DB Challenge: Apple Cider Doughnuts (Regular or Gluten-free)

I don't need to bake gluten-free, I choose to. To see why, read my blog post: Baking Gluten-fee Even Though I Don't Have To.

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

I decided against any of her recipes because I was having a hankering for apple cider doughnuts like those up at Apple Hill. I went with a friend on Saturday to get my apple cider and some apples as well as to enjoy the ones sold at Rainbow Orchards.

Unfortunately mine are not as good as theirs. Maybe because I chose to go gluten-free. It could also have been due to old baking powder. I need to buy a fresh can and this recipe does call for two teaspoons of it. My doughnuts tasted fine. They were just really dense and definitely should be eaten fresh from the fryer. Like any good doughnuts, they lose their appeal the longer they sit out. I had toyed with the idea of using a recipe that did require yeast, but since Rainbow's don't have yeast I figured I would give the first attempt a go with just a regular cake recipe. Look in the future for me to try a yeast version - probably with pumpkin.

This was the first time I had made doughnuts and they weren't difficult at all. I guess I've always shied away from them because of the deep frying. I don't have a deep fryer and so just had to use a pot and guess at keeping my temperature correct.

Apple Cider Doughnuts

Original recipe altered from Food Network. If you make them normal, follow the black instructions. Gluten-free alterations are in red. 

2 apples
2 1/2 cups apple cider
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting (or gluten-free blend + 2 t xanthan gum)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
Vegetable oil, for frying

Core and coarsely chop the apples (do not peel). Combine with 1 1/2 cups cider in a medium saucepan over medium heat; cover and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until the apples are tender and the cider is almost completely reduced, about 5 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender or in a food processor until smooth. Measure the sauce; you should have 1 cup. (Boil to reduce further, if necessary.) Let cool slightly.

Whisk the flour (or GF flour mixture), baking powder, baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, salt and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

Beat 2/3 cup granulated sugar and the shortening in another bowl with a mixer on medium speed until sandy. Beat in the egg and yolk, then gradually mix in the applesauce, scraping the bowl. Beat in half of the flour mixture, then the buttermilk and vanilla, and then the remaining flour mixture. Mix to make a sticky dough; do not overmix.

Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper and pat into a 7-by-11-inch rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Meanwhile, make the glaze: Simmer the remaining 1 cup cider in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1/4 cup. Whisk in the confectioners' sugar until smooth and glossy, then set aside. Mix the remaining 1 cup granulated sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a shallow bowl; set aside for the topping.

Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Cut the chilled dough into 12 rounds, using a floured 2 1/2- or 3-inch biscuit cutter, then cut out the middles with a 1-inch cutter (or use a doughnut cutter). Slip 2 or 3 doughnuts at a time into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side, adjusting the heat as needed. Transfer to the paper towels to drain.

Dip one side of each doughnut into the cider glaze, letting the excess drip off; dip just the glazed side in the cinnamon-sugar or roll all over in cinnamon-sugar, if desired. Serve warm.