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The Best Donuts We Almost Missed

October 30, 2018

It’s hard to be unhappy when you’re eating a donut. Unless, of course, that donut comes from Dunkin. Then it’s fair to feel a sense of dread and loss. Otherwise, it’s pretty much nothing but sunshine and rainbows.

So let’s turn our attention to donuts. Especially since I’m woefully derelict in revealing the results of the Ninth Annual Tour de Donut. That’s right. Ninth. Which is why I’m excited about finally putting this thing to bed.

For nine years we’ve been leading people out into the wilderness in and around the Capital Region of Upstate New York in search of the season’s best apple cider donuts. For seven of those years, we went to five entirely different places each year. That’s thirty five different cider donuts in all.

One of those years, we limited our visits to just bakeries. Albany’s Cider Belly won that contest easily, and established itself as such a major apple cider donut force of nature, that the bakery scored a bye into the grand finals. Last year, on year eight, we did a championship round of the top five orchards from the previous tours.

This year the stakes were high. Because this was for a spot in the grand finals against Cider Belly and Terrace Mountain Orchard. This year we went back to three places were somehow our donuts on the first visit weren’t reflective of their general excellence. Plus we hit two additional spots that somehow were off our radar.

How did it turn out? Well, the donuts were some of the best we’ve experienced.

As a quick overview, every Tour de Donut is rated on the same scale. We look at the donuts crust, its sugar, the cider flavor, its texture, the taste, our perception of its oil, and the overall experience of eating the cider donut.

We use a five point rating system. One is the lowest. Five is the highest. And I do ask evaluators to try and stay away from fractional scores.

Every time we post tour results, people ask, “Why didn’t you go to place X?” Or they will say, “You should have gone to spot Y.” Oftentimes, we have. Check the archive. But the list of places we visited on this tour were selected after a thorough nomination process. And it should be noted these results are not just one person’s opinion. They are based on the completed scoresheets of nine evaluators who spent the afternoon driving the length of the region eating cider donuts.

That said, this year’s tour began at a place called Boehm Farm down in Climax, New York. Never heard of it? Me neither. But the name came up on a Reddit thread recently, where the poster was asking if there was any place similar near Albany with excellent cider donuts.

Pulling up to this small farm store on the edge of an orchard, the smell of cider donuts filled the air. There wasn’t a place for sitting nearby, but that’s okay. When we asked for hot donuts, the clerk went into the kitchen to get us a steaming hot bag. Some of our group was late, but the half dozen I purchased was only $4. The stragglers bought their own donuts in this first round.

For some of us, the sugar was just right. Seasoned with sweet spices, and just enough to know it’s there, is exactly how I like this element of the cider donut experience. Some want more, and I can respect that. The initial cider flavor wasn’t that strong, but it did leave a lingering perception as we drove north. Although so did the oil, but not in a good way. Still, the tour was off to an excellent start.

Schuyler Bakery got a bad bounce on its first time at bat. Or at least that’s what Ryan H. continues to insist. He’s been on a bunch of these tours, and he’s been to Schuyler Bakery on his own more times than he can count. Which means I trust Ryan when he says the cider donuts at Schuyler Bakery can be incredibly crusty and super delicious.

I feel the same way about Indian Ladder Farm, and I’m always nudging them about trying to offer the glorious, crusty, hot donuts I know they can make.

Anyway, I digress. Once again Schuyler Bakery delivered a delicious, if not life-changing or Tour de Donut winning, specimen. It’s a sugar lover’s dream. Seriously. And while they are freshly made, they no longer have any trace of warmth from the fryer. There is some crispness to the crust, and it’s definitely a donut worth eating. It was good enough to rank as one person’s top choice for the day. Doctor Irritation said, “So many mushy donuts. Hot is not always better.” He praised Schuyler’s for its crust, sugar, and firm texture. For what it’s worth, nine of them set us back six bucks.

Then it was off to Lansing Farm, which for some reason, we never visited before in all the years of the tour. But in the past year I’ve fallen in love with this farm, tried their donuts, and knew they must be sampled in this final Wild Card round.

