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While I've always loved apple picking, my favorite part isn't really the fresh fruit—it's the warm, cinnamon-dusted cider donut I devour on the way home. Crunchy on the outside, tender within, and boasting genuine apple flavor, nothing says "fall" quite like cider donuts. But could all of that authentic, farm-fresh flavor really be captured in a mix?
When I first opened the box of Stonewall Kitchen's Apple Cider Doughnut Mix ($8.95 at Sur La Table), I was skeptical. It contained two packages of what appeared to be plain yellow cake mix and a cinnamon sugar blend. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the mix had a distinctly apple-y aroma. Once combined with an egg, 1/2 cup of milk, and 1/3 cup of melted butter, there was no denying these were cider—not plain sugar—donuts.
In lieu of a pastry bag, I used a plain old plastic sandwich bag with one corner cut off to pipe the donut batter into the pan in fat, gooey rings. Then I slid them into a 400°F degree oven for twelve minutes. When they emerged, my donuts were golden on the top and browned on the bottom (where they had touched the pan), and each had about the same diameter as a baseball. The final step was to brush each donut with melted butter and toss them in the cinnamon sugar until they were generously coated.
I was sincerely impressed with the natural apple cider flavor of these donuts. They tasted as authentic as any I've had at a farmers' market. I was also pleased with their tender-yet-crumbly texture. While the box said to "serve immediately," I found that they stayed moist and fresh into the following day. And as an added bonus, since these donuts are baked, they are far less fattening than their fried counterparts. If, like me, you have been known to use apple picking as an excuse to scarf down piping hot, cinnamony cider donuts straight from the fryer, you should definitely give these donuts a try.
Lucy Baker is a food writer and the author of The Boozy Baker: 75 Recipes for Spirited Sweets. She is currently at work on a second book about homemade food gifts. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and dachshund.