Saturday, November 1, 2008
Some of my best fall memories revolve around the apple. When I was young, my mother worked at the historic Slater Mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Each fall they had an evening craft show and tours of the old mill. All of the rough hewn pine beams and leaded-glass flooding the room with twilight created great ambiance, but what really permeates my memories is the smell of mulled cider, sipping a cup with folk music dancing in my ears as I rambled under, over and around the antique gears and looms.
Fast forward to eighth grade, when a passion for poetry had taken hold, and a writing retreat to Maine with childhood friends and cherished teachers. A football game in crisp air, then pulling ingredients from coolers and packing up dinner to take to a bonfire on the beach, shared with a thermos of cider under a ceiling of glitter. I never knew stars until that night.
And all of a sudden I'm a freshmen in college, awkward and lonely, stealing away to the neighborhood cafe for a steaming cup to help me plow through chemistry. Dashing home for weekends of apple picking, homemade caramel apples, apple sauce, apple pies...
Four years later, visiting my best friend in New Hampshire, the realization that this man had lapped me for most important person, but trading cider donuts and bushel bags none the less.
Apple cider has been one of the most central beverages in my life, and I don't even want to guess my lifetime consumption. I know that right now it averages about a gallon a week September through March. Although I don't think you can beat ladling out warm mugs of spiced nectar, cider donuts and apple crisp come close. In celebration of all things apple, I hope these recipes warm your body and your heart.
Cider Donuts (cake type) modified from Peabody's recipe
2/3 cup maple sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp dark rum
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup apple cider, reduced to 1/4 cup over high heat
1/3 cup buttermilk
3 3/4 - 4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
vegetable oil for frying
2 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup apple cider
Cream butter together with maple sugar. Add maple syrup, rum and vanilla and mix well. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add in buttermilk and reduced cider.
Sift in all dry ingredients, starting with 3 1/2 cups of flour. Stir to combine. If dough is too wet, add more flour (you need to be able to roll it out without it being sticky. Turn out on a floured countertop and pat to an even thickness (about 1/2 inch). Use a juice glass of the desired diameter to cut out donuts. Use a small cookie cutter of your choice to cut the holes in the middle (or a shot glass works well).
Fill a deep pan with oil until it's about 3 inches deep. Heat oil to 375 degrees F. Fry 3-4 donuts at a time, flipping when first side becomes amber in color, about 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove to a cooling rack over paper towels. Repeat with remaining donuts and donut holes. Let cool.
Meanwhile, make the glaze by whisking together confectioners sugar and cider. Use a chopstick through the middle of the donut to dunk each one in glaze. Return to cooling rack to dry.
This makes about 16 donuts. I recommend you only make these for a crowd, because you've gotta eat them the same day.
Gluten-free Hazelnut Apple Crisp
6-7 large macoun apples
2 tsp lemon juice
zest of a lemon
1 Tbsp Chinese five spice powder
1 tsp freshly ground cardamom
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup hazelnut meal
1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed and chopped coarsely
1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick of butter, melted
Peel the apples and slice about 1/4 inch thick. Toss with lemon juice. Add zest, spices and cornstarch and toss to combine. Empty into a greased 13 x 9 pyrex baking dish.
Combine topping ingredients in a small bowl and mix with fingers to combine. Sprinkle over apples and press down lightly.
Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until topping has crisped and apples are bubbly but not yet completely soft. Enjoy warm with a dash of maple syrup, over oatmeal for breakfast, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert.