Apple Cider Doughnuts Recipe: Fall in a Pastry

If fall is a reminder of gradual change, these doughnuts are a reminder of comforting tradition, of the way clouds and sun streaked across the horizon above the pumpkin patch in the late afternoon last fall, of rows of cornfields and bins of fresh-picked apples, of taking a hayride with friends.

We’re going back to Kuiper’s again this year, probably later than is best again, so the apples may already be in bins and we may need extra layers of clothing when we walk through the orchard, but I am going with a friend, and, I’m finding, those things I do with a friend are the best things I do, you know what I mean?

A close up view of delicious doughnut with a fork beside it.

Like last weekend, which was a people-filled one, from Friday night bakery and Greek food with my brother, to Saturday in the country with a group of food-loving strangers and Alicia and then cake at my friend Michele’s, to a Sunday morning listening to Truth and singing with an auditorium filled with people, to lunch in the home of friends, where their two-year-old grabbed my finger and pulled me towards her toy bin to “play babies.”

All of this followed a pretty solitary week, when, as you know, this happened — and while I know I haven’t explained formally, most of you already know from Flickr or Twitter or the comment I left here, so I’ll just briefly say last Wednesday night wasn’t hard because I didn’t get my birth certificate; it was hard because I felt helpless and reminded that I am alone, but looking back I am so glad I felt that way, and that I told you about it, because it made my joy so much fuller when the next day, I found my new passport in the mail.

I get to thinking sometimes that I’m alone in situations because I’m single, but I know everyone has days or weeks or dark nights that are similar. Life is a constant contrast of isolation and community, loneliness and fellowship — at least it seems to me. But maybe, like with my passport, it is through the loneliness that fellowship becomes so sweet, through the solitary nights that Friday dinners become so much richer, through a Wednesday night in tears that I’m given another evidence of love from The One Who Made Me.

Like these doughnuts. In anticipation of the community of hanging out at an orchard with a friend and eating these that I love so much, I made my own version last Tuesday night, alone in the kitchen, while a sad movie with Richard Gere and Winona Ryder played in the background, because, when you are alone, the kitchen is as good a place as any to spend your time.

Besides one Becky brought me back from southern Illinois a few weeks ago, I hadn’t had one since last October, when we’d eaten them in the Kuiper’s gift shop, our faces flushed from the cold while we sipped cups of hot cider. Tuesday night, I bit into the first doughnut, its golden exterior giving way to soft, sweet insides and cinnamon and sugar coating my fingers, and it was the same magic, but different, that I remembered from that cold Sunday afternoon last year.

A hand holding a half-eaten doughnut.

These doughnuts are fall, pure fall, right down to the warm and sweet scent they send through your kitchen. In a way, it was good to eat them alone on Tuesday, like it is good to bake alone or drive alone or shop alone, but it was much better to bring them to work the next morning, to eat them at our desks and see the whole container almost empty by the end of the day, to save a few for my brother who’d be coming to visit Friday night, to share them — the way it is better to share life, to belong to a community.

You know, in high school, I had to read Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. Maybe you did, too? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I hated the book, thought it boring.

Unlike on the modern-day LOST, where an entire plane of people are abandoned together, there were no personal relationships to follow, no drama of changing opinions and interactions with another, because the main character had been shipwrecked on a deserted island, completely by himself, alone.

More and more, I am seeing life is to be lived in community. We are naturally selfish creatures, but there are other moments — better ones — when someone opens the door for another or picks up a check at the restaurant or makes a meal and invites you to share it, and I think it is in these moments we get glimpses of for what we were made.

A white plate filled with yummy doughnuts.

When we experience love, from the constant chesed of God to the imperfect human kindness of a small gesture, we are most alive.

Apple Cider Doughnuts
Adapted from A Bowl of Mush

1 cup apple cider
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter (softened)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 1/2 to 4* cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Vegetable oil for frying (You’ll need a lot!)
1 cup cinnamon and sugar, mixed

The directions start off with boiling the apple cider until it reduces to about a quarter cup in size. I eyeballed it, so it was probably closer to half a cup, and things worked out OK.

Allow this to cool completely. In a large bowl, beat the sugar with the butter until smooth.

Beat in the eggs. Add the buttermilk and reduced apple cider.

In another bowl, mix together the remaining dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg.

