Boy do I have a story for you! A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my quest to find Michigan-like cider doughnuts on the orchard-barren front range of Colorado. I searched online for recipes that sounded like the best contenders for true cidery goodness based on the trustworthiness of the source and the author’s description of the resulting doughnuts.
I purchased cider and dug up my trusty 3-inch doughnut cutter from the morass of baking paraphernalia in my pantry. Then, the next weekend, I mixed up half-batches of all three selected recipes and, while they were chilling in my maxed out fridge, I brought up my trusty CoolDaddy fryer from the basement.
Loaded with 3-inches of non-GMO canola oil, I fired up the ol’ boy and checked on it periodically with a candy thermometer, waiting for it to get to temp. I waited, and waited, and waited. Ultimately after 40 minutes CoolDaddy was only registering around 250-degrees. One hundred degrees cooler than most of the recipes required!
Thus began a comedy of errors including the demise of my candy thermometer (it broke in my cast iron Dutch oven when I turned away for a split second!) and the purchase of two replacement candy thermometers (the first one was a dud) before I could fry all the blasted doughnuts!
Lo and behold, hours and hours later, the doughnuts were finally fried and then tested by my discerning family.* The recipes were:
Bobby Flay’s recipe won for flavor, hands down. They were the only cider doughnuts that tasted like cider was an ingredient – which makes sense, since the first step in his recipe was reducing 2 cups of cider down to 1/3 cup (Smitten Kitchen used 1 cup of cider; Taste of Home called for 2 cups but only reduced by half). This recipe called for the dough to be rolled out to 3/4-inch before cutting. That’s really thick. I double-checked that I was reading that correctly. Then the dough was fried for 2 minutes on the first side and one to two minutes on the second side. Three minutes in 360-degree oil made the exterior rather crisp and very dark, yet it seemed the doughnuts were just shy of being doughy in the middle. If I made them again, I’d probably roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and fry the doughnuts for a shorter amount of time. These were big, dense doughnuts, yet everyone in my family liked them best (except me!).
The Smitten Kitchen recipe yielded the prettiest doughnuts with the best texture. These were my favorite. They were light and tender with the perfect cakey crumb. These fried at 350-degrees for one minute on the first side, 30-60 seconds on the second side. They were a little crispy out of the fryer, but we had some the next day and they were perfectly soft on the outside. Unfortunately there wasn’t really a cider flavor in these doughnuts, but coated with cinnamon sugar they were still a tasty treat.
The Taste of Home doughnuts cooked at the lowest temperature (the recipe specified 325-degrees) which is likely why they tasted a bit of canola oil. They were more like churros than doughnuts after frying for “2-3 minutes on each side.” Not light, tender D Bar churros but dense, crispy ones.
Lesson learned: leave the cider doughnut making to Leaman’s Green Applebarn or other reputable purveyors of these seasonal treats. If my fryer hadn’t died, I might entertain the notion of cobbling together a Bobby Flay/Smitten Kitchen hybrid super-doughnut. Who knows, maybe this time next year I’ll actually do it – but for now, my kids are maxed out on doughnuts! Yes, it’s possible. All I have to do is test three recipes in one weekend.
P.S. I used a lot of oil since my first candy thermometer broke into the dutch oven I was using in the first round after my fryer died. I did a Google search on “where to recycle cooking oil” for my zip code and discovered my city is collecting cooking oil a few days after Thanksgiving. Good to know it can be re-used instead of dumped in a landfill – and don’t pour it down your drain!
What I’m reading: How to Live a Good Life: A Practical Guide to a Life Well Lived
What my 10-year is reading (for the umpteenth time): The Revenge of the Baby-Sat: A Calvin and Hobbes Collection