Doughnut — light of my dawn, fire of my dark roast. My sin, my soul. Dough-nut: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of two steps down the palate to tap, at two, on the teeth. Do. Nut.
I first met cider doughnuts in the fall 2007. Rumor of a rarified cake doughnut — appearing only in apple season, spicy sweet and extraordinarily dense — sent me on a citywide hunt. Yet every doughnut shop, every cafe, every apple orchard I approached denied any knowledge of this mythical object.
“Perhaps you’re thinking of an apple fritter,” offered one.
“I had an applesauce doughnut once,” pondered another.
At last, I consulted the great culinary oracle: Chowhound. In less than two hours, a fellow doughnut lover, who we shall refer to as Anne of Minneapolis, responded:
“Welcome to fly-over land! Apple cider doughnuts are very rare in these parts — I’ve never seen them in a bakery. Rumor has it that there’s an apple stand at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market that sometimes has these delights, but the market might be closed for the season. (If it’s still open, I’ll bet that this weekend is its last gasp.)
Good luck – and if you find any apple cider doughnuts, please report back! They’re a particular passion of mine.”
As it happens, the St. Paul Farmers’ Market is open through even the grimmest months of winter, and though the vegetables are few, there is plenty of cheese, chocolate, meat, honey — and, while they last, praise be, apple cider doughnuts.
You’ll only find them at the Bob’s Bluebird Orchard stall. They are diminutive donettes, so its easy to miss them, tucked as they are among a half-dozen variety or more of apples, distractingly ruddy cheeked, crisp, and pie-ready. Stay focused: If you get there early enough, the doughnuts are sold warm, in white paper sacks. At 10, there’s a dozen or so left, freezing their holes in a pastry case. By 10:30, they are gone.
There’s a reason cider doughnuts have a passionate following. Their crumb is beautiful, heavy, and tender. Their flavor is delightful yet enigmatic. Oddly, they do not taste like apple (the fellow on the other end of the phone at Bob’s assures me they do contain raw cider) or really anything specifically. And although coated in sugar and cinnamon, they are not especially sweet. In fact, they are every-so-slightly tangy, suggesting that there might be some buttermilk mixed in with the cider.
I may never figure the cider donut out; I most certainly won’t get over it.
My advice: Eat them warm, mid-farmers market in your mittens and cap. Smuggle them into Kopplin’s, where the coffee, rich and smooth, gives even the coldest doughnut purpose. Take them home and hoard them in peace and quiet: They were made to sop up mugs of hot, sweet apple cider.
But, however you eat them, do it soon, for cider doughnuts are only around ’til late November.