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Caramel Apple Donuts

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We’re not going to lie.  Making donuts from scratch (especially donuts as fabulous as these) takes a decent amount of effort.  But we promise that it’s entirely worth the effort, especially since a batch of our decadent, salted caramel-filled treats will last you through all eight days of Hanukkah.  That being said, if you have a sweet tooth as powerful as ours, you might just find yourself doubling up on the recipe.

Ingredients:

For the dough:
2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Vegetable oil for coating the bowl
1 (1/4-ounce) packet of active dry yeast
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar
3/4 cup of apple cider
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

For the filling:
1 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 cup of water
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon of salt
1/3 cup of heavy cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 quarts of vegetable oil for frying
1/2 cup of granulated sugar for coating the donuts

Directions:
To make the dough: Place 2 1/2 cups of flour, the cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine.  Set aside. Coat a second large bowl with vegetable oil and set aside. Place the yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar in a medium bowl.  Heat 1/2 cup of the apple cider until warm, between 105°F and 115°F.  Add to the yeast and sugar and stir to combine.  Let sit until the mixture is foaming, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, remaining 1/4 cup apple cider, egg yolks and vanilla to the yeast mixture and whisk to combine.  Add this mixture to the reserved flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together and begins to form a ball.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface.  Scatter the butter pieces over the dough and knead until the butter is fully incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes.  Add up to 1/4 cup of additional flour as needed if the dough is sticky.  Form the dough into a ball, place it in the oiled bowl, and turn to coat it in the oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.  Meanwhile, make the filling.

To make the filling: Combine the sugar, water, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Continue to boil, swirling the pan occasionally (but not stirring), until the mixture turns a deep amber color, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, carefully pour in the cream and vanilla and stir until evenly combined.  Transfer to a medium heatproof bowl and let the caramel cool at room temperature, uncovered, for about 30 minutes before using.

To make the donuts: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.  Punch down the dough, transfer it to a lightly floured work surface, and roll it out until it’s about 1/4 inch thick.  Using a 2-1/2-inch round cutter, stamp out as many dough rounds as possible and place them on the prepared baking sheet about 1/4 inch apart.  Gather the dough scraps into a ball and roll out and cut again.  Discard any remaining dough scraps.  Cover the dough rounds loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel.  Let rise in a warm place until puffy and about 1/2 inch thick, about 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat until the temperature reaches 365°F on a candy thermometer.  Meanwhile, fit a wire rack over a second baking sheet and set aside.  Place the sugar in a large bowl and set aside.  Transfer the cooled caramel to a piping bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round tip and set aside.

When the oil is ready, add 4 of the dough rounds and fry until golden brown, flipping halfway through, about 2 minutes total.  Remove the donuts with a slotted spoon to the rack.  Once they’ve drained, transfer the hot donuts to the bowl of sugar.  Toss to coat in the sugar, then return to the wire rack.  Repeat frying and coating the remaining dough rounds.  When the donuts are cool enough to handle, use a paring knife to puncture the side of each to form a pocket in the center.  Place the tip of the piping bag into the pocket and pipe about 1 heaping teaspoon of caramel inside.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

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