The small suburb of Los Angeles where I spent my youth was a bedroom community with nice plots and manicured front lawns. Children were everywhere and we all seemed to be just about the same age. Most everyone was a transplant from the East or Midwest, so to stave off suburban boredom, our moms would conspire; making plans for treks to the beach, the mountains, the desert, museums, theme parks, and everything in between. A favorite place which was annual event (including the time I had a terrible toothache and was being melodramatic in the back of the station wagon) was what we called Apple Country. It has been over 30 years, but I’ve been chasing the memories ever since.
I am someone who cannot resist (and why should I?) a long country road, a farmstand, or a run-down shack with a hand-lettered sign selling ANYTHING. If it is open, I’m stopping; apple farms included. Freshly pressed cider and warm donuts made with it is a fall treat that everyone should be so lucky to come upon.
We are not an apple farm. We grow apples, but none more than to press for our use and to make the odd batch of donuts or two. Sometimes our neighbors will off load a few tons of fallen fruit for us to feed our pigs; and truth be told we skim off the mildly bruised and press those into juice as well. We have our own small press and it is a handcrafted machine that I, with just a few hours of bending, twisting, and turning, can turn a dozen pecks of apples into gallons of cider. We pull it out Mid-October, and return it to storage by Thanksgiving.
While the act of pressing cider isn’t quite as magical as an outing with neighbors eating apple pie, donuts, ice cream, butter, and cider made by someone else’s hand without any concern of calories or affect, it brings me joy. Through the course of fall, I will make all of the things and I will eat all of the same; just not in one sitting.
Where a rye old-fashioned donut meets the classic cocktail
Listen, I am a donut person. As a self-proclaimed donut person, I can, with much authority, tell you that not all donuts are equal. You can line a path with warm raised, and I could easily crawl through, nose to the ground, without even stopping for a sniff. Switch them out with buttermilk bars, glazed old-fashioneds, even a jimmie-covered cake, and I’ll have crumbs in my hair within minutes.
The old-fashion cocktail has been having its moment lately, and its flavor profile quite nicely translates to the sweet side. Use a nice rye and fancy cherries to up the snob factor.
Old Fashion Donut
1/2 cup pumpernickel rye flour–toasted
2 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
4 Tbs unsalted butter-melted
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbs rye syrup (see note)
1 large egg
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup buttermilk
Mix the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and set aside. In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars until fully incorporated but not yet fluffy. Beat in the egg, egg yolks, and rye syrup and mix until they lighten. Add the flour and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape from the bowl onto a lightly floured workspace. Form into a square, wrap in plastic, and place in the refrigerator to rest for at least 1 hour or as long as overnight.
When ready to make the donuts, remove the dough from the refrigerator onto a lightly floured surface. Dust the top with flour and roll out to 3/4″. Cut into bars. Using the back of a knife or a bench scraper, make a deep line down the length of the bar, careful not to cut all the way through. Place back into the refrigerator until ready to fry.
Place enough oil in a heavy pan to at least 2″. Heat oil to 325F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and fry in small batches, remembering that the cold dough will reduce the oil heat. Let the oil come back to temperature between batches. Fry for about 2-3 minutes on each side. The internal temperature of the donut should be 185-190F. Place on a cooling rack. Dip in the old-fashioned glaze.
Once the glaze is hardened, decorate with amarena or luxardo cherry and candied orange piece.
1 cup rye
1/4 cup (or so) candied orange peel
2 Tbs lemon-lime soda (optional)
Pour the rye and soda into a saucepan and add the candied orange peel. Heat over low heat for a minute, turn off the burner, and light the liquid on fire. Let the flame go out naturally. Remove the orange peel and place it in a dish of granulated sugar. Coat and use to decorate completed donuts. Use in donut dough and glaze.
Old Fashion Glaze
3 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbs tsp agar agar*
3 shakes of Angostura bitters
few drops of Fiori di Sicilia or a bit of orange zest
Place the powdered sugar and agar agar (if using) into a bowl. Add the Angostura bitters and the flavoring (and/or zest) and mix well. Add enough rye syrup to make a glaze slightly thinner than heavy cream.
*I use agar agar for my powdered sugar glazes as it hastens the hardening of the glaze. It can be an allergen, so use it with caution.