For Deb Dana, Heaven is an Apple Cider Doughnut

Have you ever eaten an apple cider doughnut? If the answer is yes, let’s talk. If the answer is no, you should probably get up from your computer right now and find one because you are missing out on one of life’s great pleasures.

Apple Cider Donuts

For several autumns when I was young, my parents would take my brother and I apple picking at Highland Orchards in West Chester, PA, along with my aunts and uncles and cousins. We’d drive from orchard to orchard, shimmying up tree trunks to pluck ripe fruit from the branches, occasionally sneaking a bite of a freshly picked apple, just because we could. Some, like the Rome and Winesap apples, made our lips pucker, but my mom told us those were the best for baking, so we’d toss them in our baskets anyway. Others, like the Golden Delicious, were sweet as candy, and I’d always grab extras of those.

We’d drive by squash and pumpkin patches, too, and I loved seeing where my food really came from — not from the local grocery store, but from the Earth, from dirt and grass and branches and vines. Somehow that always made the food taste better when we got home. The apple crisp seemed sweeter. The applesauce tasted brighter on my tongue. Whether or not those dishes objectively tasted any different than ones made with grocery store apples I’ll never know. But at the time, I thought they were the best crisps and pies and cakes I’d ever eaten.

apple trees

And, for the record, there were lots of crisps and pies and cakes. My brother and I always went a little overboard, picking far more apples than we could ever eat, and when we got home, my mom would look at the bags and bags of fruit and think, “What the hell am I supposed to do with 20 pounds of apples?” To her credit, she always found ways to use up at least most of our spoils, but doing so meant she spent a lot of time in the kitchen over the following weeks — that is, when she wasn’t at work or dealing with the 9,000 other things a mother of two deals with every week. I understand now why my brother and I were always more excited about apple picking than she was.

But as much as my brother and I loved apple picking, our favorite part of the experience, by far, was the end of the day, when my parents would lug the baskets of apples to the cashier and pay for what we’d picked. Right next to the cashier, a small farm stand sold apple cider, pies, apple butter, and — fresh from the deep fryer — apple cider donuts.

We’d always order a mess of doughnuts, and the man behind the counter would hand us our order in a crinkled brown paper bag, the bottom already soaked through with hot grease. As soon as we opened the top of the bag on the ride home, our entire car would fill with the smell of fried dough and cinnamon sugar. If anyone out there figures out how to bottle that smell, FYI – you will make a fortune.

The Doughnuts in Question

The doughnuts were dense but soft, covered in a crunchy coating of cinnamon sugar and bearing a mysterious, almost unplaceable tang from the cider. I’m not sure if they’d taste as good at room temperature as they did hot because they never lasted long enough to find out. My family usually destroyed a bag of those doughnuts within a few minutes.

Someday I hope to take my future family apple picking — to watch my kids climb trees and bite into a ripe apple, straight from a long, crooked branch. We’ll take home bushels of Staymans and Fujis and Golden Delicious, and at the end of the day, I’ll buy a big brown bag of apple cider doughnuts. And if my kids and husband behave, maybe I’ll even share.

What about you? Have you ever been apple picking? Have you experienced the glory of the apple cider doughnut? And are you, like me, craving one right this second, thanks to that first photo?

Photo Credits: manda_wong, London looks, and Bill on Capitol Hill

22 Replies to “For Deb Dana, Heaven is an Apple Cider Doughnut”

  1. A food memory from Deb Dana is always a treat!! I think I went apple picking once in my life, and I’m pretty sure I was forced. But had I known about the doughnuts…

    You have a wonderful story here!!

    1. The doughnuts are key! When I looked up the orchard I used to go to online, it turns out they’ve won Best of Philly for their apple cider doughnuts. I think I need to stop back and double check that they still deserve that honor ;-).

  2. Oh you are cruel. Cruel, I tell you! Looking at the picture was enough to get me drooling. Reading through your descriptions? I’m slain. And there are no apple cider doughnuts available anywhere in my world.

    1. But isn’t Washington a mega apple producer??? Surely you must be able to find an apple cider doughnut somewhere! Or maybe it’s just a Northeast thing??

      1. I live in a small town and have never seen such a thing here. Also, seriously – still craving a warm, sugar crusted doughnut. I could buy a Safeway doughnut, but it wouldn’t come close to comparing.

  3. I grew up in Missouri and we always went apple picking in the fall. I miss this so much living in FL now. We would visit the barns at the orchards where there was cider, and doughnuts and apple butter and much goodness for sale. Now I want cider doughnuts….recipe? Thanks for sharing. My mom would prep and bake or freeze for days after our trips. Apple strudel, apple crisp, apple pies, fried apples….I can smell those scents now and I feel warm and happy in my childhood memories.

    1. Yes! This is exactly what I’m talking about! Food and memory are so tightly intertwined — for me, at least, and it sounds like for you too! And I love the sound of these fried apples. Were they like apple dumplings? Yum.

  4. Apple picking was not really a thing for us growing up in NC, but oh man do I have an appreciation for a good doughnut- they made regular appearances at the farmers markets growing up.

    I made my first ever apple cider doughnuts 2 weekends ago. NIRVANA

  5. Oh. My. Goodness. Can I mention that I clicked through to read this while enjoying a working breakfast of protein bar and coffee …. and suddenly my poor protein bar is getting the evil eye. Worst of all, there’s nowhere around here to get an apple cider donut!! I’ve never had one, but I’ve had apple donuts and I know from that alone (and that monstrously delicious photo at the top of your post) that I must find a way to make this amazing delicacy mine, sooner rather than later.

    What a fantastic autumn memory and a delicious way to spend time with your family!

    1. Hahaha, yes, that first photo tortured me, too. I haven’t had an apple cider doughnut in way too long, and now I’m scheming for a way to get my hands on one! I think a trip to that orchard is in order…

  6. Fried apples is just slicing up apples and putting in a skillet with some sugar,cinnamon and maybe a little Pam in the bottom. Very good…sticky and yummmm

  7. I think there was a post here, but I stopped reading at that first donut picture. I have never had an apple cider donut, and I have come to realize that my life is lesser for it. Now where can I get one?

  8. This post was absolutely mouth-watering. Thankfully, we’ve got cider donuts at our local farmers’ market — and I will def have to pick up a batch tomorrow.

  9. Nicole, WHERE IS THE RECIPE???!!!
    You can’t just leave us dangling like that. “I made apple cider donuts” and not tell the recipe. If you don’t share we will all have to come to your house and eat all of your donuts up, and you won’t have any. So there!

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