Deep frying is our most dangerous socially sanctioned activity not involving a gun or an automobile. For reasons of both safety and conductivity, I prefer a 9 1/2-quart Le Creuset Dutch oven filled with 10 cups of canola oil. Specific advice:
1) Never overfill a pot with oil (a third of the pot is about right) 2) Never leave oil unattended while it’s heating 3) Never let oil exceed 375 degrees, at which point it may begin to smoke 4) Never attempt to move a pot filled with hot oil 5) Close the kitchen to children and pets. Note that different oils, and even different canola oils, have different smoking points.

A doughnut should not resemble a Lady Gaga stage set. It should not be tie-dyed or electric blue or Fruit Loop-encrusted or X-rated or tequila laced. It should not pun or allude.

The model doughnut buys 30 minutes at a counter on a freezing morning in Pittsburgh or Milwaukee. It looks profoundly right next to a cup of coffee. It doesn’t mind sharing a plate with a cigarette butt. Photographed in black and white, it gains rather than loses.

Embodying this pre-Facebook spirit is the apple cider doughnut that anchors the menu at Monuts Donuts in downtown Durham (110 E. Parrish St., 919-797-2634, At once unassuming and assertively spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, it evokes New Hampshire in October … a roadside stand … a flannelled old marm selling apples, pumpkins and sundries.

Lindsay Moriarty, Monuts’ owner and guiding spirit, rightly calls her apple cider doughnut “traditional and classic.”

“I hope that Monuts Donuts will be popular 10 years from now,” she says. “Maintaining the classic flavors will help us survive the hype of gourmet doughnuts. Apple cider doughnuts have always been popular and they always will be popular.”

Moriarty knows what she’s talking about. She conceived the apple cider doughnut as a fall special, but when it went the way of the autumn leaves there was an outcry. It’s now one of the few doughnuts on the menu that does not come and go.

It’s a curiosity that Monuts’ apple cider doughnut contains no cider.

“We started with boiled cider but we couldn’t get the flavor we wanted,” Moriarty explains. “Apple sauce gives a stronger flavor presence and helps with the texture.”

Reproducing this doughnut is as straightforward as the doughnut itself. The only potential mishaps are over-mixing the dough and frying at the wrong temperature. An oil thermometer is indispensable. A doughnut-maker without a thermometer is like a sheriff without a six-shooter.

Monuts’ Apple Cider Cake Doughnuts

Makes 12

13 oz. all-purpose flour

(about 2 3/4 cups, loosely packed)

1 Tbsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. double-acting baking powder

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp nutmeg

4 1/3 oz. sugar (1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp.)

2 large egg yolks

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature (very soft)

1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2/3 cup whole buttermilk

Canola oil for frying

For the Cinnamon/Sugar Coating

1 cup sugar

4 Tbsp. cinnamon

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, 1 Tbsp. of the cinnamon, plus the baking powder, salt, baking soda and nutmeg. In a second large bowl, combine 4 1/3 oz. of the sugar and egg yolks. Whisk the sugar-egg mixture until pale and creamy. Add the softened butter and whisk until fully incorporated and creamy. Mix in the apple sauce and vanilla extract. With a spatula, add the dry ingredients and buttermilk in alternating stages to the sugar-egg mixture (half the dry ingredients, half the buttermilk, etc.). Mix with restraint as over-mixing toughens the crumb. The dough should be sticky, wet and clumpy. Cover and refrigerate for two hours. Combine 1 cup of the sugar and 4 Tbsp. of the cinnamon and set aside.

In a cast-iron Dutch oven or similarly large and sturdy pot, heat 2–3 inches of canola oil to 350 degrees as measured by an oil thermometer. On a well-floured surface, pat the dough to 1/2-inch thickness, making sure it does not stick. With a floured doughnut cutter or nesting cooking cutters, cut the dough into 3-inch rings. Gently recombine and cut the scraps. Transfer the rings to a lightly floured cookie sheet or cutting board. Fry each ring for 1 minute and 15 seconds. Flip and cook for another minute. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon. Toss the doughnuts while still hot in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Serve sooner rather than later. The doughnuts steadily degrade, but remain respectable for about six hours.

To make a basic glaze, mix sifted powdered sugar and boiling water (or milk, juice, cider, liquor, etc.), observing a ratio of 1 cup powdered sugar to 1/4 cup liquid. For a maple glazeperfect for apple cider doughnutsmix 2 cups powdered sugar, 1/3 cup maple syrup, ¼ cup heavy cream and 1/8 tsp. kosher salt (hat tip Saveur).

This article appeared in print with the headline “Rings of joy”