Here’s the tricky part. It’s a small family farm, and they now know me there. So when I walked up and asked for hot donuts, Jessica popped into the kitchen and brought back some of the hottest donuts I’ve ever had. My hope is that she would do that for anyone who asked. I am pretty sure they would, but I just don’t know. Nine donuts cost a grand total of $6.75

Of course, hot donuts aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Four of the reviewers gave Lansing exceedingly high marks with three calling it their favorite of the day. They were just so light, so ethereal, that Heather S. suggested that even on a tour of eating donuts all day, that she “could’ve eaten more than one.” Although some suggested theirs may have been a little underdone. These lightly sugared, hot, soft, and delicious morsels were my personal favorite of the day. But they were not the only ones I loved.

Lindsey’s Country Store in Clifton Park had a bad turn of events on our first visit there years ago. It was the first stop on the tour, and the donuts could have been the best donuts of the day had it not been for a mysterious problem where one side of the donuts was perfect, and the other soft and doughy. That’s hardly fair, so we went back, to give this promising place a second shot.

Hot donuts weren’t available, but the ones we evaluated were made earlier that day. However, they were still not that great. Nine donuts would have cost us $9 which just so happens to be the same price as a baker’s dozen. So we went for the gusto and got a bag of thirteen donuts.

I just wish they were better. This was the only donut that I didn’t want to finish. And that’s saying something. It wasn’t because I was full, it just wasn’t that good. It was dry, and tasted less like a cider donut than any donut we had all day. I wasn’t alone in that opinion. This stop was nobody’s favorite, and was the lowest scoring of the day.

Hey, at least we ended strong. Saratoga Apple was our final destination. On our first visit to this beloved Saratoga County institution the oil had just gone off. All the great texture in the world can’t combat the flavor of bad oil. But that was a random fluke of timing. Our hope was that this time it would be different. And it was.

We stood in the dedicated line for donuts, where nine will set you back eight bucks. The donuts were coming off of the frier, being put into bags, and sold to customers while they were still hot. Did you have to wait an extra long time in the donut line to secure these treasures? You bet. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

Our order was a little hotter than most. Because we were ordering a quantity of donuts that did not come in units of six, our order was filled from donuts that were just taken out of the fryer, versus the ones that had been bagged literally moments before. However, in the competitive world of donut judging, these details can be crucial.

Wow. This is another winner. Heather S. may have said it best. “I’m torn between Lansing Farm & Saratoga Apple, but the crunchy crust on Saratoga’s pushes it just a bit better than Lansing. First bite of Lansing was incredibly, but Saratoga overall was exactly what a cider donut ‘should’ be.”

But with her on the side of Saratoga Apple, it was the favorite of five out of the nine evaluators, and won the day!

Congratulations to Saratoga Apple. Now it will go against Cider Belly and Terrace Mountain to see which apple cider donut of the dozens we’ve tasted is the best in the region.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 30, 2018 11:53 am

    As a fan of Saratoga Apple but not for their donuts, I am pleasantly surprised. it’s also set up the longest possible commute for the final. Carpooling recommended!

  2. B. Maggi permalink
    October 30, 2018 3:09 pm

    Sounds like you all had a good time. When it comes time for a glazed donut with chocolate icing tasting, the line starts behind me!

    • October 30, 2018 4:30 pm

      Put in a special order at The Cookie Factory. Their chocolate donut icing is second to none, and their yeast shells are fantastic.

      They do use a little citrus in the glaze, but hopefully that’s not a deal breaker. Personally, I think it would be brilliant with chocolate.

  3. October 30, 2018 4:34 pm

    My Mom’s birthday is just past mid-October and only one thing is asked of me: Stop at Saratoga Apple to pick up Jonagold apples (a late-season variety and Mom’s favorite) and enough cider donuts for the entire family. Still warm after the trip from Schuylerville to Latham, Dad claimed a bag for himself, and that speaks volumes! No better place than Saratoga Apple.

  4. Eric Scheirer Stott permalink
    October 30, 2018 7:52 pm

    Lemon & Chocolate is a lovely combination- what would you say to a lemon curd filled donut with chocolate icing?

  5. B. Maggi permalink
    November 1, 2018 1:23 pm

    I’d say “Hello stranger, get in my belly”

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