Monday, October 24, 2011
Apple Cider Donuts and the Halloween Donut Game
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Among my favorite memories of childhood are the block parties we had to celebrate Halloween. They were festive affairs that began with a parade and ended with a bonfire of fiercesome proportions, at least to those of us who had not yet reached the four foot mark. Tucked between the parade and bonfire were the games and challenges that we've all come to associate with Halloween. My favorite was the donut game. October weather in Chicago was iffy and getting drenched while bobbing for apples was not my cup of tea. I could handle wet, but wet and cold was beyond the pale. Besides, I liked donuts way more than apples and in short order became a champion at the donut game. Now, for those who have never played, the object of the game is simple. You try to eat donuts that are hung from a bar by strings of varying length. The only trick is that you can't use your hands to assist in the task. Hands must at all times be clasp behind the back and any infraction disqualifies you from the game. Back then we knew nothing about political correctness and things were called as they were seen. If you used your hands you were a cheater and were thusly labeled. Onerous, but then they were harsh times. While it is easy to see the connection between apples and the season, I've never really understood how donuts came to be included in festivities. I recently found an explanation that makes some sense of it. Fall was the traditional season for hogs to be put down. That meant cooks had plenty of rendered fat in which the donuts could be fried. I, for the life of me, can't find an explanation for the use of cider in donuts. Someone, somewhere, obviously thought it was a good idea and they were right. Cider donuts have a dense yet tender crumb that we've come to associate with cake donuts that are made with baking powder rather than yeast. The hint of spice and tang of buttermilk make them perfect for this time of year and for Halloween games. The donuts can be glazed if you like, but I prefer mine with a just a sprinkling of sugar. I know you'll like these. Here's the recipe.
Apple Cider Doughnuts...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Lauren Dawson
1 cup apple cider
3-1/2 cups flour, plus additional for the work surface
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk (low-fat or nonfat work fine)
Vegetable oil for frying
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider
1) To make donuts: Place apple cider in a saucepan over medium heat and slowly reduce quantity to about 1/4 cup, about 20 to 30 minutes. Cool.
2) Meanwhile, combine flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg in a bowl. Set aside.
3) Beat butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed until mixture is smooth. Add eggs, one at a time beating just until incorporated.Reduce speed to low and gradually add cider reduction and buttermilk, mixing just until combined. Add flour and mix just until dough comes together.
4) Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or wax paper and sprinkle them generously with flour. Turn dough onto 1 sheet and sprinkle the top with flour. Flatten dough with your hands until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Use more flour if dough is still wet. Transfer dough to the freezer until it is slightly hardened, about 20 minutes. Remove from freezer. Using a 3-inch doughnut cutter, cut out doughnut shapes. Place cut doughnuts and doughnut holes onto second sheet pan. Refrigerate doughnuts for 20 to 30 minutes.
5) Add enough oil to a deep-sided pan to measure a depth of about 3 inches. Attach a candy thermometer to side of pan and heat over medium heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees.
6) To make glaze: While cut donuts are chilling, make glaze by whisking confectioners' sugar and cider together until mixture is smooth. Set aside.
7) To fry and assemble: Add a few doughnuts to oil, being careful not to crowd pan, and fry until golden brown, about 60 seconds. Turn doughnuts over and fry until other side is golden, 30 to 60 seconds. Drain on paper towels. Dip top of still warm doughnuts into glaze or granulated sugar and serve immediately.Yield: 18 donuts.
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