I made apple cider donut holes over the weekend. I find anything home-made and deep fried to be intimidating. We do not own, and let me add, will never own, a Fry Daddy or a Fry Pappy or any of the home kitchen size deep fryers. I like someone else to make my french fries. I have no interest in running my kitchen like a McDonald's. But making donuts is something I've always wanted to try.
My hesitation around deep frying and large quantities of super hot oil is not unfounded. In fact, it's quite founded. When my younger brother was about fifteen, he and his unsupervised friends were hanging out at my dad's house after school. They quite possibly might have been smoking an herbal refreshment on the back deck. Through the haze of sweet acrid smoke, they might have noticed that their stomachs were growling. They might have then torn apart the kitchen looking for worthy sustenance to satisfy their gnawing hunger. And in their altered states, decided that deep frying some frozen ravioli was the perfect solution to a vicious case of the munchies.
Now, I wasn't there. But I heard that the boys then dumped a very large quantity of vegetable oil into a pot, turned the burner up to high, and when they proceeded to dump the entire contents of the large bag of V's frozen ravioli (that had been sitting in the freezer since before I was born) the ravioli overflowed the oil, which quickly caught fire when it hit the scalding burner and when they attempted to control the fire with a dish rag, it grew and scorched the cabinets and ceiling. The hooligans quickly sobered up and realized that this was rapidly getting out of hand, and called the fire department. The kitchen wasn't a total loss. The cabinets, back splash and part of the ceiling had to be completely replaced. The ceiling replacement was truly a blessing in the long run. The previous owners had wallpapered the ceiling in dark red with a country heart border to match the blue country paper on the walls. The fire was a redecorating solution courtesy of the insurance company. Though it took about ten years for my dad to see it that way.
I was pretty sure I wasn't going to burn our kitchen down on Sunday morning when I randomly decided to make donut holes. One, I'm an adult who knows her way around the kitchen, two, I wasn't high, and three, I made sure to have the fire extinguisher and baking soda on hand just in case I somehow stumbled into a grease fire. I actually googled grease fire just to make sure our fire extinguisher was the right kind for the job. It was. I kept it handy. I am paranoid. Once my safety precautions were in place, it was hole making time.
Since I'm a Sunday baker, I had all of the ingredients handy that the recipe called for, which you can find here at The Pioneer Woman's cooking site. Except for the buttermilk, which I just don't use often enough to keep on hand, I added a little vinegar to regular milk and it did the trick. So with exactly one cup left of apple cider, I got down to business. The recipe is quite simple. It's more about the timing. I pulled out my handy candy thermometer, back from my caramel making adventures, poured about 3 inches of canola oil in a solid pot, and got that going so that the oil would be around 380 degrees by the time the dough was ready. Reduced the apple cider down, while creaming the butter, sugar and eggs, and adding all the dry ingredients. Cardamom smells delicious by the way. And then my favorite messiest part, the part that ended with my toes covered in flour, it was dough kneading time.
I added another cup or two of flour to the dough, until the stickiness was gone, then rolled the dough out to about 1/2 inch thickness. I popped out the donut holes with a one inch cookie scoop. And with multiple plates covered in paper towels and a small bowel of cinnamon and sugar, I got down the the frying.
The pot could hold about 8 holes at a time, and lowering them in with a metal slotted spoon, they turned a delicious golden brown, popped out of their round shape a bit, and were done in just a minute or two. After letting them cool slightly and drain on the paper towel, I dredged them in cinnamon and sugar, and after about 20 minutes, the kitchen was overflowing with donut holes.
They were delicious. Lightly sweet, crispy on the outside and soft and slightly spiced on the inside. Not bad. After analyzing them with my step-mother the other night, I think I would use real buttermilk or a fattier milk at least for next time. That might prevent them from being a touch dry. Warm out of the oil they were perfect, but once they cooled a bit they were slightly dry. More fat in the milk might help with that, and might help with the fact that they could have used a bit more salt. I sprinkled a little salt over all the finished holes and that enhanced the flavor quite a bit. (Joe asked me if I'd done this after he tried a couple, his response, "Yes, good call!") And for my tastes they could have used a little more spice, maybe a little ginger.
Would I make these again? Absolutely. Will I invite a mass of people over to eat them straight out of the oil next time? Absolutely. Because eating donut holes alone and marveling at your own accomplishment is not nearly as much fun by yourself. So go make some holes, go share with friends, go bribe your children with crispy sweet orbs of goodness, they might actually clean their rooms willingly.