apple cider doughnuts

cider donuts 5

It’s going to be 95 degrees here today, but I’m trying to force it to feel like fall anyway. It isn’t just the temperature; there are no trees here to change colors, the air is always dry and crisp, and the only place to buy pumpkins and apples is the grocery store. I often prefer living in the desert, even with months of over 100-degree days in the summer, but every fall, I miss upstate New York.

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I especially miss the cider mill I lived near when I was there, which was almost a fall festival of its own, every day. I loved stopping there and choosing one each of six different apple types, which made the best apple pies I’d ever eaten. In the weeks before Halloween, they’d cover most of the lot with pumpkins, not to mention the barrels of squash of every variety. Inside, you could watch them pulp the apples into cider on one side of the building, and on the other, they were frying doughnuts. Brushing fallen sugar off of our shirts after biting into fresh donuts became a yearly tradition.

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You can’t buy jugs of fresh cider here or the donuts made with it, but I can make my own doughnuts using pulpy storebought apple juice. By reducing the apple cider/juice until it’s syrupy, you can increase the apple flavor of the doughnuts without increasing the stickiness of the dough. Concentrating apple juice and frying apply donuts smells like fall, and, in a pinch, that will have to epitomize the season in the desert.

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One year ago: Burritos
Two years ago: Green Chile Rellenos
Three years ago: Stuffed Mushrooms with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Printer Friendly Recipe
Apple Cider Doughnuts (slightly adapted from The Hearth Restaurant via Smitten Kitchen)

Makes 18 doughnuts and 18 doughnut holes

Despite generally being anti-shortening, I tried it for frying this time. However, I wasn’t happy with it; it started smoking well before it reached proper frying temperature. The doughnuts also seemed to absorb more fat than usual.

1 cup apple cider
3½ cups (16.8 ounces) flour, plus additional for the work surface
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk
Vegetable oil or shortening for frying
Topping (optional): ½ cup granulated sugar + 2 teaspoons cinnamon

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the apple cider to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until reduced to ¼ cup, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg.

2. Using an electric mixer on medium speed (with the paddle attachment, if using a standing mixer), beat the butter and granulated sugar until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time; continue to beat until the eggs are completely incorporated. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add half of the reduced apple cider and buttermilk, then all of the dry ingredients, then the remaining liquid ingredients, mixing just until combined.

3. Flour two sheets of parchment or wax paper; turn the dough out onto one floured sheet and cover with the second sheet. Roll the dough out to a thickness of ½-inch. Transfer the dough to the freezer until it is slightly hardened, about 20 minutes.

4. Using a floured 3-inch or 3½-inch doughnut cutter (or a round cutter plus a 1-inch round cutter or backside of a piping tip), cut out rings of dough. Place the cut doughnuts and doughnut holes onto one sheet of floured wax paper. Re-roll the scraps of dough, incorporating as little flour as possible. Refrigerate the doughnuts for 20 to 30 minutes.

5. Add oil or shortening to a deep-sided pan to measure a depth of about 3 inches. Heat over medium heat until the oil reaches 350°F. Place a wire rack over a baking sheet.

6. Carefully add three doughnuts and three holes to the oil; fry until golden brown, about 60 seconds. Flip the doughnuts and fry until the other side is golden, 30 to 60 seconds. Drain on the rack for one minute. Dip the top of the warm doughnuts into the cinnamon sugar mixture (if using) and serve immediately.

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oatmeal nutmeg scones

For most of my life, I didn’t think much of nutmeg. It was just one member of the pumpkin pie consortium, of which only cinnamon could stand on its own, as far as I knew. The rest were generically fall-flavored. It wasn’t until I met Dave, professed nutmeg lover, that I started considering nutmeg as its own entity.

Now I think of nutmeg as warm, cozy, complex. (Or maybe the association I have between nutmeg and Dave has caused me to describe my husband instead of the seasoning?) Its spice adds richness to any dish, sweet or savory, and has become one of my favorite flavors.

Oatmeal reminds me of Dave too, as it was his staple breakfast – no sugar, no salt – when he lived alone. (It was bland, mushy, gross, but these aren’t words I associate with my husband.) I may not need complex, cozy scents to make me warm out here the desert, but I certainly won’t turn down a nutmeg oatmeal scone. You can bet Dave wouldn’t either.

Patricia chose these for Tuesdays for Dorie, and she will have the recipe posted. I didn’t make any changes.

One year ago: Strawberry Chocolate Ice Cream Pie
Two years ago: Chipster-Topped Brownies
Three years ago: Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

maple cornmeal biscuits

These are not Italian in any way. Dave and I booked a trip to Italy last week and thought we’d have an Italy day on Saturday, where we’d have espresso, eat Italian food, drink Italian wine, and plan out our adventure. Little of that happened. We ate maple cornmeal biscuits because I needed to make them for Tuesdays with Dorie.  At least we had them alongside frittata with swiss chard. We never got to the espresso, and it wasn’t until Sunday that we sat down to map out our vacation plans. The grilled lamb and asparagus we had for dinner could have been any cuisine, although the Barbera that accompanied dinner was wonderful.

I’m always jumping ahead to the wine. Let’s talk more about breakfast. Even though maple cornmeal biscuits are not Italian and we had them on (what was supposed to be) Italy day, they were very delicious – sweet and gritty. I suspect we’ll have many more Italy planning days between now and when we leave in September, and I just might start them all out with maple cornmeal biscuits, Italian or not.

Lindsay has the full recipe posted. I made no changes.

One year ago: Cherry-Cherry Bread Pudding
Two years ago: Fresh Mango Bread
Three years ago: Traditional Madeleines

tourtely apple tart

Sometimes I think I can multitask, but I am wrong. While Dave and I were having an interesting conversation about our almost-teenaged nephew gaining independence and confidence, I was jotting down the ingredients for the tart crust. (I don’t bring cookbooks into the kitchen; I don’t want them getting dirty.) I was also congratulating myself on how I was paying attention to the conversation and making insightful responses – although Dave might disagree – while getting a cooking task done.

Nope. I messed it up. I wrote down the version without nuts, even though I had specifically bought walnuts because I thought they’d complement the apples nicely.

So perhaps I didn’t make quite the dessert I was meant to.  In the end, I liked the filling just fine, but the crust wasn’t the right match for it.  It was too simple, too sugary, too cookie-like.  I suspect some bitter earthy walnuts was just the flavor I was craving.  And I suspect this is a lesson I’m going to have to learn over and over again before it sticks.

Jeannette chose this apple tart pie thing for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted.  I tweaked a bunch of little things with the filling, but nothing crucial.

One year ago: Sweet Cream Biscuits
Two years ago: Chocolate Bread Pudding
Three years ago: Carrot Cake

pumpkin cinnamon rolls

The problem with the internet is that you don’t get to believe, even for a minute, that you were the first to come up with an idea. First there was sushi bowls, most recently it was eggnog martinis, and last month there were pumpkin cinnamon rolls. I thought I was a genius. Pumpkin and cinnamon! A classic combination! I could just take pumpkin bread dough, roll it out, spike the cinnamon filling mixture with cloves and nutmeg, and top it with a cream cheese glaze. It’s the perfect combination of pumpkin and accents! I deserve accolades! Awards! At the very least, lots of blog hits!

Oops, never mind. Many many people have done this before. Still. I’m convinced that my pumpkin cinnamon rolls are better than theirs. It’s all about balance – cinnamon rolls should be decadent treat worth the splurge, but you might as well save the calorie-dense ingredients for where they’re going to make the most impact.

I’m convinced that a super rich dough for cinnamon rolls isn’t worth the calories. Once the dough is filled with a sugary spiced filling and topped with a creamy glaze, extra fat in the dough just gets lost. If you don’t notice it, why bother with it? On that same note, I used oil in the dough instead of butter. You can use butter if you prefer, but again – the taste of butter will be overpowered by the filling and glaze, but the added tenderness of oil compared to butter will not go unnoticed.

Pumpkin, cinnamon, cream cheese, and sugar – for breakfast! The dough part is light, soft, and orange; the filling is sweet and spice and everything nice; and the glaze, well, it has cream cheese. I told you I was a genius.

