This past weekend, my parents and I drove through Door County, Wisconsin, to see the fall colors, take pictures, do some wine tasting, and spend some money on fun things. You know, like apple cider doughnuts, cherry strudel, rum fudge, caramels, and wine. And, um, the things we picked out after the wine tasting, which naturally seemed like best idea ever at the time. I am now the proud owner of a baseball cap with a picture of a corkscrew on it that reads “Screw It.” I love my hat, though I know I wouldn’t have had the nerve to pick it out if not for a little liquid courage.
We stopped at lookouts and boat landings, along the side of the road, and even snapped many pictures while driving. I was very excited when we stopped in Sister Bay, as it’s been close to 20 years since I’ve seen Al Johnson’s. What’s so special about this place, you wonder? I’ll let the pictures tell the story:
In case you’re wondering, yes, those goats are indeed on the roof.
I hadn’t originally intended to do a post about our trip but then thought, why not? If I’d planned on a post, there likely would have been even more pictures of the various shops, the Sister Bay Cafe where I had a delicious bread pudding swimming in warm lemon sauce, and dinner at Sonny’s Pizzeria where we enjoyed lasagna and fettuccine alfredo. (If you’re wondering why I didn’t have pizza at a pizzeria, refer to my last post; I simply couldn’t handle pizza again so soon.)
Instead, you’ll get lots of fall colors, followed by the doughnuts I tried to recreate.
During our travels, my mom spotted a couple of wild turkeys wandering through an orchard. I tried to zoom in as much as possible while maintaining some clarity in the picture…
I’ve heard about apple cider doughnuts before, and even went on a mission to try one during an apple orchard visit a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, they were sold out, my mission to try a cider doughnut abandoned.
But this time, this time there were not just one, but TWO doughnuts left. Yes, I grabbed them both, excited to finally be able to find out if the fuss was warranted.
It was. Oh, was it ever. I was sold at one bite, and frankly, I wanted to eat every last crumb then and there.
I attempted self restraint.
But I wanted more. I considered making a trip to an orchard upon my return home, but then thought, why not make them myself? So I looked up a recipe, realized I was only short two ingredients (the cider, and shortening for frying), and planned my breakfast around doughnuts.
I started boiling the cider to reduce it, and oops! I overreduced it to about 1/8 cup. So I reduced some more to get my 1/4 cup of syrupy cider. I figured a little extra sweetness and flavor never hurt anyone.
I made the dough, patted it out, and discovered my smallest circle cutter went missing. So, my doughnuts were slightly bigger than originally planned, with larger holes. But really, who cares if the doughnuts and doughnut holes are slightly larger than normal?
I’ve heard that for frying, shortening is preferable to oil, as it seeps less into the dough or coating, rendering the finished product crispy without being greasy. I’m not a fan of using hydrogenated fats, but I figured these doughnuts warranted an exception.
My Door County doughnuts were simply coated in sugar, as they needed no additional adornment. But, since I made the doughnuts for B and I, and I know how much he likes cinnamon sugar, I decided to do both.
As it turns out, that was a very good decision. With just one bite, we realized these doughnuts didn’t have a whole lot of apple flavor, so the cinnamon sugar helped give a little flavor boost. I may not have gotten my apple cider doughnut fix, but I do have to say these doughnuts turned out very, very good: browned and crispy, yet not at all greasy. Apparently, shortening really is the way to go for frying doughnuts. I later sampled the cider I had picked up from the grocery store, cider that came from a nearby orchard (one I had considered going to for doughnuts, no less), and discovered the cider wasn’t all that flavorful. I guess my poor doughnuts never really had a chance at bursting with apple cider flavor.
But can you ever really go wrong with fried dough? I think not.
Apple Cider Doughnuts
adapted from this farmers’ market recipe
1 cup good apple cider
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
shortening for frying
Boil apple cider until it’s reduced to 1/4 cup; cool.
While cider is reducing, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl; stir to combine.
Beat butter and sugar in separate large bowl until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, until well mixed. Add buttermilk and cider, stir to combine.
Add dry ingredients to wet and SLOWLY mix at first to avoid being attacked by a flour bomb, increasing speed slightly until all ingredients are incorporated.
Line a baking sheet with parchment, sprinkle with flour, and pat dough with your hand to 1/2 inch thickness. Chill in freezer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, line a second baking sheet with parchment and sprinkle with flour.
Run a doughnut cutter or a 3 inch circle cutter under cold water, then cut doughuts/circles from chilled dough. If using circle cutters, run a 1 inch cutter under cold water, and cut holes out of the middle of the large circles. Use the 1 inch cutter to make additional holes with smaller areas of remaining dough. Transfer half the doughnuts and holes to second baking sheet. Place baking sheets in fridge for 10 minutes.
Line several large plates with paper towels. Set aside.
Melt shortening in heavy-duty deep pot (I like my cast iron Dutch oven for this) until a temperature of 375F is reached. Fry doughnuts a few at a time until deep brown, carefully flipping over with a heat-proof tongs or spider halfway through (about a minute or two total per doughnut – it goes fast, so don’t take your eye off them).
Remove to paper towel-lined plates to drain. While still warm, roll in sugar or cinnamon sugar* mixture, if desired.
*To make cinnamon sugar, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon; stir to combine.