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Cider Donuts

October 16, 2009

Regional foods rock.  To the best of my knowledge, there are no cider donuts on the West Coast.  I never saw them when I was growing up in Miami.  But when I came to Albany, they seemed to be everywhere.

So, I do not have a lifetime of context for the form.  All I have is the experience gleaned from my past two years in Upstate New York.

Not only is this a regional treat, it is often a seasonal one as well.  Fall means apple season.  Last year I went apple picking at least twice.  This year we did one super mega pick.  But trips to the orchard would not be complete without cider donuts.  And if you go at the height of the picking frenzy, those donuts will be warm.

I do love donuts.  But these are difficult to put a finger on.  They really fall in a gray zone between light yeast raised donuts and dense, crusty cake donuts.  Certainly they are more cake like than yeasty.  But they are much lighter than most, with a significantly softer crust.

On one hand cider donuts have always been disappointing.  And part of that is a marketing problem.  When I first heard the term “cider donut” I was expecting a donut that tasted deeply of apples.  Or, if not apples, at least the sweet spices of hot mulled cider.  And cider donuts really do not provide either of these experiences.

Yes, there is cider in the batter.  And that lightens up the donuts texturally.  It does also add some subtle apple notes, but you have to work really hard to find them.  And you might not even be able to tell if you didn’t know they were there.

The donuts I have seen come either plain or rolled in sugar.

I have determined that despite the added mess, I have a strong preference for the sugarcoated variety.  There is no crust to speak of on these donuts, but the crunch of the sugar granules gives me the textural contrast I desire.

Certainly there are significant variations from store to store and orchard to orchard.

At Indian Ladder Farms, they have one of those fantastic donut machines that plops out perfect circles of batter and carries the dough rings through the process of becoming donuts.  I could watch it forever.  And the kitchen graciously pumps out the delicious smell for those observing through the glass.

Regrettably, this last batch of donuts from Indian Ladder wasn’t quite up to snuff.  They were a bit tough, as if the dough was overworked, and Mrs. Fussy thought they also tasted like old oil.  But warm and sweet makes up for a whole lot, especially when you get a bag of twelve for six bucks.

My favorite donut bakery has cider donuts available all year.  And they are delicious.  It’s a fun way to get visitors to try our regional foodstuffs regardless of the season.  But I do feel a bit dishonest about getting a cider donut at a bakery.  They feel out of place.  I suppose sometimes you need a fix.

Ultimately, I am glad about cider donuts.  It is always fun to discover a new form of a familiar food.  Like the time SJ introduced me to Swiss cheese pancakes in Los Angeles.  And while both the donuts and the pancakes are delicious, they are in no risk of overtaking their traditional counterparts.

They have a time and a place, and should be enjoyed on their own terms.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. October 16, 2009 9:41 am

    Like you, I never had a fresh cider donut until I moved to Saratoga, two and a half years ago.
    I’ve only had them twice, from those stands at crafts fairs, where I also loved watching them made from those cute little machines.
    As a person who mostly avoids fried foods because of a finicky gall bladder, I took the risk and always got lucky.
    My favorite part is that first crunch from the sugary coating and the warm, soft batter underneath it. For a once a year treat, it’s a good thing.

  2. Clyde Hager permalink
    October 16, 2009 9:53 am

    Hi Daniel,
    Here in central Mass, which used to be all farms, our town used to be called Apple Town and there are still a lot of apple orchards around and one of them, near downtown Sterling, still makes cider donuts! And they are a big hit at the annual town fair, which is coming up next weekend. I love these traditions that are hundreds of years old. I can see how it happened years ago, all those apples, discovering how to make cider, all that cider, a need to put some fat on in preparation for the cold winter to come, …, AHA! Cider Donuts!

    • Clyde Hager permalink
      October 17, 2009 7:40 am

      So I asked one of the locals, born and raised here, because I’m from Florida too and would see apples and maple syrup come down with my aunt every winter but cider donuts have to be local apparently. Vern assures me that the donuts must be cooked in oil because cider would never get hot enough. Shows you what I know about cooking. But even Vern couldn’t tell me exactly how the cider gets into the donuts.

      • Clyde Hager permalink
        October 17, 2009 3:41 pm

        Today being the day of the annual Town Faire, we had the opportunity to actually try one of this year’s batch of Cider Donuts. Dry, no oily taste at all, only a mild flavor of cider however. I was informed that they simply replace water in the recipe with apple cider. Here, it was cinnamon and granulated sugar on the outside. Yum!

  3. Tonia permalink
    October 16, 2009 10:02 am

    Golden Harvest has the best although I do love watching the little machine at Indian Ladder.

  4. Jennifer permalink
    October 16, 2009 10:36 am

    I love Cider Donuts and unlike you, I don’t normally like donuts. My two exceptions are cider donuts and the amazingly inventive donuts at Donut Plant in NYC. If you ever get there, try the creme brulee or the coconut creme donut. Amazing.

  5. Greg permalink
    October 16, 2009 12:00 pm

    Yes to the sugar coating. Without a doubt.

  6. October 16, 2009 2:33 pm

    The sugar coating is a must. I refuse to leave the orchard without making a mess of front of my shirt. It’s an apple picking badge of honor.

  7. October 16, 2009 3:16 pm

    Fo’ Castle Farms in Ballston Spa is where it’s at for cider doughnuts Along w/ caramel walnut apples

  8. October 17, 2009 8:13 am

    fact: the highlight of my two years living in the capital region has been the cider donuts. so, either they’re THAT delicious or i need to experience more things. :)

  9. Emily permalink
    October 17, 2009 10:18 am

    Last time I was at Stewart’s they were selling some pre-packed cider doughnuts. I bought them (a dozen for $4) and was very pleasantly surprised! They were your standard soft, cakey, and greasy cider doughnuts but they had apparently soaked them in actual cider! They were very strongly apple tasting and the outer 1/4in of the doughnut was moist. The sugar coating was still dry and messy like normal.

    I don’t know if Stewart’s is trying to revolutionize the cider doughnut industry, or if it was a mistake batch but it was really different and really delicious.

    So if you’re interested what they would taste like if they were strongly apple flavored, maybe try a batch of Stewart’s doughnuts.

  10. October 17, 2009 7:19 pm

    A few weeks ago, I brought home some cider donuts from Goold’s. (Who, in my opinion, have the best – but I know *everyone* has their favorites.) My boyfriend *does not* like apples. He LOVES cider donuts. He discovered this? By seeing a bag of donuts on the counter, not knowing what they were, and trying it.

    It never occurred to me that cider donuts don’t taste like apple cider, but you’re both right – they don’t. I’ve been eating them since I was a little kid, and I’ve always associated them with apple picking. Regardless, they’re still delicious.

    • NY Deli Man permalink
      October 18, 2009 1:29 am

      Kristy’s Barn in Schodack/E.Greenbush (Brookview Rd. – not far from Goulds) has pretty good cider donuts. I do like watching the frying machine/conveyor in action.

      They also have good fruit turnovers. Grab a few if you are in the area.

      note to Irisira: How could someone not like apples.? I understand not liking Macs, but disliking Cortland/Empire/Gala and Fugi?

  11. ashallann permalink
    October 20, 2009 6:12 pm

    I spent three years living in Florida and every “fall” I found myself craving cider donuts and home. My family takes a tour through the local orchards each fall to test out their batch of cider donuts, Indian Ladders is by far the best, in our opinion.

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