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.
Making Doughnuts Easy: Tips & Tricks
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.
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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.
Get More Use Out of Your Mini Muffin Pan
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).
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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
From Breakfast to Dessert
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).
Making It Your Own
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.
Apple Cider Doughnut Holes: Ideal for Autumn
‘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.
Baked Apple Cider Donut Holes
- For the doughnuts: 1 1/4 cups apple cider
- 1/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 3/4 cups cake flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 1 yolk, room temperature
- For the cinnamon sugar coating: 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 24 cup mini muffin pan with cooking spray or softened butter.
- In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, boil the cider until it reduces to 1/4 cup, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool to room temperature before using. Once cool, add the buttermilk and vinegar.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices into a medium-sized bowl and whisk to combine.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the sugars, butter, and vanilla to combine. Add the egg and yolk, one at a time, whisking after each. Add the cider mixture and whisk a final time.
- Add the dry ingredients all at once, and gently fold with a rubber spatula, until only a few streaks of flour remain in the batter.
- Evenly fill each cavity in the mini muffin tin with a generous tablespoon of dough.
- Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the pan at the halfway mark, until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the doughnuts in the center of the pan comes out clean.
- While the doughnuts bake, make the cinnamon sugar coating. Whisk the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl with some depth. Place the melted butter in another small bowl.
- Once the doughnut holes have cooled enough to handle, but are still quite warm, remove them from the pan and begin dipping them one at a time in the bowl of butter and then rolling them in the cinnamon sugar.
- Transfer the coated holes to a wire rack. Serve immediately with glasses of cold cider or milky cups of tea.
- The doughnuts are best eaten the day they are made, but will last a day or so on the counter wrapped in plastic wrap. They also freeze beautifully; once they are at room temperature, place them into the freezer on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, transfer them to a zippered plastic bag and keep in the freezer for up to a month. Let them come to room temp before serving.