One year ago: Twice-Baked Potatoes
Two years ago: White Chocolate Lemon Truffles, Pumpkin Seed Brittle, Vanilla Bean Caramels

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

You can chill the rolls after they’re shaped, rolled, and cut, but before rising. They’ll still need several hours in the morning to finish rising, bake, and cool, although you can speed the rising along by giving them a very warm place to get started.

A riskier method to get cinnamon rolls at a reasonable breakfast hour is to adjust the amount of yeast. I used ½ teaspoon yeast instead of 2 teaspoons. Your first rise will take several hours. Then you can roll, cut, and chill the dough (or freeze it and defrost in the refrigerator). Take the prepared, chilled rolls out of the fridge before you go to bed and they should be perfectly risen and ready to bake when you wake up.

Dough:
4-4 ½ cups (20 to 21¼ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
⅓ cup (2.33 ounces) sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
2 eggs
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
4 tablespoons vegetable oil

Filling:
¾ cup packed (5¼ ounces) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (or a mixture of mostly cinnamon with some cloves, nutmeg, and ginger)
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon melted butter

Glaze:
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners sugar, sifted to remove lumps
1 ounce cream cheese, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons milk

1. Stand mixer: Mix the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. In a large measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs; whisk in the pumpkin and oil. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the liquid ingredients. Continue mixing on medium-low until the dough is elastic and supple, about 8 minutes. You may need to add a little more flour or water to get the correct consistency – soft but not sticky.

By hand: Mix the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. In a large measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs; whisk in the pumpkin and oil. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid ingredients. Stir the mixture until the dough comes together. Transfer it to a floured board or countertop and knead, incorporating as little flour as possible, for about 10 minutes, until the dough is elastic and supple. You may need to add a little more flour or water to get the correct consistency – soft but not sticky.

2. Mix together the filling ingredients in a small bowl. Grease a 13 by 9-inch baking dish.

3. After the dough has doubled in bulk, press it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, shape the dough into a 16 by 12-inch rectangle, with a long side facing you. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a ½-inch border at the far edges. Roll the dough, beginning with the long edge closest to you and using both hands to pinch the dough with your fingertips as you roll. Using unflavored dental floss or a serrated knife, cut the roll into 12 equal pieces and place the rolls cut-side up in the prepared baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, 1½ to 2 hours.

4. When the rolls are almost fully risen, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of one reads 185 to 188 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, stir the glaze ingredients together until smooth. Glaze the rolls and serve.

cardamom crumb cake

If you top cake with buttery sugary crumbs instead of buttery sugary frosting, suddenly it’s breakfast! Not that I’m complaining, mind you. And not that crumbs on top will stop me from eating it for dessert as well as breakfast.

It’s called cardamom cake, but cardamom isn’t the only important flavor. Orange zest in both the crumb and cake compete with coffee, and the orange wins but isn’t too strong. I suppose I wouldn’t have been opposed to more spice or even more bitter coffee, but the cake seemed pretty perfect just how it was. And really, what could be better than cake for breakfast?

Jill chose this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has it posted. I doubled the salt.  (As well as baked it in heart-shaped muffin cups, obviously. The whole recipe makes 12 muffins. Bake at 400 degrees for about 18 minutes.)

One year ago: Cafe Volcano Cookies
Two years ago: Butterscotch Pudding

apple coconut family cake

I try to maintain a fairly open mind about desserts. I mean, if chocolate and prunes can be great together, who knows what else is out there? But you can’t deny that apples and coconut is weird.

Most pairings are based on geographical and seasonal commonalities – lime and coconut, tomatoes and basil, strawberries and rhubarb. Coconuts are grown in the tropics; apples grow in temperate regions. Apples ripen in the fall; coconuts grow where there are no seasons. You just aren’t likely to find these two trees growing next to each other.

That doesn’t mean they make a bad combination, just an odd one. I didn’t not enjoy it. In fact, the cake was so fluffy and moist that I did enjoy it.  But not as much as chocolate and prunes.

Amber chose this cake for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Sablés
Two years ago: Buttery Jam Cookies

pumpkin oatmeal cookies

One of my coworkers offered me a cookie recently, and while I try to be on my best eating behavior at work, I figured I had to be polite, right? And then he offered to leave the rest of the batch with me, clearly displaying the difference between the metabolism of an active male in his early thirties and that of a female of the same age. The whole container? Just one cookie first thing in the morning was a splurge.

