Small batch baked apple cider donuts

Last week I was in desperate need of a fall spice fix. I’d recently found my donuts pans while cleaning out my baking supplies and we had a two large jugs of local apple cider, so the solution was obvious — apple cider donuts!

There’s a plain baked donut recipe from the early days of this blog, and this version is a direct descendent. I remember trying several baked donut recipes at the time of that original post, and the base recipe from The Kitchn was our clear favorite. It uses both yeast and baking powder for leavening, taking a page from southern-style angel biscuits. I love the texture of these donuts — they’re light, but still have the pleasing heft of a cake-style donut thanks to a good dollop of sour cream. To “apple ciderify” the base, I swapped out some of the sugar for light brown, added a good dose of apple pie spices, and used some reduced apple cider for the liquid. I also like to use a little bit of wholegrain flour to hint at rustic heartiness.

These donuts are most delicious still a little warm from the oven, though I’ll admit to thoroughly enjoying one the next day with my morning coffee. Maybe I shouldn’t have small batched them… (FWIW, the recipe is easily doubled.)

A few notes:

  • You can use either instant or active dry yeast for this recipe. If you’re using active dry, there really isn’t a need to activate the yeast in liquid beforehand as long as you know it’s still good. If you’re unsure, you can bloom it in a couple tablespoons of the apple cider, then whisk the bloomed yeast-cider mixture into the wet ingredients in step three. (Remember to subtract the amount of cider you use for blooming from the total cider called for in the recipe.)
  • Feel free to adjust the spices to your liking. I know many people dislike cloves, but it’s a spice that reminds me of mulled cider so I like to add a pinch. Cardamom would be nice here too, if that’s your jam. I do think that fresh nutmeg is a crucial spice not just for apple-y things, but for donuts in general. Freshly grated makes all the difference.
  • The most time consuming part of this recipe is reducing the apple cider and letting it cool. If you want fresh apple cider donuts in the morning, I suggest doing the reduction the night before and letting it cool at room temp overnight.

Small batch baked apple cider donuts

Makes 6 donuts / Adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients:

For the apple cider donut batter:

  • 100 g (3/4 c plus 2 tsp) all-purpose flour
  • 25 g (3 Tbsp) einkorn flour (can substitute whole wheat, spelt, or more all-purpose)
  • 1 tsp instant yeast (or active dry)
  • 50 g (1/4 c) granulated sugar
  • 50 g (1/4 c) light brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of allspice
  • Pinch of cloves
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal brand; use 2/3 the amount for another brand of kosher salt or sea salt and 1/2 the amount for table salt)
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 70 g (scant 1/3 c) reduced apple cider, at room temperature (see Notes)
  • 70 g (scant 1/3 c) sour cream, at room temperature
  • 28 g (2 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

To finish:

  • 50 g (1/4 c) granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of allspice
  • Pinch of cloves
  • 42 g (3 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle. Grease a 6-count donut pan (I have this one) with baking spray and dust with flour. Make sure to grease and flour the raised center of each cavity too, as that is where donuts like to stick.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, instant yeast, sugars, baking powder, spices, and salt.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the egg, reduced apple cider, sour cream, melted butter, and vanilla until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until completely incorporated. Transfer the batter to a disposable piping bag and pipe into the prepared pan. Each well should be about 3/4 full. (You can also spoon the batter into the pan, but a piping bag is much easier and cleaner.)
  4. Bake the donuts until puffed and golden, about 15 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. While the donuts are baking, whisk together the granulated sugar and spices for the topping.
  5. When the donuts are done baking, remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 2-3 minutes. Transfer the donuts from the pan to the wire rack — I use a small offset spatula to gently dislodge them, then turn onto the rack. They should turn out easily if your pan was well prepared.
  6. While the donuts are still warm, use a brush both sides with melted butter and sprinkle with the spiced sugar. Donuts are best enjoyed still slightly warm from the oven, preferably with coffee or warm apple cider.

