Typically around this time of year, I find myself daydreaming of ways to spookify my favorite baked treats. Witches, goblins and all the creepy crawly things I can wrap my head around, they’re all there, waiting to be turned into something sweet. But this year, it’s been a little different. The end of the month crept up on me, and no matter how hard I’ve tried to find a little Halloween spirit, I mostly feel like I’m still waiting for fall to arrive. Austin has been unseasonably warm and a quick trip to the Northeast at the end of September left me longing for real fall, which is why I’m certain that instead of brainstorming creepy cookies, I’ve been instead focused on one thing and one thing only — apple cider donuts.
The version I had up north was, of course, fried (while I do love baked donuts, I hold true to the belief that the best donuts do almost always require a swim in hot oil) but when the craving struck, I had neither the patience nor motivation to deal with a pot of hot oil. If you’re like me (i.e. afraid of deep frying at home) baked donuts are a fantastic, not to mention healthier, alternative to fried, and bonus: these guys bake up in 7 minutes or less. Without the glaze, that means these little guys can be assembled, baked and scarfed down before you can even say hocus pocus.
In Halloween’s sugar-laden spirit, and since baking instead of frying leaves a little bit of wiggle room, I chose to make this version extra indulgent (hey, it’s what I do) by forgoing the traditional cinnamon-sugar coating and instead using a cozy, fall-inspired glaze, packed with the flavors of both brown butter and brown sugar. It’s the kind of glaze that forms a perfectly crispy sugar coating that adds just the right amount of candy-like bite to these soft, fluffy apple cider donuts. Note that it sets up quickly (too quickly for embellishing with Halloween sprinkles, I learned) so if you’re planning on decorating, an extra set of hands is essential.
Lastly, for maximum apple cider flavor, I boiled 2 cups of apple cider down to a half cup for this recipe, but if you’re in a pinch, regular apple cider will do. Enjoy!
Glaze recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour.
For the Donuts:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup apple cider or apple cider concentrate
1 large egg
3 tablespoons melted butter (can substitute vegetable oil)
For the brown butter glaze:
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon water
To make the donuts:
Preheat the oven to 425F. Grease a donut pan and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, spices and salt. Whisk to combine.
In a measuring cup, combine the apple cider concentrate, egg and melted butter (or oil) and mix well.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk until just combined. Pour the batter into a large Ziploc bag and then snip a triangle off of one corner. Pipe the batter into the greased donut pan, filling each mold until almost full.
Bake the donuts for about 7 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Turn out onto a cooling rack and let cool completely.
To make the glaze:
Add 2 tablespoons butter to a small saucepan and melt over medium-low heat. Continue to cook the butter, as the water cooks out it will begin to foam. Swirling the pan occasionally, continue to cook until the color progresses to a light, amber brown and smells nutty. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Melt the additional 1 tablespoon butter in a medium saucepan. Add the brown sugar and cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, about 2 -3 minutes.
Add in the browned butter and mix well, then add the milk and stir until smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil, then transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes.
Once slightly cooled, add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and pinch of salt and mix until smooth. If the glaze appears thick, add in the tablespoon of water. You'll want to glaze your donuts immediately, as this glaze sets pretty quickly.
To glaze your donuts, pour the glaze into a wide shallow bowl. Dip each donut half way into the glaze. As you lift each donut out, shake it a little to remove excess glaze, then place on a cooling rack to set. Garnish with sprinkles, if desired.