This year was my third annual attempt at making a great apple cider donut. I’ve tried four recipes over the past two years and haven’t been satisfied with the results. Maybe I just don’t know what an apple cider donut should taste like, but I want at least some apple flavor in the finished product, and no recipe that I’ve tried has given me that. I’ve always ended up with somewhat dry, not apple-y at all donuts, most of which have been tossed in the trash. And it really pains me to throw out food, especially donuts.
This time around, I had the added challenge of making not just a good donut, but a good gluten free and sugar free apple cider donut. Part of me wondered if I should even be trying this, but over the past year I’ve gained so much confidence in what gluten free flours can do if used in the right combination for the recipe at hand. I figured that I wasn’t going to find a ready-made gluten free apple cider donut recipe, and I didn’t, but I did find a promising looking recipe for gluten free buttermilk donuts over at The Baking Beauties.
To start, I halved the original recipe because I couldn’t bear having to throw out dozens of donuts if the recipe didn’t work out for me. I reduced apple cider to a thin syrup to concentrate the flavor and to give me a good shot at an apple flavor note, used less xylitol (or sugar) as a result of the added sweetness of the apple cider syrup, and lowered the amount of buttermilk to compensate for the added liquid. I’m very happy to report that these were my best homemade apple cider donuts yet. Actually, they were quite good — nice and moist (potato flour is one of my gluten free secret weapons for added moistness), and I definitely detected an apple note. It was subtle, but it was there! The donuts also reheated nicely…just pop them into a 350 degree F oven for 5 minutes, or slightly longer if the donuts are frozen.
If you want to use wheat flour in this recipe, I can’t guarantee that it will work out the same, but it should be pretty close. Just replace all of the gluten free ingredients (both types of rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, and potato flour) with 2 1/2 cups of wheat flour, though I’d recommend leaving in the potato flour if you have some on hand.
adapted from The Baking Beauties
4 cups apple cider
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
3/4 cup potato starch (not potato flour)
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 Tbsp. potato flour
1/4 cup xylitol (or sugar)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
vegetable oil for frying
for cinnamon sugar coating
1/2 cup xylitol (or sugar) – use a food processor or coffee grinder to break up the large crystals if using xylitol
1 tsp. cinnamon
Notes: Make the apple cider syrup the night before and refrigerate overnight to save time during the day that you make the donuts.
1. In a medium saucepan, heat the apple cider to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until reduced to one cup. The process should take 35-45 minutes, and you’ll be left with a thin syrup. Cool the syrup to room temperature or refrigerate overnight.
2. Prepare a cookie sheet by lining with oven parchment or foil. Lightly coat with cooking spray. Line a second cookie sheet with paper towels to absorb the oil from the finished donuts.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine egg, buttermilk, apple cider syrup, sugar, and melted butter.
4. In a second bowl, combine the flours, starches, baking soda, baking powder, xanthan gum, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir until a sticky, wet dough forms.
5. Pour the dough onto the prepared cookie sheet and spread using a knife or rubber spatula which has been coated with cooking spray. You can also coat your hands with the spray instead and just pat the dough until it’s at the desired thickness, about 1/2 inch thick. There will not be enough dough to fill the entire cookie sheet, so focus on getting it to 1/2 inch thick and don’t be concerned if there’s not enough dough to reach the edges of the pan. Place the pan of dough into the freezer for 30-45 minutes, until it’s firmed up but not until it’s completely frozen.
6. In a deep fryer or Dutch oven, heat oil to 375 degrees F. As the oil is heating, remove the firmed dough from the freezer and cut using a donut cutter, circular cutters, or a round glass and the opposite end of a large pastry tip. Carefully drop the dough into the hot oil and fry until brown on one side. Turn over and brown on the second side. Donuts will take 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, and donut holes will take 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
7. Remove the donuts from the oil and briefly drain on paper towel lined cookie sheet. Toss donuts in the cinnamon sugar mixture to coat while still hot. Serve warm.