Note: To make reduced apple cider, simmer 240g (1 c) apple cider over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it has reduced to 80g (1/3 c). This is easiest to do if you weigh the pot with the non-reduced cider before starting to simmer. Subtract 160g from this number — this is your target weight after reduction. Exact time will depend on the size of your pan and how warm your stove is — start checking around 15 minutes. Pour reduced cider into a heatproof container and cool to room temperature before using. I make a little more than is called for in the recipe to account for small amounts that might be left in the pan.

Zeppole

zeppole

A couple years ago, my husband came home from work one day and asked, “Have you had a zeppole? They’re so good!” I had, in fact, never had a zeppole nor heard of them. So over the next couple of weeks, we went on a bit of an Italian bakery run trying to find zeppole for me to try.

Turns out zeppole are basically Italian doughnuts, and they come in many different forms: baked, fried, filled, and unfilled. After sampling a variety of zeppole, we realized our favorite were the Zeppole di San Giuseppe variety, which are basically doughnut-shaped cream puffs. Traditionally these are eaten to celebrate St. Joseph’s Day (a Catholic holiday in March), which is pretty much the only time you can find them in actual Italian bakeries in our area. But they’re too delicious to not be eaten the rest of year; and since they’re made from good ol’ choux, they’re easy enough to pull off at home!

A few notes:

  • Traditionally, this style of zeppole are garnished with canned sour cherries. This is delicious, but if you don’t have any you can just use some fresh fruit or a thick jam.
  • If you like a lighter/softer filling, you can whip up some heavy cream (I’d probably do 1/2 cup or so) and fold it into the pastry cream before filling the zeppole.
  • Zeppole are best consumed within 4 hours of assembling, but all the components can be prepared ahead of time: the pastry cream can be refrigerated up to 3 days and the choux rings can be baked and stored at room temperature for a couple of days (or frozen for longer storage). If the pastry softens during storage, recrisp by baking uncovered at 300°F for 5-8 minutes. Cool completely before filling.
choux pastry rings
baked zeppole

Zeppole

Makes about 10 zeppole

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe choux pastry (prepared through step 4)
  • 1 batch vanilla pastry cream (recipe below)
  • Thick fruit jam or preserves (I used strawberry)
  • Fresh fruit, canned sour cherries, or additional thick jam, to finish
  • Powdered sugar, to finish (optional)
For the vanilla pastry cream:
  • 1 1/2 c whole milk
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 100g granulated sugar, divided
  • 40g custard powder (or cornstarch)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 28g unsalted butter, at room temperature

Method:

  1. Make the vanilla pastry cream: Place a sieve over a heatproof container. Combine the whole milk and heavy cream in a medium saucepan along with 80g of the sugar. Whisk to combine.
  2. In a medium bowl, place the remaining 20g granulated sugar and sift in the custard powder or cornstarch. Pour in a splash of the milk-cream mixture and whisk to combine (this helps prevent lumpy custard). Add a bit more of the milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the egg yolks.
  3. Bring the remaining milk-cream mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Once it has reached a simmer, remove from the heat and slowly pour into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over medium to medium high heat, whisking continuously.
  4. As soon as the mixture thickens and large bubbles appear, turn the heat to low and continue whisking on the heat for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain into the prepared container. Whisk in the butter, followed by the vanilla extract.
  5. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard to keep a skin from forming. Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until chilled (at least three hours, or up to 3 days).
  6. Bake the zeppole: Preheat the oven to 425F with a rack in the middle. On a large piece of parchment using a cookie cutter or other round object, trace about ten 2 1/2 inch circles. Space the circles at least 2 inches apart. Place the parchment on a large baking sheet (with the tracing on the underside so you don’t get pen/pencil onto your zeppole). Transfer the choux dough to a large piping bag fitted with an open star/French piping tip. Pipe rings of choux using the tracings as a guide. After you’ve piped all the bases, go back and pipe another, smaller ring on the top inside edge of the bottom ring. (If you have any dough left, you can pipe little cream puffs to use it up.) Dust the rings with icing sugar.
  7. Bake the pastry for 10 minutes, then turn down the oven to 375F and continue baking until the rings are puffed and a deep golden brown — about another 20-30 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet after about 30 minutes total baking time — avoid opening the oven door any sooner, or your pastry may collapse. After the rings are finished but still hot, pierce the bottoms with a skewer or paring knife and return to the turned-off oven for 10 minutes to allow the steam to escape and the insides to dry out (prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon). Transfer rings to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before filling.
  8. Assemble the zeppole: Whisk the chilled pastry cream to loosen and transfer to a piping bag fitted with an open star tip.
  9. Using a sharp serrated knife, trim off the top third of the choux rings and set aside. Remove any soft bits from inside the shells.
  10. Spread a thin layer of jam on the bottom of the rings. Pipe the cream on top. Place the tops back on and pipe a dollop of cream in the centers. Garnish with a sour cherry, fresh fruit, or a dab of jam. Dust with powdered sugar if desired. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours. (The pastry will eventually start to soften, so it’s best to fill the zeppole shortly before eating.)
baked zeppole with garnish

