Don’t you just love being able to enjoy comfort foods this time of year? Or foods and beverages that are seasonal? It gives us one more thing to anticipate when the seasons roll around. I enjoy being cozy when the weather turns cold, curling up with a good book, a homemade afghan and perhaps a hot (or cold) beverage. Something like apple cider, for instance. I missed out on getting some fresh-pressed cider this year and the same thing happened to me last year, but I can always hope for the future. Here are some recipes that feature apple cider that you and family or friends can enjoy as you go about your holiday preparations. As usual, stay warm and safe.
Crock pot apple cider
10 medium apples (a mixture of Honeycrisp and Granny Smith works well)
3 cinnamon sticks or 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cloves
Sugar (anywhere from 2 tablespoons to 1/2 cup, depending on how sweet you prefer it)
1. Peel the orange and place the segments in the crock pot. Wash the apples, cut into quarters, and place in the crock pot. Add the cinnamon sticks, cloves and sugar. Add enough water to cover the fruit.
2. Cook on LOW heat 6 to 7 hours or on HIGH for 3 hours. When the fruit is very soft, remove the cinnamon sticks and use a spoon or potato masher to mash the fruit. Allow mixture to cook on LOW for 1 more hour.
3. With a fine-mesh sieve, slowly strain the chunky mixture into a large pot or pitcher. Discard the solids and strain one more time. Serve warm or keep in refrigerator for 5 to 7 days. You can also serve the cider chilled if you wish. Makes about 1 1/2 quarts.
Apple cider doughnuts
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 cups apple cider
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
3 1/2 cups flour, plus additional for work surface
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons apple pie spice
1 bottle (48-oz.) canola oil
1. In a paper bag, mix the white sugar and cinnamon by shaking the bag until well blended.
2. In a large skillet over high heat, boil the apple cider until it is reduced to 1 cup, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool completely. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, melted butter and reduced cider.
3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda and apple pie spice for about 30 seconds or until well blended. Beat in cider mixture just until moistened. Cover and refrigerate a minimum of 1 hour.
4. In a large pot over medium heat, bring the canola oil to 365 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, roll dough to 1/2 -inch thickness, on a floured surface. Cut into circles with a floured 3-inch doughnut cutter. Repeat with remaining dough and re-roll scraps once.
5. Fry doughnuts and holes until golden brown, about 45 minutes to 1 minute per side. Drain on paper towels for 30 seconds. Place doughnuts in the paper bag and gently shake to coat them with the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Makes about 12 servings.
Apple cider bake
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced into wedges
1/2 cup apple cider
1 stick butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup apple cider
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons reserved drippings from the filling
2 tubes refrigerated biscuit dough
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 375. For filling: In a deep-sided pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add cinnamon and apples, cooking and stirring about 2 to 3 minutes. Add cider and bring mixture to a simmer, cooking until the apples have softened, about 5 more minutes. Remove apples and transfer to a baking dish, reserving 2 tablespoons of the drippings.
2. For sauce: Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add flour, whisking to make a roux, then add cider, sugar, brown sugar and the reserved drippings from the filling. Stir until well combined, bring mixture to a simmer and cook about 4 minutes, or until the sauce is dark brown and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
3. For biscuits: Separate biscuits and cut each in half, then roll them into balls. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon, then roll each biscuit ball in the mixture, coating evenly.
4. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Place the apple filling and biscuit balls in the baking dish, then pour the sauce over all, stirring a bit to mix well. Bake in preheated oven 20 to 25 minutes or until the biscuits have baked to a golden brown and are puffy. Makes 8 servings.
Apple cider pancakes with caramel apple syrup
When I make pancakes, I top each with some butter before stacking on a platter.
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 containers (5.3-oz. each) vanilla Greek yogurt
1 cup apple cider
2 eggs, separated
1/4 cup butter
1/4 to 1/2 cup apple cider (less makes it thicker, but more makes it smoother)
1 cup brown sugar
1. For pancakes: In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, mix yogurt, cider and egg yolks. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
2. In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add 1/4 of the egg whites into the pancake batter, folding them in evenly. Add the remaining whites and fold in, just until combined.
3. Heat a griddle over medium heat and lightly coat with cooking spray (or melt a small amount of butter on the griddle). Pour batter by 1/4 -cupfuls onto the hot griddle. Cook until lightly browned, then flip and cook on the second side.
4. For syrup: In a small saucepan, melt butter. Add the apple cider, then stir in the brown sugar. Cook, whisking the mixture until it comes to a boil. Boil for one minute, whisking constantly. Serve warm. Makes 4 servings.