A Cider Doughnut Love Affair
As a child, I loved cider doughnuts. But it wasn’t until a recent gathering that I recognized the ferocity of my love. My friend had brought a dozen cider doughnuts–a real tell of her conviction as she was not a frequent supplier of sweets. Her source: Carrot Barn, located in the Capital region of New York. She swore it was the best.
Cakey, crunchy-edged little brown morsels, sometimes eaten plain but most often glittered with cinnamon and sugar, cider doughnuts can be found at orchards and farm stands throughout upstate New York. Now that I’ve reentered the world of cider doughnuts, I’ve come to realize that everyone I know has their own ‘best spot’ and that it was time for a road trip.
Most makers start with a common mix but its the orchard’s proprietary cider that is the major variable in the process. Many have said that the cider doughnuts at the Carrot Barn are “to die for.” Which makes sense since everything there, including the cider, is fresh and sourced from local Schoharie farmers.
I recommend having their doughnuts served warm, but to do this, be certain to arrive before noon on weekdays. On weekends, they’ll fry all day long. For those just passing through, frozen cider doughnuts are a great option since they can be freshened in the toaster oven.
Having a cider doughnut with a glass of cider–delicious and obvious as it may sound–actually functions as a pairing. The tannin of the cider at Golden Harvest Farm refreshes the palate between bites, while the doughnut enhances the cider’s natural essence.
With over 25-years in the doughnut making industry, Golden Harvest proprietor John Henry has perfected his cider doughnut formula. Golden Harvest doughnuts are tender beyond belief–and crunchy, and cinnamony, and perhaps nutmegy. It’s hard to say, because that might be one of his secret ingredients.
My brother-in-law, a bon vivant and true doughnut hound, swears by Wilklow Orchards in Hudson Valley. He confesses to have taken down half a dozen in one sitting. Made entirely from scratch, Wilklow Orchard doughnuts are the least sweet of all the others I’ve sampled, and has a wonderful nutmeg zing.
Because the doughnuts are made of a soft batter, most makers use a genius dough-dropping, fat-frying-conveyer apparatus that gives the doughnuts a flip mid-fry. At Wilklow Orchards, the frying station is in a little screened building–a perfect place for your inner child to loll about in a cloud of hot sugar, cinnamon and frying dough.
The Wilklow crew fries doughnuts all year and their doughnuts can be found at New York City farmers’ markets, but their farm stand closes for the season at the end of October.
Many of the orchards in this area are family affairs. The Tantillo’s kitchen featured three of the four generations that have worked the farm, all frying, sugaring and packing up boxes of doughnuts. Beverly’s mother’s doughnut cutter–the first one used by the orchard–still hangs on the kitchen wall. The energy in the room was as sweet as was the smell.
Like other makers, Tantillo’s starts their doughnut making process with a basic mix, but then they add their “secret ingredients,” and the result is a hot, cidery, delicious pillow of perfection.
Words and Photography by Heather Phelps Lipton