Sourdough Apple Cider Doughnuts

October 22, 2021
5 Ratings
Photo by Maurizio Leo
  • Prep time 28 hours
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • makes 9 to 12 doughnuts
Author Notes

Every fall I pick up as much apple cider as I can fit in my basket at the market before it sells out. The checkout folks see me with my chunky knit sweater and bottles of cider and, I imagine, say to themselves, “There’s that guy again.” But can you blame me? The stuff is downright tasty—and working it into a sourdough doughnut recipe was all the rationalization I needed to snatch a few more bottles and add it to this year’s haul.

Homemade sourdough doughnuts—especially these apple cider ones—are an indulgence worthy of the multiday (but hands-off!) process. These fluffy, light, naturally leavened doughnuts are not like your typical baked apple cider doughnuts, which are usually denser and more cake-like. These have a lighter texture and flavor profile, and depending on how you want to zhuzh up the cinnamon spice mixture, are reminiscent of pumpkin pie. And don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and place for cakey apple cider doughnuts, too, but like my prized knitted, warm, and oh-so-stylish sweater, there’s no chance you’ll pry these sourdough doughnuts from my cold, fall hands.

The cinnamon-spice topping can be customized with your favorite spice blend: Try adding ground ginger, increasing or decreasing one of the spices called for, or swapping one out altogether. If you’re looking for a more intense apple flavor, swap out the apple cider for boiled apple cider, available at certain specialty stores, which has a concentrated apple flavor.

Note: Use an apple cider that has only apple juice and spices, no sugar or any other additives. —Maurizio Leo

What You'll Need
  • Levain
  • 72 grams bread flour
  • 72 grams water
  • 29 grams ripe sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 18 grams superfine or caster sugar
  • Main Dough & Topping
  • 530 grams bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 169 grams apple cider
  • 127 grams egg (a little less than 3 large eggs)
  • 113 grams (½ cup, 1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 54 grams superfine or caster sugar
  • 12 grams fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Canola, vegetable, or refined coconut oil, for frying
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 50 grams fine granulated sugar
  1. Make the levain (9:00 p.m.)

    In the evening, when your sourdough starter is ripe (when you’d typically give it a refreshment), make the levain. In a large jar, combine 72 grams flour, 72 grams water, 29 grams ripe sourdough starter, and 18 grams sugar. Be sure to use a jar with extra headspace for this levain; it will rise quite high and be very bubbly in the morning. Cover the jar and let the levain ripen overnight at warm room temperature (I keep mine around 74°F to 76°F/23°C to 24°C).
  2. Mix the dough (9:00 a.m.)

    Cut the stick of butter into small pieces, place it on a plate, and set it aside to soften to room temperature. To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, add the 530 grams flour, 169 grams apple cider, 127 grams egg, 54 grams sugar, 12 grams salt, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, and ripe levain. Set the mixer to low speed and mix until all the ingredients are combined and no dry bits of flour remain. Turn the mixer up to medium-low and mix for 3 to 5 minutes, until the dough starts to clump around the dough hook. This is a moderately strong dough at this point, but it won’t completely pull away from the bottom of the mixing bowl.

    Let the dough rest 10 minutes in the mixing bowl, uncovered.

    The butter should be at room temperature by this time (meaning a finger should easily push into a piece with little resistance). With the mixer turned on to low speed, add the butter, one piece at a time, waiting to add the next until the previous is incorporated—this will take between 5 and 10 minutes. Once all of the butter is added, turn the mixer up to medium-low and continue to mix until the dough smooths and once again begins clinging to the dough hook (it can take 2 to 3 minutes). The dough will be cohesive, smooth, and elastic at the end of mixing.

    Transfer the dough to another large bowl or container for bulk fermentation.
  3. Bulk ferment the dough (9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.)

    Cover the dough with a reusable airtight cover and let it rise at warm room temperature (76°F/24°C) for a total of 4 hours. During this time, you’ll give the dough one set of “stretches and folds” (see below for an explanation) to give it additional strength. This set is performed 1 hour after the start of bulk fermentation. Set a timer for 1 hour and let the dough rest, covered. After 1 hour, give the dough its only set of stretches and folds.

    To stretch and fold: An hour after the start of bulk fermentation, wet your hands, grab the north side of the dough (the side farthest from you), and stretch it up and over to the south side. Then, the south side up to the north. Then, perform two more folds, one from east to west and one from west to east. Finally, let the dough rest, covered, for the remainder of bulk fermentation.
  4. Chill the dough (1:30 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. the next day)

    Check your dough; after 4 hours, it should have risen in the bulk fermentation container, smoothed out, and be light and fluffy to the touch. Place the covered bulk fermentation container into the refrigerator overnight.
  5. Roll and punch the dough (9:00 a.m.)

