Image by Thanh Mai Bui Duy on Flickr. CC BY-NC 2.0
I randomly came across one of my own answers on Quora (in fact I think my only answer there ever), and I enjoyed reading it enough that I thought it should be here. So, my answer to the rather amusing question “What is the best seasonal doughnut?”, originally published in 2017…
Even here in the hyper-seasonal, “SLOW” food Bay Area, doughnuts don’t seem to have a lot of seasonality (though any fruit variety might be more likely to appear in its appropriate season here vs. elsewhere). But there was definitely one very seasonal doughnut that immediately came to mind with this question, and that is the Apple Cider Doughnut. There are a couple of reasons why I’d nominate these as a seasonal best.
First, they are primarily available during fall apple harvest time, and most often from pick-your-own apple orchards or working cider mills. This connects them very directly to the seasons, and also means some of the ingredients are usually made on-site.
Second, they are generally part of a whole fall experience. You go out in the increasingly chilly, crisp air, pick some apples that you’ll later enjoy as pies and whatnot at home, take a hay ride and do whatever other fun things they have. And then you stand in line while you watch fresh doughnuts being made, and when it’s your turn you get your own little bag of warm, freshly-made little fried dough balls that are unlike any you can get at other times of year. To be fair they are not radically different than a normal cinnamon sugar doughnut, and yet the apple cider in the batter gives them a richness and subtle apple pie flavor that is hard to beat.
Which leads to the final, and perhaps most important point: they are absolutely delicious! Most of the ones I’ve had come in the form of what many would call a doughnut “hole”, but it’s basically just a moist, rich, fluffy little ball, covered in cinnamon sugar, and possibly with some kind of apple cider sauce or caramel in addition to the cider in the batter. You get them hot out of the fryer and they warm your hands and your stomach as you eat them, they’re super comforting, simple but unique, and absolutely crave-worthy.
Bonus: they’re not very Instagrammable, so the line is really there for people who genuinely love doughnuts.