A farm field trip is often the highlight of a preschooler’s autumn. It marks the time of year when a special treat turns from ice cream cones to cider doughnuts.
A farm field trip is often the highlight of a preschooler’s autumn. With classmates or with family, accompanied by merry rounds of “The Wheels on the Bus,” the occasion structures indelible childhood memories. Parents watch children’s wide-eyed faces and wistfully recall the wonder of their own first farm visits.
I remember the cows best. They were such a disappointment, not the beautiful grassy green color I’d imagined them to be, but instead plain old dull brown lumps cluttering up the lush pasture. That pasture looked just like the one in my dreams, wide and fragrant and dotted with neat golden cubes of hay and apple trees.
I easily forgave the apples for not arranging themselves as neatly on the trees as I’d drawn them with my fat no-roll crayons on sheets of rough construction paper the teacher doled out as if they were hundred dollar bills. But the cows? I took a strong dislike to them until many years later when I met some gorgeous black-and-white ones in a Berkshire mountain valley. The cows, not the mountains, had been soaped up and polished, Martha Stewart-perfect, that morning to attend the state fair.
The farm field trip also marks the time of year when a special treat turns from ice cream cones to cider doughnuts. Bought at the last stop, after watching them cook in large vats or run down conveyor belts, they are meant for the next morning’s breakfast. But little fingers find their way into the brown paper bags and the contents are often gobbled up before arriving home.
The following recipe is for an experienced cook. Unafraid of the grease and spatters associated with frying, he or she may wish to try their hand at making their own apple cider donuts at home. Because of the hot grease, the cook must be careful and focused, must never turn away from the stove to answer a phone or doorbell, nor be distracted by squabbling children or barking dogs. In short, no cell phones, texting or tweeting while making doughnuts. Safety is the foremost consideration when working with the hot fat needed for this recipe.
Essential equipment includes good tongs for grabbing, holding, and turning the doughnuts as well as a deep, straight sided skillet or a wide, deep saucepan to keep hot fat inside where it belongs.
Cooks who make doughnuts know that real cider is only squeezed and bottled when apples are ready, once a year, and that they need to seize the moment. Homemade doughnuts are both rare and a treat and for those reasons should be enjoyed fully in their season without dietary recriminations.
APPLE CIDER DOUGHNUTS
Makes 20 doughnuts
1. Bring the apple cider to a boil in a saucepan set over medium-low heat, boiling gently until the cider reduces to 1/4 cup of liquid, 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, salt and nutmeg in a bowl; set aside. Whisk together confectioners’ sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon in a separate bowl; set aside.
3. Beat together butter and granulated sugar until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Gradually add apple cider and buttermilk to the mixture until combined. Add the flour mixture until the dough comes together.
4. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; sprinkle with flour. Turn dough onto one sheet pan; sprinkle flour over the top. Flatten dough with hands to about 1/2 inch thick.
5. Transfer dough to the freezer until it begins to firm, about 20 minutes.
6. Cut out doughnuts with a 3-inch doughnut-cutter. Place doughnuts and holes onto the other sheet pan. Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.
7. Add about 3 inches of oil to a deep pan; heat to 330 degrees. Place 3 to 4 doughnuts into the pan, carefully so that the oil does not splash. Do not crowd the pan. Fry until golden, about 60 seconds on one side. Using tongs, carefully turn them over and fry until golden, 30 to 60 seconds.
8. Set to drain on a sheet pan lined with several layers of paper towels. Sprinkle doughnuts lightly with confectioners’ sugar-cinnamon mixture before eating still warm.
A documentary for pastry lovers: “Kings of Pastry” is the new documentary by filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker (“The War Room”).
The movie brings together 16 French pastry chefs gathered in Lyon for three intense days of mixing, piping and sculpting everything from delicate chocolates to 6-foot sugar sculptures, vying to be dubbed pastry royalty. The blue, white and red striped collar on the winners’ jackets is an obsession of French pastry chefs. But moviegoers will understand that joining the ranks of the elite takes extraordinary skill, nerves of steel, and more than a little luck. The filmmakers won exclusive access to shoot this never-before-filmed event.
The film is getting kudos of critics at New York Magazine, The Village Voice, and the L.A. Times.
Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by e-mail at KitchenCall@aol.com.