    I like to proof each piece of doughnut dough on a small 4x4-inch parchment square, making frying the doughnuts easier. If you don’t have these, cut a large piece of parchment up into squares. Prepare two half sheet pans (13x18 inches) with these parchment paper squares.

    Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and uncover. It should be cool and firm to the touch. Moderately flour a work surface and use a bowl scraper to gently scrape the dough out onto the floured surface. Next, flour the top of the dough and, using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a rough square shape that’s just shy of ½ inch thick. Next, using a circular 3.5-inch biscuit cutter (or inverted mug), cut out 9 medium-sized circles. Then, using a 1.5-inch circular cutter (or shot glass), cut out the center of those circles to make doughnut rings. Transfer each of the large rings to its own parchment square on the prepared baking sheets. The small doughnut holes can also be proofed and fried in the same way. Finally, the scrap dough can be smushed together, re-rolled, and punched out again for 3 to 4 more doughnuts. Cover the half sheet pans with large plastic bags and close, or use plastic wrap to cover (taking care so the wrap doesn’t fall on the dough).
  6. Proof the shaped dough (9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.)

    Proof the dough at a warm temperature (74°F to 76°F/23°C to 24°C is ideal) for about 4 hours to 4 hours 30 minutes. If your kitchen is on the cool side, expect the dough to take longer than 4 hours 30 minutes to proof. Extend the proof time as necessary until the dough rings are well risen and very puffy when poked. Don’t rush the proof; this is a slower-moving dough due to the enrichments.
  7. Fry the doughnuts (1:30 p.m.)

    Place a medium-sized Dutch oven filled halfway (at least 4 inches) with canola, vegetable, or refined coconut oil on the stove. Using a frying thermometer, heat the oil to 370°F (187°C).

    Prepare a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and a wire rack for cooling the fried doughnuts. Additionally, if using, prepare the cinnamon-spice mixture by whisking the sugar and spices together in a medium-sized bowl.

    When the oil is warm, fry the pieces of dough in batches of 2 or 3. Using a spider, transfer each dough ring or doughnut hole on the parchment square directly to the oil. After a few seconds, remove the parchment paper below the dough using a pair of tongs; it will loosen and slide right out. Place the paper on a wire rack or a heat-safe plate or bowl and discard once cool. Fry the doughnut for 2 to 3 minutes on each side (the doughnut holes may take less time) until each is light golden brown. To flip each doughnut, use a spider to dunk one side of the doughnut down into the oil, causing it to quickly flip over. Then, using the spider, remove the doughnut to a wire rack to cool. Dunk the fried doughnut in the cinnamon-spice mixture shortly after frying, if desired. Repeat for all the pieces of dough.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Liz Summers
    Liz Summers
  • Smaug
  • Maurizio Leo
    Maurizio Leo
  • Dory
Maurizio is the software engineer-turned-baker behind the award-winning sourdough website, The Perfect Loaf. Since baking his first loaf of bread, he's been obsessed with adjusting the balance between yeast and bacteria, tinkering with dough strength and hydration, and exploring everything sourdough. His New York Times Bestselling sourdough cookbook, The Perfect Loaf, is now available.

14 Reviews

Dory November 16, 2021
Always so stoked about a new Maurizio recipe! Straightforward to make, and not overly sweet-- I'd say they border on savory! Re: other commenters experiences getting the cinnamon-sugar to stick, on my second batch I also glazed them instead, with powdered sugar + maple syrup. Doesn't solve the problem, but does circumvent it. :)