No, when someone offers me a delicious cookie, I don’t eat the whole batch. I ask for the recipe.

Although these pumpkin cookies don’t make that easy. They aren’t the kind of cookie that you eat one of, savoring every bite, and then feel sated. All that fiber makes them feel more like a snack, like they should be healthy and you should be able to eat a few at a time. Alas, a petite (aka short) thirty-something moderately-active female can never forget all that butter. That’s why I prefer to be on the giving side of cookies instead of the receiving side.

One year ago: Chicken Empanadas, Bacon-Wrapped Scallops with Port Reduction, Slice-and-Bake Brown Sugar Cookies
Two years ago: Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Multigrain Pancakes

Printer Friendly Recipe
Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies (adapted from allrecipes)

2½ cups (12 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (7 ounces) white sugar
1 cup (7 ounces) packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line two baking pans with parchment paper or a silicone mat. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl with a hand mixer), beat the butter and both sugars until fluffy, about one minute. Add the egg, beating until incorporated, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated.

3. Drop heaping teaspoons of dough onto the prepared baking pans. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned around edges. Let the cookies cool slightly on the pans before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

cranberry apple galette

I used to have a friend who always served steamed broccoli with her lasagna. “Everyone does salad with their lasagna”, she scoffed. But it seems to me that everyone does it because it works so well.

Cranberry and orange are another combination that is classic simply because it’s good. Cranberry and lime…well, I don’t know, because I wasn’t brave enough to try it. I do love tart foods, but since I knew I’d be sharing these, I took the safe and familiar route with cranberry and orange.

And it tasted just as good as I expected. I’m almost positive the cranberry-lime variation would have been wonderful too. Of course I can’t be sure, having taken the safe route.

The sisters of Celestial Confections chose this galette for Tuesdays with Dorie, and they have the recipe posted. Make minis at your own time-consuming risk, by cutting 3-inch circles from the rolled dough and stuffing them in muffin cups before filling. Don’t bother trying to fold the sides in. Bake until bubbling and browned, 18-20 minutes.  Also, I used this galette dough, because I already had some in the freezer.  I suspect its malleability helps with maneuvering the dough circles into muffin cups.

One year ago: Cran-Apple Crisps
Two years ago: Rice Pudding

all-american, all-delicious apple pie

I’ve made all manner of banana cream pies for Dave, and yet he remains convinced that nothing beats Baker’s Square’s. I have my doubts, as I don’t believe he’s been to a Baker’s Square since I started baking for him. But I keep trying.

By contrast, he declared the first apple pie I made for him the best apple pie he’d ever had. Not that that keeps me from trying new recipes. Just last month (a few days before October’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipes were announced and I realized I’d be making more apple pie soon), I made a rum raisin apple pie that sounded great, but didn’t have quite the perfection of my normal recipe.

Clearly this calls for a comparison, especially because Dorie calls for tapioca as a thickener instead of apple pie’s standard flour. My original plan was to make side-by-side versions of Dorie’s recipe and my old favorite, but, like many cooking endeavors when I’m rushed, this one went awry. I underfilled both mini-pies (although at least I underfilled them equally), forgot the breadcrumbs and butter in Dorie’s, didn’t adequately stir the zest into the filling… Because the recipes are very similar, with the same ratio of apples to sugar to spices to thickener, it really ended up being a comparison of tapioca versus flour.

I couldn’t tell a difference – not in taste, not in texture, not in soupiness. Dave really enjoyed them both as well. Now I just need to keep him from trying Baker’s Square’s apple pie. One impossible pie standard to live up to is quite enough, thank you.

Emily chose this recipe for TWD, and she has it posted. My other favorite apple pie recipe is by Cooks Illustrated. It’s very similar, with an equal amount of flour substituting for the tapioca in Dorie’s, no breadcrumbs or butter, and 1 teaspoon lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice instead of the larger amount of zest that Dorie recommends.  In all photos, Dorie’s recipe is to the left (with the crimped edge, not forked).

One year ago: Allspice Crumb Muffins
Two years ago: Chocolate Cupcakes