Add the flour mixture slowly to the liquid mixture, and mix enough to combine. You want the dough to not be sticky any more.

You’ll be spreading it out like bread or cookie dough on the counter, so add flour as needed to make it the right consistency. Transfer the dough to a floured board and knead slightly to combine well without over working the dough.

Roll or pat the dough to a 1/2 inch thickness. At this point, you could use two circular cookie cutters (one larger than the other) to create doughnut circles.

I just made little doughnut holes instead: use your hands to create small balls of dough (think the size of those Munchkins at Dunkin’ Donuts).

Place these doughnuts, a few at a time, into a deep pan (I used my Le Creuset, of course!) that’s been filled and heated with enough oil to fill it approximately three inches deep.

Fry a few doughnuts at a time, turning once or twice until they are browned and fully cooked through. Allow the hot doughnuts to drain on some paper towel.

While the doughnuts are still warm, coat them in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

*The original recipe calls for 3.5 cups of flour, but my dough was way too sticky with that amount, so I kept adding a little here and there until it was more pliable and able to be spread on the counter.

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About Shanna Mallon

Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn,, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens,, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World,, Babble,, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.

24 thoughts on “Apple Cider Doughnuts Recipe: Fall in a Pastry

  1. You did NOT just give me a cider donut recipe! Now I have to make them immediately!

    And, by the way, I also felt occasional lonely despair before I got married. Now I still feel it occasionally but, even more so, I REALLY miss being alone sometimes. Aloneness is one of the most pronounced flipside/grass is greener issues. I say savor it.

  2. I tried to ignore Bowl of Mush’s post because, well, they are donuts and I love them. And now you’ve made them. I have to at this point right? LOL

  3. i think the main thing in life is that you may be alone (literally) and not be lonely. to me, the worst feeling i’ve ever experienced is being surrounded by people and still feel so isolated and alone, that is, until i realized i was being silly because God is always with me. there’s a certain strength in character if you’re able to come out of that and you’re doing wonderfully. just remember, with Him by your side, you’ll never be alone or lonely. He’s got our back, girl.
    i also believe in balance. one can never appreciate full on joy until they feel the depths of despair. we as God’s children just forget that sometimes.
    i’m hitting the apple orchards late this year, the month is slipping by me but i’m not going till next sunday, it’s the only time my friend and her new baby can make it. it’s not so much the apples i’m going for anyway so it’s all good.

  4. if you ever again find yourself cornered by a movie featuring both Richard Gere and Winona Ryder, please call me as soon as possible and I’ll talk you off that ledge–heck I’d hop on the next train to the ‘burbs so you wouldn’t be alone with those two. 😉

  5. I have somewhat of the same feelings sometimes because I spend my days home alone (well with a cat) while Dave is at work, and this is an adjustment from constantly seeing friends in class, and having a reason to ride the bus into the loop everyday.

    Wonderful post. I think I may need to go to an apple/pumpkin farm this weekend.

  6. These look great! I have been wanting to go pumpkin picking just to get warm apple-cider doughnuts! Now, thanks to you, I can make them at home! Yay!

  7. As an avid reader of your blog, it seems you are blessed with a loving community of friends and family. Very very lucky. Love your post. The doughnuts are mind blowing, amazing. Seriously.

  8. You know I love all your posts. But words cannot even express how much I love this one. And not just cause you dropped my name in there yet again. Seriously, beautifully written. And I completely relate.

  9. I terrified of deep frying, but they do look pretty amazing. I’ll have to try these out when I’m having a party because these would be deadly with just me and all those doughnuts!

  10. I’m going to Kuiper’s on Sunday with my hubby, my sis and her family. Those apple cider donuts are soo good! I’ll have to try your recipe when the donuts I will inevitable bring home are gone.

  11. Gosh, I couldn’t agree with you more. Life is a constant battle between wanting to be independent and alone and wanting the comfort and love of community. For me anyway. I think striking a balance is SO important. Oh, AND those doughnuts look absolutely delightful.

  12. OMG I love your header and these photos!!! Homemade donuts are the best thing….ever. I literally want to eat my screen right now.

  13. Emily, I’m glad you said that. You’re right that time alone is a gift, too—one that I probably take for granted often.

    dawn, It does seem fate is trying to tell you something!

    Lan, There’s so much wisdom in what you wrote. Yes! Being with people doesn’t equal community. I’m so glad you distinguished the two because I failed to. And you couldn’t be more on target when you say that one of the worst feelings is being surrounded by people and still not having fellowship, which to me is probably about authenticity more than anything. And also, yes! God never leaves me or forsakes me, and He is my strength in a very literal sense and even in the providing-my-passport sense. Thank you.

    Adam, Laughed out loud when I read your comment. Seriously, thanks for being the kind of person who will talk to me on speaker phone the entire time I go through a construction detour and look up directions online based on an exit number I give you. So glad I can count on you.

    Whitney, You absolutely should go to the farm (!), and I totally get what you’re saying about being alone during the day. It’s great to try new recipes and read blogs, but you do start to miss interaction. Good thing we have Twitter, ha! I have a feeling you’ll be getting a big layer gig soon, and I mean that.

    Antonietta, Yay! although I hope you still get to go apple-picking/pumpkin-patching. It’s a wonderful tradition!

    Gemma, It’s so good. I couldn’t believe I made them, to be honest, and I think that right there is a testament to the recipe.

    RedMenace, That was such a perfect thing to say, and I’ve been thinking about it today – you are so right. I am so blessed, and, would you believe, just a few years ago, I had hardly any of these people in my life. Good gifts, every one of them.

    Becky, Still can’t believe you left a comment! (Everyone else reading: this is the Becky I mention in almost every post! Ha!) You are someone who has taught me a lot about community, both from ours at our desks every day and from yours with other people. Just one of the many things you’ve taught me. blessed to know you.

    Kickpleat, Oh, believe me, I was terrified for the longest time. Using a deep Le Creuset helps a lot because the oil doesn’t splatter all over you, and there’s not a ton of mess like I expected. Be brave. These are worth it! And you are so right about the danger of making these on your own – when you make them into little doughnut holes, they make A LOT and I could have eaten every one.

    Vicki, Maybe we’ll see you there!! We’re going in the afternoon, so be on the lookout!

    ABowlofMush, Swooned the moment I saw it. Thanks so much for posting it! Five stars.

    Sues, Yes! You so get it. Battle and balance, both.

    Jessica, Thank you, dear! This was my first homemade-doughnut experience, and it was such a good one.

  14. Very astute post, as usual. And those donuts are making my mouth water!

    In response to your response on an earlier post — I would love for you, me and Alicia to meet up sometime 🙂

  15. I have to say, before I met The Boy, I was always feeling like I was missing out. I felt like I’ve accomplished so much in my life and had tons of family and friends to keep me company, but I still felt alone. Fridays were always my super alone night b/c I would be so tired from the week, I’d just stay in and watch movies and relax for the upcoming crazy weekend. I’d spend the first half in the kitchen cooking dinner and the rest of the night watching movies until I fell asleep (usually at like 9pm!). When I met The Boy, things definitely changed. Even when I am physically alone, I don’t feel mentally or emotionally alone.
    It took me some time to find him and now that I have, I don’t take any of the time I have w/ him for granted.
    And we’re going to Apple Holler just over the WI border on Sunday. Apple picking is one of my fav fall things to do. I usually peach pick in Sept (although not this year, sad) and apple pick in Oct. The orchard has the yummiest apple cider donuts ever. I tried to make some a couple years ago, but a very dif recipe than this. They didn’t come out so good… I’ll have to make a go at these…

  16. Wow – what a refreshing and encouraging post. You are most certainly a gifted writer! Thank you for sharing your gifts (of cooking and writing) with us. The donuts look amazing and I agree, sharing life with others around you makes all of the difference. So glad we got to get together last week! Such sweet moments.

  17. postcollegecook: Name the time, I mean it!

    Niki, Your comments are always so thoughtful. I especially like what you said about not taking him for granted because you know what it’s like to be without him – that is very wise. Hope you had fun apple-picking this weekend!

    Oh, Julie. You honestly could not be kinder! You are such a good example of sharing life with those around you, and I am so glad to know you, friend.

    Yum Yucky, LOL! Enjoy these!

  18. Apple cider doughnuts?! AND a reflection on loneliness and community? Couldn’t be better.

    My husband is a firefighter who goes on a lot of aid calls to elderly folks that live alone. He comes home and says we’re not made to be alone. That doesn’t mean we’ll never be lonely, but we sure do need each other.

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