L’Shana Tova to our Jewish readers out there. It’s customary to ring in the Jewish new year with apples dipped in honey — one tradition taken very seriously by my apple-addicted son. In fact, apples and honey comprised his and his friends’ entire meal last night at dinner — at least until hours later when they were reminded that dessert was reserved for those who had eaten the main course. My son went on a buying spree last weekend at Black Rock Orchard’s stand at the farmers market — where the hand-sized Empire apples were selected as lunch-box worthy, one jumbo honey crisp for that afternoon, Jonamac, Jonathan, and Macoun apples for snacking/baking, and several toddler-hand-sized Seckel pears included for the baby. Even though we’d already gotten bottles of apple cider with our milk delivery, we couldn’t pass up a small jug of honey crisp cider to consume in the park. (Playing Transformers Tag makes one thirsty, after all.)
I recently bought a doughnut pan and, in the spirit of the season, decided to test it out with baked cider doughnuts. Now they were delicious, but I’m still on the fence about the use of the word “doughnut” to describe a baked item. Healthier, yes, but really I’d have to say they’re more like muffins in the shape of doughnuts. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I just wanted to warn you in case you were going into this expecting that crisp fried crust of a traditional doughnut. On the bright side, you can enjoy these every day of the week without the guilt — and they’re safer to bake with kids who aren’t old enough to safely man the deep fryer.
Recipe: Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
- 4 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1/4 cup cane sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons boiled cider*
- 1 large free-range egg
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
*For the boiled cider: If making your own boiled cider, reduce one gallon fresh cider in a large, non-reactive pan over medium heat (it should boil gently). It took approximately 2.5 hours for mine to reduce down to a syrup-like consistency. Stir occasionally, particularly as you near the end of the cooking time to make sure it doesn’t burn on the bottom. The cider should begin to thicken and coat your spoon, looking almost like maple syrup, when it’s done. Remove from heat to cool, then pour into a glass jar and store in the refrigerator.
For the doughnuts:
Preheat oven to 400*. Butter a six-count doughnut pan.
In the mixer bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and spices on medium speed. Add the cider and egg, continuing to mix for another minute. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk and mix on low speed until just combined.
Spoon the batter into the doughnut pan, being sure to wipe the centers clean of any stray batter. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for several minutes, before turning them out onto a rack.
I dipped each doughnut’s bottom into fresh apple cider, than a bowl of cinnamon sugar for a little extra oomph, but you can serve plain or top however you wish. I’m thinking of a boiled cider glaze (like maple glaze) for next time. Makes 6 doughnuts.
Notes: Making boiled cider is easy and makes your house smell fabulous. I’m glad I made a small batch (1 gallon) so I have an excuse to make it again later in the season.
Where to Pick Apples in Northern Virginia: These are some of our favorite local orchards. They are true orchards, not the “fall fest” type of farms with entertainment and hay-rides, just fyi. Pack snacks (if you require more than fresh-picked apples for sustenance), water and bug spray and wear appropriate shoes for hiking around the orchard, potentially in mud given our soggy September. And always call or check the website before heading out to make sure they’re open for picking.
1. Crooked Run Orchard, Purcellville, Va. (540-338-6642). I’m not aware of any truly organic orchards in the are, but Crooked Run is a “low spray” orchard, meaning they use alternative pest control and fewer pesticides than conventional apples found in the supermarket. They typically have pumpkins and gourds available for purchase as well.
2. Hollin Farms, Delaplane, Va. (540-592-3574). Hollin Farms has a corn maze, pumpkins and gourds and fall greens available to purchase.
3. Stribling Orchard, Markham, Va. (540-364-3040). Stribling has a farm store and bakery on site so be prepared to bring home extra goodies. They’ve had very tempting caramel apples in the past.
View Pick-Your-Own Apples in Northern Virginia in a larger map