Fall-ing for Doughnuts
By Sarah Kauzmann
~ I, like many kids in Central New Jersey, grew up going to Terhune Orchards every fall. Feeding the animals, picking out the perfect pumpkin and, of course, leaving with a hot cup of apple cider and a bag of doughnuts, always coated in cinnamon sugar. Is there anything more fall than an apple cider doughnut?
Doughnuts supposedly first arrived in NYC (then known as New Amsterdam) under the utterly unappetizing Dutch name of olykoeks or “oily cakes;” however, doughnut-like treats have been around for longer than most think, with archaeologists digging up fossilized bits of doughnut shaped treats in prehistoric Native American settlements.
What we think of as a doughnut, the deep-fried, hole-in-the-center treat, may be thanks to Elizabeth Gregory in the mid-19th century. She was the mother of a New England captain who brought the treats on long sailing trips possibly to help keep scurvy away. She made her doughnuts with hazelnuts and walnuts in the center where she feared the dough would not cook thoroughly and, in a literal way, called them dough-nuts.
Her son, Captain Gregory, took credit for the lesser part of the doughnut: the hole. Some believe he created it because he was stingy and didn’t want to pay for the nut filling, others say it’s because he couldn’t take his hands off the wheel in a storm so he would skewer the doughnuts onto the spokes. Either way, he’s thought to be the “inventor” of the doughnut hole.
It wasn’t until WWI that doughnuts were popularized by homesick American soldiers. Women volunteers brought them to French trenches to give the soldiers a touch of home. When they did eventually return home, they craved the fried treats and thus began their popularization.
The first doughnut machine came shortly after the war in 1920. Adolph Levitt, a Russian refugee, created one in NYC after his customers, hungry theater goers, begged him to create something that would help him make his doughnuts faster. By 1931, the machines were being refined, with the New Yorker describing how “doughnuts float dreamily through a grease canal in a glass enclosed machine, walk dreamily up a moving ramp, and tumble dreamily into an outgoing basket.”
My first viewing of one such machine was in the book Homer Price by Robert McClosky. A favorite of mine about a young boy and his everyday adventures, including one about a doughnut machine on a rampage. Wonderful illustrations by McClosky himself follow the story showing a doughnut machine surrounded by hundreds of individually drawn doughnuts and the surprised face of Homer Price when he finds out someone has lost a bracelet in one of them.
Illustrations can only show so much though and at age 12,
I walked into my first Krispy Kreme doughnut shop and saw first-hand the wonder that is a doughnut machine. Through a pane of glass, I witnessed the magic of dough circles fried to perfection and the glorious thing that is the icing waterfall. My family bought some fresh off the conveyor and they didn’t even make it to the parked car outside before they were melting in our mouths.
In my wise old age of almost 27 (my birthday month is October!) I have moved on from chain doughnut shops in favor of a more local approach, buying my occasional fried treats from a local bakery down the street or, better yet, making some myself with local Terhune Orchards apple cider!
Baked Apple Cider Doughnut Holes
Yield: Roughly 3 dozen doughnut holes
1 ¼ cups (300ml) apple cider, reduced to ½ cup
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
Pinch of cloves
¼ tsp salt
1 large egg, room temperature
2 Tbsp (30g) butter, melted
½ cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
½ cup (120ml) buttermilk, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ cup (60g) butter, melted
Simmer apple cider on the stove on low-medium heat for 15-20 minutes or until it has reduced to a ½ cup. Add in cinnamon sticks for flavor if desired. You are reducing the apple cider to create a stronger flavor from less liquid so the batter is not too runny.
Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a mini muffin pan, set aside.
Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt together in bowl and set aside.
Whisk egg, melted butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together until smooth. Whisk in buttermilk, vanilla, and ½ cup reduced apple cider.
Pour wet ingredients into dry and gently mix together until just combined. Over mixing will result in a tough textured doughnut.
Pour batter into mini muffin pan, filling ¾ full.
Bake 9-10 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Make topping: mix granulated sugar and cinnamon together and melt butter in separate bowl. Dip each muffin top in butter then roll in cinnamon/sugar to completely coat (cinnamon sugar will stick to un-butter-coated parts as well). ■
Sarah Kauzmann, MHS ’12, Lehigh Univ. Masters ’17. She’s been baking since she was old enough to hold a spoon. She is a pastry chef in Perkasie, PA. Sarah is starting her own venture, pipitsbakery.com.