Cider donuts are a tradition here in upstate New York, where they make their appearances at roadside stands, U-picks and even major supermarkets during apple harvest time. In essence, they’re sugar coated cake donuts with apple cider used as some of the liquid in the batter. Until today I’d felt they were all pretty much the same.
Daniel B of the FussyLittleBlog organized a Tour De Cider Donut that had us careering over the charming farm country once haunted by the Headless Horseman and The Little Tailor of Kinderhook, tasting at five cider donut outposts that ranged from a coffee shop to lavish orchard stores to quickly put together harvest tasting stands. My favorite came from Zachary’s in East Greenbush, gaining an edge for its intense apple ciderness. Versions from Golden Harvest and Love Apple Farm tied for second on my ballot with a good balance of flavor, crumb, crust and sugar coating. Samascott Orchards was over the top, with a crumb that was not unlike a bran muffin, but in retrospect this is the donut I most want to try again. Gould’s was clearly the last of the field. So, not the same at all.
The highlight of the day, along with the chance to share road and tasting time with other adventurous gluttons, was the Donut Robot at Samascott Orchards. This miraculous Rube Goldberg device plops a shimmering ring of dough into hot oil, fries to perfection, then cajoles the newborn donut onto a cooling rack that conveys it into the hands of a waiting donutista. A benefit of seeing this mechanism in action is that you can station yourself at the end of the line, where the donuts come out into the sales room, and make sure you get a piping hot donut when the crumb is at its tenderest.