Apples: From Harvest to Table [Review and Giveaway + Apple Cider Doughnuts!]

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As we drove to the pumpkin patch a few weeks ago, Sweet Husband said, "I really want to try some apple cider doughnuts this year."  I agreed.  Neither of us had ever eaten an apple cider doughnut--I know!--and we were curious what all the fuss was about.

Unfortunately, there was, indeed, quite a fuss.  The line for doughnuts and cider ran out the door and all the way around the gift shop.  It was much too long of a wait to attempt with our wiggly Kid in tow.

But the universe evidently had decided that our apple-cider-doughnut-virginity just couldn't continue.  A few days later, this cookbook--Apples: From Harvest to Table--arrived in my mailbox.

I know this may seem surprising, but it actually took me awhile to even get to the doughnuts.  I got distracted by the more savory recipes--Brussels sprouts sauteed with apples, apple and red lentil steamed dumplings, apples stuffed with barley and rosemary, just to pick out a few.  

And then there was the heart-stopping picture of the hard-cider braised short ribs with apple slaw....Oh yes, that will be being made at our house next Sunday dinner.

But then, tucked in the back were these apple cider doughnuts, which, of course--given the disappointment of missing out at the pumpkin patch--had to be the first recipe we tried.

The dough came together easily enough.  The only thing that was a little tricky was getting the oil the right temperature to fry the doughnuts.  Sweet Husband did the honors, and he was constantly adjusting the cooking time and temperature to get them just perfectly golden.  A few ended up a little dark; a few were just a titch gooey in the center.  Neither of those things made me want to eat them less.

In fact, they were so delicious that after enjoying several hot and fresh, I looked at Sweet Husband and said, "We've gotta get the rest of these out of the house, like, right now."  Thankfully, our friends were perfectly content to get hot doughnut delivery service.

But, on to the giveaway!  St. Martin's Press has sweetly agreed to give away a copy of Apples to one MBE reader.  To win, leave a comment below with your favorite kind of apple.  I'll pick a winner this time next week.  In the meantime, have some doughnuts!

Apple Cider Doughnuts 

Makes 36 small doughnuts

Doughnuts need not be a labor of love, and these simple drop doughnuts prove just that with their simplicity. Apple cider is boiled and reduced down to concentrate the flavor, while yogurt is added to a yeasted dough for a bit of tang. The sour-sweet combination makes for a super-tasty doughnut that can be shaken with powdered sugar or a cinnamon-sugar. For a light and fluffy doughnut, make sure you don’t overmix the batter, which will stimulate the gluten in the flour and create a tougher texture.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 3 tablespoons baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
  • 1 tablespoon salt 
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 1 cup granulated sugar 
  • 3 large eggs 
  • ½ cup plain yogurt 
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 
  • 2 cups apple cider, boiled until reduced by half (1 cup total) 
  • Vegetable oil, for frying 
  • 1 cup powdered sugar or 1 cup granulated sugar plus 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, for serving 

Directions

In a medium bowl, add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Stir to combine thoroughly and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until well incorporated, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl between each addition.

Once the eggs are blended fully, add half of the dry ingredients and mix until well combined, about 1 minute. Pour in the yogurt and vanilla and mix briefly, until just com­ bined. Add the remainder of the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. These last 2 steps should take 1 minute total.

Add the reduced apple cider to the bowl and mix until just combined—there may be a few lumps. Cover the surface of the dough with a layer of plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, 2 to 3 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a floured countertop and knead it briefly to even it out into a soft mound.  The dough should be soft with a smooth surface; it won't need much flour incorporated.  Pat or roll the dough into a wide rectangular shape about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Using a knife, cut the dough into small 2-inch squares.

When you're ready to fry the doughnuts, add about 1/2 inch of oil to a large saute pan, and set the pan over medium heat.  The oil is ready when it hits 375 degrees F, or a small piece of dough dropped in bubbles quickly and floats.  Using a small spatula, drop the doughnuts into the hot oil and fry, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.  Cook on one side until golden brown, about 2 minutes, and turn over.  Cook the other side until golden brown, another 2 minutes or so.  When they're brown, drain the doughnuts on several layers of paper towel or on a paper bag and cool slightly.  Once they're cool enough to handle, but still warm, either shake powdered sugar over them or toss in cinnamon-sugar.

Any extra dough can be shaped, cut, and frozen for frying at a later date.

[Recipe is © 2013, Amy Pennington, adapted from Apples and reprinted with the permission of St. Martin’s Press.  Additionally, while I was lucky enough to get a free copy of this book to review, my warm thoughts about doughnuts and apples and all combinations thereof are entirely my own.]