13 October 2014

Baked Cider Donut Holes

Here's something: if you ever get the opportunity to sous chef at a vendor product demo at Whole Foods, you will learn almost everything you need to know about humanity. Ok, that's a grand statement. But you will learn a lot. A few snippets: people come in, walk around just to eat the samples a few times a day. Some stand at the table and eat sample after sample as you hurry to cut more with your sharp knife while asking nothing about the product. Some ask pointed questions about the product, and then just walk away. There was the woman who wanted not the sample I was making, but just a "swipe of the almond butter" I was using to make the samples (!!) and the one who threw a sample right into the trash beside the table after grabbing it off the table. Most commonly, people mistake you for an employee and ask where the quinoa is located. But some say thank you. I had no idea how much of a difference it makes to vendors emotionally when customers say, "may I try?" rather than just take one. I have nothing on full-time food-workers and chefs, and as astonishing as the behavior may be, demos work. Product was practically swiped from the shelves the two days we were there. 

After a few days of slicing vegetable rolls (that are brilliantly made with vegetable purees as opposed to seaweed), I attended to the needs to smell cinnamon and feel fall through flour as much as possible at home, and use some of the apple cider I bought from the farm. I had so many things on the list, I decided to start with something simple, something no one would turn down at 4 o'clock in the afternoon on a warm but grey Monday with a cup of strong coffee: baked apple cider donut holes. You don't need a donut pan to make these; a mini muffin pans are great, and you can even swap in a little whole wheat flour or barley flour. The cider is reduced on the stovetop first to enhance the strength. The result is a light, tender, spiced mini donut muffin/hole. If traditional cider donuts or fried donuts don't feel at all possible (or desirable) in your kitchen, give the mini muffin version a try. I will promptly be making more. They are heavenly.

Baked Apple Cider Donut Holes 
Adapted from Yankee Magazine

  • 1 cup sweet apple cider
  • 1/4 cup/ 2 oz unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
  • 1/3 c/ 65 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp (140 grams) all-purpose flour (may use 1/4 alternate grain flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • Topping: 1-2 Tbsp butter, melted, 2-3 Tbsp sugar + 1/2 tsp cinnamon, stirred together

      Put the apple cider in a large saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer until the liquid is reduced to 1/2 cup. Set aside to cool. Set the oven to 375° / rack to the middle position. Grease 18 mini muffin cups.

      Using a standing or handheld mixer, cream the butter with the sugar in a large bowl at medium speed until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each. Add the vanilla extract and blend. 

      In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add a third of this mixture to the butter mixture and beat just to combine. Add half the reduced cider and beat to combine. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, then the rest of the cider, then the remaining flour mixture. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups and transfer to the oven. Bake until tops are firm and a tester comes out clean, 11-13 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes then un-mold and brush with melted butter and roll in cinnamon sugar.  

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