A note to folks new to frying-- beware over-frying the donuts! After a few needlessly crunchy ones, I referred back to the header photo for the correct done-ness color. Lighter than expected, and made a huge difference.
Maurizio L. November 17, 2021
Thanks so much for all the comments, Dory! So glad these worked out well for you. I like the glazing idea, I'm going to do that next time as well. Enjoy!!
Valerie November 13, 2021
They were amazing! Followed the recipe and they were perfect. Thank you, another wonderful recipe.
Maurizio L. November 14, 2021
Awesome, Valerie! Really happy you liked these 🙂
michel November 9, 2021
Made these this past weekend. So, so good. What a nice crumb. They easily double in size when they hit the oil. The parchment paper works perfectly.
Maurizio L. November 14, 2021
Glad they worked out so well for you, Michel! That parchment trick really is a handy one 🙂
Liz S. October 31, 2021
I made the whole recipe ... normally, I would make 1/2 but I knew I wanted to experiment with freezing and air frying so needed plenty of material!! And thank you Maurizio for posting a 360 view on your instagram. My fried doughnuts (2) were very tall and I thought maybe I had underproofed or rolled too thick, but they look like your IG sample. Taste and texture were perfect. I didn't have boiled cider, which I do like, so reduced (aka made my own) cider: 6 x the recipe amount simmered for 2 hours with cinnamon stick, star anise and clove (all whole) ... bonus is my house smelled wonderful! Still, I cannot say that I tasted much cider or apple flavor.

Even fresh out of the oil, the cin-sugar does not stick as I'd like. This morning I made a very, very light glaze, drizzled that and then the cin-sugar. The sugar mix stuck and gave a nice sweet crunch. The dough is not super sweet like a bakery doughnut so, for me, this was perfect.

I air fried all of the doughnut holes and 1 doughnut. I have the Cuisinart Toaster oven/air fryer (it is on Food52 shop BTW) and I preheated to 350 (I find this thing runs HOT) and then 3-4 minutes for the holes and 5 minutes for the doughnut. Inside texture and taste is good. I did brush the outside with oil and for both air and oil fried, I use Rice Bran Oil. The outside of the air fried is dryer and not as crisp, but for quick and easy I don't feel like oil fried, they are good.

FWIW, since I typically fry 1 or 2, 1 piece of fish, 2 pieces of chicken ... I have the Staub 1.5 quart "rice pot" which I have never used for rice, but makes a great 1 person oil frying pot: nice and deep so no splatter, small footprint so not much oil needed for "deep" fry.

I have some dough in the freezer for further experimentation and when I recover from today's sugar/fat hit, I am going to try an apple fritter-like version by adding chunks of apple. I know fritter dough is looser, which is why I say fritter-like. But, the dough is easy to work with, comes together quickly and rolls out easily. I did mess with the method in that I mixed all (no overnight levain) and then as my kitchen is 62-65F, I left the dough at room temp for approx 15 hours and then rolled and shaped with some going in the freezer (after shaping/cutting).
Liz S. October 31, 2021
Sorry for all of the run-on sentences :( I should have proof-read... And to clarify, I don't fry doughnuts, fish and chicken all in one go ... just an illustration of amount when I do oil fry.
Smaug October 31, 2021
This is a good post; I wish more people in these reviews would tell their actual experiences in making a recipe and what they learned; too often they're limited to stuff like "This was the most wonderfullest recipe ever and my hubby loved it". I generally find it difficult to recount experiences accurately without a lot of sub-clauses and sidebars; no shame in a few run on sentences.
Liz S. November 1, 2021
I am with you on liking some detail in people's experience! I learn a lot from detailed comments and also get ideas on possible variations.

Yes re sub-clauses and side bars. I do like good, succinct writing (and speaking) so make an effort to be clear without going down too many rabbit holes.
Maurizio L. November 2, 2021
Amazing comments, Liz! Like Smaug said, it's great when people give a play-by-play account of how it went, very helpful for others.

Like you, I found the sugar didn't stick super well (but it did for me, as you can see), but it was enough. A glaze is 100% a better way to go, and you can infuse more apple cider flavor in there as well.

I've been wanting to get an air fryer to try frying in that way as well. When I make donuts, I tend to just go all in with it and fry in oil, that's why I suggested against doing a baked version to others—if you're going to make these, go all out!

Thanks again Liz, I always appreciate your feedback and comments! Happy baking 🙂
Smaug October 25, 2021
I'd like to try this, but it's just not practical for me- one donut at 5 AM is about my speed. Note that donut cutters with a built in center hole cutter (sometimes removable)
are easy to find and inexpensive.
Liz S. October 29, 2021
I am starting this recipe today. @Smaug, I am 1 person and I have had very good experience freezing sourdough doughnut dough after cutting. Thaw in frig overnight, warm a bit in the morning and then fry. I have also had success with air frying the dough … I prefer actually fried, but the air fryer does a great job with less mess/effort. I will report back on this specific recipe :)
Smaug October 29, 2021
Sounds good if you want a doughnut badly enough. I make a lot of 6" pies and such, but frying a doughnut before my morning cup of coffee may be beyond me. Still, I'm copying the recipe in case I feel more ambitious one day.