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October 16, 2016
Campfire Donuts
By Charis Lindrooth
In rural areas trick-or treat traditions can be a bit awkward. With miles between houses of people you know, and uncertainty about the houses you don’t know, parents can struggle with how to satisfy their children’s desire to participate in Halloween. School parties help, as do a town business trick-or-treat event, but years ago the Farmer and I thought it might be nice to also come up with our own tradition.
We decided a bonfire with friends would be perfect. We always have tons of brush to clean up in the fall, in this respect, an advantage of our rural acreage. Add a few friends (mostly people who work on the farm), some locally made hotdogs and you have a good time. Tell everyone to wear costumes and we are a step closer to Halloween. Except the sweet stuff.
I’m one of those parents who don’t really appreciate the effect that sugar has on my children. Stuffing them full of candy at every turn around the holidays just isn’t my style. I wanted to treat them, but on my terms. The Farmer grew up taking family vacations to the Adirondacks. On the way home in the fall, his family always stopped for “Cider Donuts.” He had raved about these delicacies for years, so naturally I thought it might be fun to make a home-made version.
Since deep-frying indoors is a less-than-pleasant occupation, I thought it might be good fun to take advantage of the campfire and cook them outdoors. I have a heavy cast iron pot with legs, designed for baked beans that I thought might work over some coals. We plopped homemade, uniquely shaped pieces of dough into oil that was who-knows-how-hot, flipped them when we thought they might be ready and tossed them in cinnamon sugar. The light from the fire was entirely inadequate for actually cooking by site, so the process was rather intuitive. And delicious. Homemade donuts, right off the fire are incredible. The apple cider renders a moist and tender donut with a lovely sweet and tangy flavor.
Years later we have an annual tradition of making these donuts. Friends and family alike look forward to the pleasure of eating them. This year they will be featured at our Garlic Planting Potluck, an Open Farm event to which all are invited, October 23, 2-4pm. Even if you can't join us, you can use the recipe below to make your own campfire donuts.
This recipe is adapted from New England Today, which offers instructions for cooking indoors.
Makes 30-40 donuts and holes of various shapes and sizes:
1 1/2 cup rapadura sugar, or any sugar you like
1 1/2 sticks of butter, at room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature
7 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 TBS baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 TBS ground cinnamon
1 TBS mace or nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1 TBS ginger powder
2 tsp cardamom
1 cup buttermilk or sour cream
3 cups of apple cider, boiled down to 2/3 cup - watch it carefully and do this ahead of time - takes about half an hour
Lard or oil (for frying)
Cinnamon sugar or confectioners’ sugar for rolling hot donuts in
In a large bowl beat together sugar and butter until mixture is pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each. In a separate bowl mix flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices
Mix buttermilk and boiled cider into wet ingredients. Add flour mixture and combine gently just until fully moistened. Refrigerate just until firm.
Roll dough to 3/4 inch thickness on a floured board. Cut into traditional or crazy shapes. Place pieces on a floured baking sheet. If too soft put the baking sheet in the freeze to firn them up before cooking.
Once your campfire has low coals, place your cast iron Dutch oven (with 3 inches of oil) over the coals. My pot has little legs so it stands over the coals. You can rig a rack or hang the pot alternatively. Plop a test piece of dough into the hot oil. If it sizzles the oil is ready. Drop 3 or 4 donuts into the oil. Cook until browned on one side, about 1 minute; then flip and cook until browned on the other side, about 1 minute longer. Use tongs to remove them from the oil onto a plate of paper towels. As soon are cool enough to handle but still warm, toss them in a bag of cinnamon sugar or confectioners' sugar. Eat immediately.
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