Baked Donuts, Two Ways

alternating

unfrostedHappy New Year! We had a great time spending the holidays with my family in Seattle. Now that my brothers and I are scattered around North America, it’s rare for us to all be in the same place at once. So it was a treat to have everyone “home” again, joking and eating and enjoying each others’ company. Of course, it was particularly special this year because it was Marcus’ first Christmas. Naturally, he got the most presents (even though he slept through us opening them for him…).

It’s become customary for David and me to cook a couple meals when we’re back in Seattle, with one of them being breakfast / brunch. This year, we scored a couple donut pans during some after-Christmas shopping; so we decided to try our hand at baked sour cream donuts. We tested a couple recipes, and this one was the clear winner. I know some people will pooh-pooh thought of baked donuts; and I won’t pretend these are like the deep-fried delights we all enjoy. But they are pretty darn tasty — the double rising power of yeast and baking powder give these babies a nice light texture. Plus, they are super easy and quick to whip up — you can mix, bake, and glaze a batch in under an hour.

I’ve included a two glaze ideas here — zesty lemon and classic chocolate. Each recipe will make enough for a dozen donuts; I’ve halved the glaze recipes to do a mixed batch and had plenty of each left over. Or feel free to dress your donuts up with another flavor of your choice — this list is a good place to start. I’m definitely looking forward to playing around with some different flavors!

single

Baked Donuts

Recipe adapted from The Kitchn | Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons warm water or milk
  • 200 g / 2 cups cake flour
  • 215 g / 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 228 g / 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • 56 g / 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two (6-count) doughnut pans with a flour-based baking spray, Arrange a wire cooling rack over a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk or water and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, sour cream, melted butter, vanilla, and yeast mixture until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until completely incorporated. Transfer the batter to a disposable piping bag (or zip-top bag, snipping off one corner for piping) and pipe into the prepared pans.
  4. Bake the doughnuts until puffed and golden, about 15 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool the doughnuts in the pan for 5 minutes. Transfer the doughnuts from the pan to the wire rack.

For the lemon glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice (about half a lemon)
  • 1-2 tbsp milk, plus more to thin if needed
  • Pinch of salt
  • Poppy seeds, optional
  1. Combine the powdered sugar, lemon zest, and salt in a small bowl and stir to combine. Whisk in the lemon juice. Whisk in the milk, adding gradually until the glaze reaches desired consistency.
  2. Dip the top side of a doughnut into the glaze and twist to coat. Return to the wire rack and immediately cover with poppy seeds. Continue with remaining doughnuts. Allow glaze to dry for a few minutes before serving. (Note: You can glaze both sides if you prefer a sweeter donut.)

For the chocolate glaze:

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons milk, plus more to thin if needed
  • Rainbow sprinkles, optional
  1. Cook the chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until ingredients are melted (or melt in the microwave in 15-second increments). Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk, and whisk vigorously to combine. If it seems too thick, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Remove the pan from heat.
  2. Dip the top side of a doughnut into the glaze and twist to coat. Return to the wire rack and immediately cover with sprinkles. Continue with remaining doughnuts. Allow glaze to dry for a few minutes before serving.

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