legit Death Donuting for a neighbor that at the time we didn’t know so well, but he had just lost his dad.  Today, though, it was just for the same reason my Mom made the doughnuts that fall day–I just wanted doughnuts.

That and we had some leftover cider that was just on the verge of going hard and I needed to find a way to use it.  After a bit of searching I found an amazing recipe for Apple Cider Doughnuts on the ever amazing Smitten Kitchen blog.  They’re crisp, sweet, spicy, and they were perfect with legit hard cider on this most perfect Sunday afternoon.  We left the actual doughnuts alone in terms of toppings, but shook the doughnut holes with some cinnamon-nutmeg sugar.

Whether it’s Death Donuts or I-Just-Want-Doughnuts, the best thing you can do with these baked gems is share them–my favorite way is to put them in a double-bagged lunch sized paper bag and hand over while still warm.  No matter what the situation is, your neighbors will thank you.

Apple Cider Doughnuts

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 cup apple cider
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, plus additional for the work surface
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 1/2 stick butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk

Vegetable oil or shortening for frying

In a saucepan over medium or medium-low heat, reduce the apple cider to about 1/4 cup, 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Because I used whole wheat flour, I did sift all of the dry ingredients together.

In a separate bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar until the mixture is smooth. Add the eggs and stir until the mixture is thoroughly mixed. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the reduced apple cider and the buttermilk, mixing just until combined. Add the flour mixture and continue to mix just until the dough comes together.

Line two baking sheets with parchment or wax paper and sprinkle them generously with flour. Turn the dough onto one of the sheets and sprinkle the top with flour. Flatten the dough with your hands until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Use more flour if the dough is still wet. Transfer the dough to the freezer until it is slightly hardened, about 20 minutes.

Pull the dough out of the freezer.If you have a doughnut hole cutter, use that to cut out the doughnuts.  If not, a biscuit cutter and a milk cap will do the trick!  Place the cut doughnuts and doughnut holes onto the second sheet pan. Refrigerate the doughnuts for 20 to 30 minutes. Re-roll the scraps of dough left from the first batch, refrigerate them briefly and cut additional doughnuts from the dough.  Refrigerate those as well.

This is the time to man your battle stations–I recommend frying outside simply because then your house doesn’t smell like grease and a doughnut shop.  Take cooling racks and set a good amount of newspaper underneath them (to catch the grease).  Line the cooling racks with paper towels, and be sure to have a doughnut retrieval tool (my favorite is a Spider Kitchen Skimmer).  A timer is also helpful if you’re anything like me and get distracted when counting out 60 second intervals.

I used an electric fryer, but if you don’t have one you can simply used a heavy pot filled with about 3 inches of melted shortening–just be sure to have a candy thermometer so you can keep track of the temperature.  Fill fryer up with about 3/4’s of the tub of shortening, and turn on to let melt.  When the doughnuts are ready to be pulled from the fridge, turn the fryer up to 350-375 degrees.

Carefully add a few doughnuts to the oil, being careful not to crowd the fryer, and fry until golden brown, about 60 seconds. Turn the doughnuts over and fry until the other side is golden, 30 to 60 seconds. Drain on paper towels for a minute after the doughnuts are fried.  These are best when served warm, but they will keep for a few days as well (if you can keep yourself and your family out of them!).

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