These baked donut holes with apple cider and cinnamon sugar are ultra easy to make and taste like fall. The only special equipment you need is a mini muffin pan, and there’s no yeast involved—and you can change up the flavor as you wish. Jessie Sheehan, who created these beauties, will tell you more:
I like to think of myself as the queen of the simple sweet. Be it a birthday cake for one of my kids, a dinner party dessert for old friends, or a variety of sweets and treats that I am developing for a magazine or newspaper, when I am in the kitchen baking, easy-peasy is always the name of the game. Even when I make doughnuts, which I kind of do on the regular, as they are basically my favorite food group, I keep things super simple.
Now you might wonder how I do that, as doughnuts often require yeast, and seemingly always call for frying, and for sure preparing yeasted doughs and skillfully navigating cooking in big pots of oil is not exactly easy.
The doughnuts I’m making on the regular are not yeasted, nor fried—yet taste so tender and light, and have an almost “fried vibe” (due to a dunk in melted butter and a roll in cinnamon sugar), that I’m pretty sure most peeps can’t tell the difference.
I start with a batter that is leavened just enough that my doughnuts will rise high in the oven and feel light on the tongue. And I treat said batter gently. Rigorously beaten batters result in tough baked goods, so I mix everything by hand in a single bowl using a whisk for whisking the wet ingredients, and then a rubber spatula for folding in the dry.
I also call for buttermilk in my doughnut recipe, for the tenderness it imparts. And a yolk, in addition to an entire egg, means my doughnuts will be moist, not dry, as well as rich in flavor.
I then portion out my (perfect) batter in my doughnut-making baking pan of choice: my mini-muffin tin. Perhaps it is just me, but I find that nothing makes me happier than a big ole platter of sugared holes. Do I love traditionally shaped doughnuts? Well, of course I do, but a little ball of sparkly dough all baked up, sugar-coated and ready for popping in one’s mouth, cannot be beat. Moreover, due to the ball’s melted butter dunk and sugar roll, the shape imparted by the muffin tin all but disappears, as the edges soften and the doughnuts really do become round and hole-like (in the best way possible, of course).
In short, this easy to throw together batter, coupled with an ultra short bake time (we’re talking less than 10 minutes in the oven), makes these doughnuts the ultimate simple sweet, and one that I’m hoping you’ll be putting into the rotation on the regular.
Related Reading: This Spiced Walnut Apple Crisp Is Another Perfect Use of Fall Fruit
Moreover, although the ease with which they come together does in fact mean you can wake up and spontaneously make doughnuts for breakfast in the time it takes the oven to preheat, I would be remiss if I did not share with you the most salient of facts: doughnut holes are the new fab party dessert.
I’ve served them at cocktail parties on a buffet table (though they’d be lovely as a “passed” sweet as well, perhaps with a toothpick inserted in each one, if you’re feeling fancy); at kids’ afternoon b-day parties, as an extra treat post-cake (cause who doesn’t love a bunch of little kids amped up on sugar?); at a seated dinner party for an out-of-the-box surprise finish to the meal (I mean, am I the only one who LOVES it when you’re out for a nice dinner at a restaurant and doughnuts are on the dessert menu?!); and yes, of course, I’ve served them for breakfast (and an after-school snack on occasion, cause that is just how I roll).
Finally, my recipe for apple cider doughnuts can be tweaked if you are not an apple lover, or it is not apple season: substitute additional buttermilk for the 1/4 cup of reduced apple cider; omit the spices, vinegar, and the cinnamon in the coating; and give the freshly baked donuts a roll in straight up sugar instead.
‘Tis the season for apple cider doughnuts, and these intensely cider-flavored holes have got you covered. Not only do they actually taste like apples, due to 1) reducing kind-of-a lot of cider on the stovetop, down to a pretty tiny, extremely concentrated amount and 2) a secret ingredient: apple cider vinegar (shhh, don’t tell), but these cuties are baked, not fried.
Assembly is therefore a breeze, as well as cleanup (you’re welcome), and due to a dunk in melted butter post-bake and a roll in some spicy-sweet cinnamon sugar, most peeps won’t have a clue as to how easy-peasy these are to assemble. A bowl and a whisk (and a spatula) is all you need—and that mini-muffin pan, which maybe you don’t use all that often but is going to become your #1 baking tool once you start churning these cuties out on the regular.