RECIPE: Ode to Highland Orchards apple cider doughnuts

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When I set out to make an apple cider themed sundae a few weeks back, I aspired to match my taste memory of the unassuming-yet-amazing apple cider donuts at Highland Orchards, a local orchard and general store in my hometown outside Philly.

While it’s hard to compare to the OG, I will say that these doughnuts pleasantly surprised me on several fronts, enough so to warrant its own post outside of Sundae Sunday. They:

  • Stayed fresh for an entire day+

  • Were quite forgiving with regards to oil temperature and fry time

  • Have caramel in the donut batter, which I tried as a likely-to-fail experiment that actually lended itself to increased moisture and flavor

  • Avoids having to reduce the apple cider down to a syrup (a huge pet peeve of mine in apple cider dessert recipes)

  • Had yeasted donut purists going for seconds and thirds when I brought them into work

All in all, it’s a recipe to make aplenty during peak fall, especially if you’re craving doughnuts but don’t want to wait for yeasted dough to rise twice.  

The one caveat / warning I give: this recipe does require you to have some of my apple cider caramel sauce on hand, but in a pinch, you can sub in regular caramel sauce (though the apple flavor will be less pronounced).

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Ode to Highland Orchards apple cider doughnuts

By: Kathleen Hayes; yield = 10, 3” doughnuts and 10-12 doughnut holes

MISE IT

Doughnuts

  • 607g all purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon, 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon cardamom

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda

  • 150g whole milk

  • 70g apple cider

  • 30g apple cider salted caramel sauce (recipe below and here)

  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste

  • 85g butter, softened (¾ stick)

  • 50g (organic) sugar

  • 50g (organic) brown sugar

  • 105g eggs (~2 large eggs)

Cinnamon sugar, for finishing

  • 100g (organic) sugar

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • ½ teaspoon cardamom

For frying

  • Canola/grapeseed/safflower oil, enough to fill a Dutch oven with 2” of oil

Special equipment

  • Heat-proof spatula

  • Thermometer (I love my Thermapen)

  • Stand mixer (hello, KitchenAid)

  • Spider

  • Large Dutch oven

  • Sheet pan(s) with cooling racks

  • Rolling pin

  • Chopsticks (for turning the doughnuts)

MAKE IT

  • Get 2” of oil heated to 350 degrees F in a Dutch oven (I use my Le Creuset for this).

  • If you haven’t already, make and cool the apple cider salted caramel sauce (recipe above). Set aside 30g of it.

  • Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.

  • Whisk together the whole milk, cider, caramel, and apple cider vinegar. Set aside.

  • Cream together the butter and sugars in a stand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla paste.

  • Add eggs one at a time, mixing on low until combined.

  • Alternate between the dry and wet ingredients (dry/wet/dry/wet/dry) and mix into the batter, on low speed.

  • Flour a work surface and roll out dough until it’s ½” thick.

  • Using a doughnut cutter or two round cutters, cut out doughnuts and holes and place onto a floured sheet pan, flouring the edge of the cutter(s) in between each doughnut to prevent sticking.  Reroll the scraps and cut out more doughnuts.

  • Chill the dough in the fridge for 5 minutes, or however long it takes to do next step and get oil to right temperature.

  • Mix together the sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom called for the final coating post-fry. Set aside.

  • Start with a test batch of 1 doughnut and fry for 2 minutes per side, until golden brown.  Remove with a spider or slotted spoon and test for doneness. Continue frying doughnuts and holes in batches, dismounting doughnuts from the fryer onto a cooling rack set on top of a sheet tray briefly and then coating in the cinnamon sugar mixture while the doughnuts are still hot.  

TWEAK IT

  • Drizzle donuts in a (maple) glaze and/or caramel instead of coating them in spiced sugar.

  • If using regular caramel sauce, experiment with using pumpkin spice or other spices to make the donut less apple and more fall/winter/pumpkin forward.

  • Vary the size of the doughnuts, or if you’re making for a crowd, opt for lots of donut holes!

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For those of you that haven’t made my caramel sauce before, here’s the recipe:

Super-delicious, super-easy apple cider caramel sauce (made with milk, not cream)

By: Kathleen Hayes, inspired by The Spruce Eats; yield = ~1 ½ cups

MISE IT

  • 200g (organic) sugar

  • 100g apple cider

  • 112g butter, room temperature

  • 63g whole milk, room temperature

  • 4 large pinches flaky sea salt (I used Maldon)

MAKE IT

  • Caramelize the sugar and apple cider in a medium saucepan: place sugar and top with apple cider, making sure all sugar granules are covered in liquid and that there aren’t any rogue sugar crystals on the sides of the pan (remove those with a wet finger).  On high heat, cook until the mixture is a dark amber color. Do not agitate or stir your mixture.

  • Off heat, whisk in the butter until it’s incorporated.  Add the milk slowly, continuing to whisk.

  • Bring back on medium heat and whisk for 3-5 minutes to thicken the sauce slightly.  Add flaky sea salt to sauce.

  • Let cool before using, and store in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.  Bring it back to room temperature before using again.