Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Apple Cider Donuts

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone! My office normally has Christmas Eve off but because Christmas falls on a Thursday this year, they decided to give us the day after Christmas (Christmas Post?) instead. It kind of makes sense because it would be silly to come in for work Monday and Tuesday, have off two days, and then come back in to work on Friday. That being said, I'm a little nervous and I wish I had today off because we're hosting a family Christmas party at our house tomorrow and I would have loved having all of today to prep. But, I'm hopeful. We usually have early dismissals on days before holidays so I'm pretty sure I'll be heading home a few hours early this evening.

In the spirit of the holiday, I wanted to share a fun and festive recipe today. I thought apple cider donuts fit the bill because they're sweet and delicious, they're seasonal, and they're a great treat for friends, family, and for Santa. He's coming tonight so if you whip up a batch just before bed, they'll still be warm when he slides down the chimney or whatever. I don't understand how that man climbs down a chimney and manages not to make a mess. I understand that he's magic, but even Harry Potter causes puffs of smoke when he uses floo powder. Am I wrong?
Ingredients [yields 1 dozen "normal" sized donuts or 2 dozen mini donuts]:
donuts
1 cup apple cider
2 cups flour
¼ cup milk
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1½ teaspoons instant yeast
6 tablespoons butter
1 egg
pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
oil for frying

glaze
½ cup icing sugar
pinch cinnamon
½ teaspoon apple cider

cinnamon sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
pinch cinnamon

The first step is to reduce cider into a concentrate. This way, we can add just a little liquid to the dough but that little liquid will contain a ton of flavor. So, pour 1 cup of cider into a saucepan and place it on a low heat and bring to a boil. Let the cider boil away until it's reduced to ¼ cup and then let it cool to room temperature.
It should look thick and syrupy, like this:
Grab another saucepan and pour in a little milk. Heat it up over low just to warm it up to 100F, no warmer than 110F.
Use a little container and mix together the brown sugar, milk, and yeast. Let it sit and get foamy and frothy.
Get another saucepan, melt some butter and then let it cool to room temperature. I like to let the butter melt halfway and then take it off the heat to finish melting. This way, it's not sizzling hot and it takes a lot less time to cool.
Grab a large bowl, crack in one egg. Add a little salt, the cooled melted butter, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Give it a good whisk to combine.
To the eggy mixture, add in the bloomed yeast mixture, the concentrated apple cider, and a splash of vanilla extract. Give that a good whisking.
Add in the flour in 1/2 cup increments and stir to combine with a wooden spoon.
Once all of the flour's in, it should be a bit more difficult to stir with a spoon, so gently knead to finish combining all of the ingredients. Do not overmix! The dough should be relatively soft but not wet, meaning it should be incredibly squishy but the dough shouldn't stick to your hands.
Let the dough rest for 20 minutes, just to allow the gluten to calm down, which will make it much easier to roll out.
Dust your working surface and dough ball liberally with flour and roll out to about 1/4" thick and then cut out your donuts.
I like to do a bunch of medium-sized donuts (about 3" circles) and then a few mini-sized hole-less donuts (about 1.5" circles) and because I don't like waste, I also fry up the leftover weird shapes. The waste can be balled up to make extra donuts, but I don't recommend doing this more than once. When the dough is balled up and squished around more, it makes the dough tough and you end up with donuts that have a dense texture.
Lay all of the donuts onto a sheet pan and cover with a damp cloth. Leave to proof for 1 hour in a warm place. In the winter, the house runs pretty cold so I like to chuck them into the oven. The oven is off, but I think it's a little warmer in there because of the pilot light, anyway.
While you wait, whip together a glaze and a cinnamon sugar. The glaze is just icing sugar, cinnamon, and a dash of apple cider, stirred together. The cinnamon sugar is just white sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon, stirred together. Super easy.
Here are my cute proofed donuts! They look thicker and a little airier, which is what we're looking for.
I don't like to waste frying oil (because I rarely deep fry things) so I like to fry my donuts in a small sauce pan. The smaller the pan, the less oil it needs. It's totally up to you how you want to fry your donuts. Also, if you want to use shortening, that's great. Heat the oil to about 350F and start frying. I don't always use a thermometer but what I like to do is use the little baby donut holes to test the temperature of the oil. If the donut hole browns up in less than 20 seconds, then the oil is too hot and I lower the heat. If it browns up in between 45 seconds and 1 minute, then the oil is perfect. If it takes longer than 1 minute to brown up, the oil is too cold and I raise the heat a bit.

It's a little bit of a balancing game because when the dough is dropped into the oil, the temperature of the oil immediately drops so you want it to be a little hotter than necessary but at the same time, in between batches when there's nothing in the oil, the oil can get too hot. Just keep a watchful eye on the donuts. Also, make sure there aren't any little kids or pets running around the kitchen near the hot oil. Someone could get seriously injured; hot oil is no joke.
Have a sheet pan lined with either paper towels or newsprint at the ready and let the excess grease from the donuts drain onto the paper.
And while the donuts are still hot, dump them into your coating of choice.
And then let them cool on a wire rack.
I have a friend who hates red nail polish because he thinks it looks elderly. But, I think it looks pretty in this photo, don't you? It's a nice contrast color.
You may notice that most of the donut holes are gone and so are a bunch of the mini hole-less donuts. You can blame me a little but you can blame my sister a lot. She was like a little lurker who kept coming in to steal donuts. I can't blame her because these things are best when they're still hot from the fryer.
Once the donuts are fried up, I highly recommend serving them up ASAP with a cup of apple cider (warm or cold, I'll leave it up to you). These would also be super fantastic with a gingerbread café au lait or a Christmas cocktail. Whatever floats your boat.
These donuts are light and crisp, perfectly sweet, and taste incredibly like apple cider, thanks to the apple cider concentrate. They're so perfect. I know that New Years is coming up and most everyone resolves to lose weight. That means you need to indulge now. I'm terrible, I know. But I'm on the same boat. I rarely resolve to lose weight for New Years, however, next year, I'm going to Italy (how many times can I mention that? I'm just so excited) and I really want to look pretty in photos and be able to gorge on pasta without feeling guilty. So, January through March, I'll be doing some portion control and some yoga.
Seriously, look at how airy and gorgeous these donuts are! They're so beautiful, I could cry.
Here's the recipe page:

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