autumn spiced donuts with apple curd filling

You guys. Ohhh, you guys. I can’t remember the last time I cooked something that I loved as much as these donuts.

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Fall and cider donuts go hand in hand. I live in the southwest so they’re not quite as popular around here as they may be, say, in upstate New York or somewhere, so I decided to make my own. I had been wanting to make homemade donuts for a while, and I’m so glad that this is the recipe I settled on. Think of it as sort of a modified, inside-out cider donut.

The dough is originally from the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook from Thomas Keller, and the apple cider curd is my own creation, modified from my favorite lemon curd recipe. The fluffy donuts are rolled in a sugary spice mixture with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and the barest amount of salt, and stuffed with this rich and amazing apple cider curd. I was a little apprehensive about making this apple cider curd because I wasn’t sure if the flavor of the apples would come through strong enough, but it totally does. I could eat the whole bowl with a spoon, no lie.

Let’s get cracking on this donut-making adventure!

autumn spiced donuts with apple curd filling

(yields 12 donuts, plus donut holes)

brioche dough

3 1/2 c + 3 T (518 g) all purpose flour

1 T (10 g) active dry yeast

1/4 c + 4 1/2 tsp (74 g) granulated sugar

1 T (9 g) kosher salt

3/4 c + 4 1/2 tsp (212 g) whole milk, lukewarm

2 eggs

4 1/2 tsp (9 g) vanilla extract

2 oz unsalted butter, soft

6 c canola oil, for frying

apple cider curd

1/2 c (4 oz) unsalted butter

6 T (80 g) granulated sugar

1/2 c (122 g) plus 2 T (34 g) apple cider

pinch of kosher salt

1/2 tsp (1 g) cinnamon

6 egg yolks

2 tsp (6 g) cornstarch

1 T (14 g) plus 1 tsp (4 g) lemon juice

sugar + spice mixture

2/3 c (148 g) granulated sugar

1 T (8 g) cinnamon

3/4 tsp (1 g) cloves

1/4 tsp (1 g) nutmeg

1/8 tsp table salt

Fair warning, this brioche dough needs to sit in the fridge for several hours to overnight before the donuts can be made, so plan accordingly!

To make the dough, put the flour and yeast into the bowl of your stand mixer, and using the dough hook, mix it for about 15 seconds to incorporate it all. Add the sugar, salt, milk, eggs, and vanilla extract and mix it all on speed 1 for 4 minutes. Add the softened butter and mix on speed 4 for 2-3 minutes. The dough should be soft and well mixed.

On a floured surface, pat the dough into a rectangle and fold it into thirds from the short side, like a business letter. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap (or my favorite, with a plastic shower cap!) and set it in the fridge to let rise for 8 to 12 hours.

While the dough is rising, we can make the apple cider curd. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Whisk the cornstarch into 1/2 cup of the cider (reserving the extra 2 tablespoons) until there are no lumps, and add it to the melted butter along with the sugar, salt and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice. Whisk in the yolks until smooth, and cook over medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes, until the curd is bubbling and starting to thicken. Strain the curd into a bowl and whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of cider and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Lay plastic wrap right on the surface of the curd and chill overnight until set up.

For the sugar-spice mixture, combine all ingredients into a bowl and set aside until you’re ready for it!

Once the dough has chilled all night in the fridge. roll it out on a lightly floured surface to about 1 inch thick. Using a round cutter with no hole in the center, 2 1/2 – 3 inches wide, cut out donuts. Re-roll the dough to get one more round of donuts, and use a 1 – 2 inch round cutter to make donut holes from the scraps. Place the cut donuts and holes onto a parchment lined sheet pan. Set the pan in a warm place to rise for one hour. I found that a great dough-rising location is actually my oven turned off, with the oven light on inside. It generated just enough heat in one hour to proof the donuts til double in size!

When the donuts have about 10 minutes left to rise, heat the 6 cups of oil in a large dutch oven or spaghetti pot and clip on a candy thermometer to gauge the temperature of the oil. You don’t want it to rise much beyond 350, but I found that 360 was the perfect frying temperature to get the donuts nice and dark golden brown. It took about 16-17 minutes for my oil to come up to the right temperature. Once the donuts are fully proofed, carefully pick up a few at a time and gently drop them into the hot oil. Let them fry for about 30-45 seconds on the first side, and then carefully flip them over with a slotted metal spoon to fry for 30-45 seconds on the other side. If you find that your donuts are getting too browned too quickly, turn off the heat until the oil temperature drops enough to maintain a consistent 350 degree temperature.

Once they’re fried on both sides, carefully lift out the donuts and allow the excess oil to drip back into the pot for a second. Lay the donuts on a paper towel-lined sheet pan to cool slightly. Repeat frying the rest of the donuts, a few at a time, until they’re all fried. The donut holes will take a bit less time to cook fully, so keep an eye on them.

After the donuts are slightly cooler, roll them in the sugar + spice mixture to coat all sides. Grab your apple cider curd from the fridge and fill a piping bag (fitted with a small star tip) or a squeeze bottle with the chilled curd. Using the handle of a flatware spoon, poke it into the side of each donut and slightly hollow out the inside to make room for the filling. Squeeze in a little of the curd until it just barely starts coming out the hole you made. Set them on the paper towel-lined pan until all the donuts are filled.

These donuts are obviously best right out of the fryer, or at least on the day they’re made. If you must keep them longer than one day, store them in the fridge (the apple cider curd is perishable!) in an airtight container for up to a week. To improve the texture of the chilled donuts, pop one into the microwave for 6-10 seconds just to take the chill off the dough.

Sweet and spicy and full of apple cider flavor, these donuts are now my favorite Fall-weather treat! Plan ahead, and you can fry up a batch for your next lazy weekend breakfast or brunch, or bring along a batch of these warm donuts to accompany you on a search for local Fall foliage or on a trip to the apple orchard. I can’t think of any better treat to go along with a perfect Fall day!

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