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Flour Girl: Ciderrific doughnuts

Apple cider and cinnamon are quintessential fall flavors. They marry well in these tender, caky Apple Cider Doughnuts. Cider is featured in the dough; honestly though, once the fried doughnuts are rolled in lots of cinnamon sugar, it's harder to detect the cider's flavor. But I'm in favor of any thing that requires cooking with the proceeds from pressed apples (and provides leftovers to drink).

Recipe Included

Apple Cider Doughnuts. (Leigh Lambert/The Washington Post)

I was drawn to trying these because I've never made doughnuts before. I don't like to fry things. Hot oil scares me. I don't trust myself to be that attentive throughout a recipe. (I've been known to forget an ingredient or two!) As it turned out, I was mesmerized as simple rounds of dough puffed up to "real" doughnuts in mere minutes. I used 4 cups of oil in a 6-quart pot; the amount of oil will vary according to the size pot you use. If you plan to fry food again in the next couple of days, you can strain the oil and reserve it for a second use.

Whatever you do, don't throw the excess oil down your drain. Instead, let it cool completely and then pour it into a jar or container that can be sealed for disposal.

If you don't have round cookie cutters to use for making the doughnuts, there's nothing to stop you from crafting them in any shape you wish. Squares would taste just as good. And if you are making traditional doughnut shapes, you will have scraps. Fry them up, too.

Doughnuts frying. (Leigh Lambert/The Washington Post)

They really need to be eaten the same day they are made -- preferably as soon as they are cool enough to bite into.

I found this recipe in the fall 2009 issue of Edible Chesapeake magazine and was true to it, minus the glaze. If you want to try a glaze, we ran a similar cider doughnut recipe years ago that calls for one. Simply whisk together 1 cup confectioners' sugar (sifted) and 2 tablespoons of apple cider. Drizzle over the doughnuts while they're still warm.

This is the kind of special-occasion recipe I will save for a slumber party breakfast or for Christmas morning.

-- Leigh Lambert

Apple Cider Doughnuts
Makes eight to ten 3-inch doughnuts (plus scraps)

1/2 cup apple cider, 1/4 cup of it warmed to about 110 degrees
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 small packet) active dry yeast
3 1/4 cups flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
3/4 cup whole or 2-percent milk, at room temperature
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons plus 2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Canola oil, for greasing the proofing bowl and for frying
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Place the 1/4 cup of warm cider in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Sprinkle the yeast on the surface of the cider and let stand for about 5 minutes, until foamy.

Add the flour, the remaining 1/4 cup of cider, milk, butter, egg yolks, the 2 tablespoons of sugar and the salt. Beat on the lowest speed until the flour is incorporated, then increase the speed to medium and beat for about 5 minutes to form a soft, elastic dough that creates a ball around the dough hook.

(Alternatively, you can mix the dough by hand with a wooden spoon until it forms a wet, sloppy mass. Oil your hands and give the dough a few turns using the heel of your palm against the edge of the bowl.)

Use a little of the oil to lightly grease the inside of a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl. Cover with a clean dish towel and place in a warm spot. Let the dough rise for about 1 1/2 hours, until it has doubled in bulk.

Flour a clean work surface. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and have a wire rack ready. Heat enough oil to fill about 3 inches in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over high heat.

Punch down the dough; it will be sticky. Place the dough on the floured surface, then roll it out to a thickness of 1/2-inch, adding flour as needed to keep the dough workable. Use a 3-inch doughnut cutter or two cookie cutters, in 3-inch and 1/2-inch sizes, to create 8 to 10 doughnuts. Do not reroll the dough; because it is leavened, it needs the rising action for structure. Rerolling will flatten the lift you've achieved. Save any scraps for frying.

Place the doughnuts on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with the clean towel and let the doughnuts and any scraps of dough rise for 15 to 30 minutes, until well puffed (they do not need to double in bulk).

Combine the remaining 2 cups of sugar and the cinnamon in a medium bowl.

Once the oil reaches 325 degrees, begin frying the raised doughnuts in batches of 2 or 3 at a time. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes on the first side until golden brown, then use tongs or long metal skewers to turn the doughnuts and fry on the second side for 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown.

Use a skimmer or skewer to transfer one doughnut at a time to the bowl of cinnamon sugar; immediately turn as needed to coat evenly on all sides. Transfer to the wire rack and repeat with the remaining raised doughnuts and any leftover scraps of risen dough.

Serve warm or at room temperature, preferably soon.

Per serving (based on 10, plus scraps): 551 calories, 4 g protein, 55 g carbohydrates, 36 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 55 mg cholesterol, 176 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 32 g sugar

By Leigh Lambert  |  October 22, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Flour Girl , Recipes  | Tags: Flour Girl, Leigh Lambert, recipes  
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