Canadians consume the most donuts per capita of any nationality and they are generally pretty happy people. Homer Simpson is another pretty happy person who eats a lot of donuts. On the basis of these two facts, one of which is drawn form a work of fiction, I am prepared to state definitively that eating donuts makes you a happy person. In fact, only eating donuts can make you happy.
Making homemade donuts makes you doubly happy. First, there’s donuts. These apple cider donuts have the sweet fried taste with hints of cinnamon and apple that you love, and since you make them yourself, there is actually no possible way to get them hotter and fresher. Second, there’s the pride in knowing that you made the donuts. I know that the guy in the time to make the donuts commercials didn’t seem to have a lot of pride, but you’ll have to trust me that it’s different in real life.
At first glance, these seem to have a lot of steps, and they do, but they’re easy steps. Consider making the dough ahead and refrigerating overnight.
Apple Cider Donuts (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
for the dough
1 cup apple cider
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon lemon or orange zest
Lard, shortening, or canola oil (or a combination) for deep frying
for the topping
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the apple cider, stirring frequently, to reduce. The mixture will bubble intensely for about 25 minutes, and then very quickly turn into a syrup. Turn off the heat when you have about 1/4 cup of liquid. Set aside.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
Using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, and with speed on medium, cream the butter for a minute, and then add the sugar and beat for another minute or two. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat until they are well blended with the butter. You may need to scrape the sides at this point. With mixer turned to low, add the apple cider, zest, and buttermilk. Slowly add the flour mixture, mixing just until the dough holds together.
Line two large baking sheets with wax paper, and dust with flour. Place the dough onto one of the baking sheets, adding flour if needed, and press the dough out until it is 1/2″ thick all around. Place the baking sheet into the freezer to chill for 20 minutes. Using a 3-3 1/2″ donut cutter, plus a 1″ donut hole cutter, make your donuts. I have neither of those things, so I used a drinking glass and a shot glass for donut duty. Place the cut donuts onto the other prepared baking sheet. Gather up the dough bits, press them back into shape, and cut more donuts. Place the cut donuts on the trays into the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.
I use an electric skillet to deep fry, but if you are doing it on the stovetop, use a heavy bottomed pan with deep sides, and monitor the temperature with a candy thermometer, to keep the oil around 350 degrees. You will need about 3″ of oil. It will take about 15-20 minutes for your oil to preheat.
Carefully place the dough into the oil, and cook each side for a minute or less, and then flip and cook for a minute more. Remove to a plate lined with several paper towels. Dry for a minute or two, dip the top in the topping, and set on a wire rack to cool.