Even I, with my decided lack of a sweet tooth, am all but powerless under the spell of apple cider doughnuts. There’s something about the cold air, the changing colors, and the crisp scent of fall that open your senses in just the right way to admit the sugar and warmth.
And unlike some seasonal desserts, these doughnuts aren’t exactly a regional thing. Apples are a hardy fruit, and cider-making has been around since the invention of paper. So long as apples grow in your vicinity, chances are that someone is pressing, battering, and frying their surplus.
But how can you know that you’re getting the doughnuts at their best? Sure, packed rings labeled as “cider doughnuts” might pop up in your local grocery store, shipped in from orchards unknown. But how long have they been sitting on a truck, and how many times have them been frozen, thawed, or stuck in the limbo between? Do they actually contain cider? If you want the real real, there are only two ways to enjoy these desserts at their pinnacle. And the first is to go to the source.
To the surprise of no one, apple orchards generally make the best cider doughnuts. And while not universally true, those making their doughnuts on site offer a superior product. Could it be that one simply gets caught up in the sights, sounds, and smells of frying dough? Maybe, but I doubt it. No grocery store or shipped-in package can match the sensual experience of a fresh batch of doughnuts still warm from the kitchen. Add in a paper cup of steaming cider or coffee and you’re left with a taste that borders on alchemy.
Buying from the source also increases the shelf life of your doughnuts. Assuming they’re in a properly sealed container, you can add two, maybe three days before the peak of their flavor starts to dull. You can also toss a package in the freezer, socking them away for a midwinter pick-me-up. The texture won’t be quite the same once they’re thawed, but in the calm moments between snow-blowing sessions, I doubt you’ll notice too much.
There’s a better option than freezing your fall-time leftovers: make some yourself. The internet is awash with homemade cider doughnut recipes, along with videos from popular sources. Basics with Babish has one, and there’s an in-depth preparation available from Rick Martinez.
But say you’re looking to shave a tiny bit off the calories, or you want to minimize mess, or you’re just not into deep-frying at home. Look to Chef John, one of the patron saints of YouTube cookery. His Food Wishes recipe for oven-baked cider doughnuts is as delicious as it is entertaining.
However you grab hold of these autumn treats, there’s really no wrong way to enjoy them. Pair one with your coffee, warm up a stack in the microwave, or cut one in half and make a sandwich with some egg, aged cheddar, and a slab of bacon or sausage. I’m not saying you have to try that last one. But if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m about to.