Growing up in Pennsylvania, the sign of fall’s arrival wasn’t based on a calendar date, but was going apple picking and getting fresh, hot, apple cider donuts as our prize for a well-picked bushel. They’d be served in oil-stained paper bags and would coat your fingers in cinnamon sugar every time you went in to grab one. I wanted to recreate that flavor and feeling without needing a trip to the farm or a deep fryer. Everything I love about an apple cider donut can be found in this neat little loaf, which you can easily make at home.
The loaf gets most of its flavor from an apple cider concentrate, which is made by reducing apple cider on the stove. A dash of nutmeg plays a critical role in getting that elusive donut flavor; while the nutmeg isn’t strong in the loaf, it would taste off without it. To achieve the crispy, finger-coating, cinnamon sugar exterior, bake the loaf in a pan dusted with cinnamon sugar and top the batter with a generous helping of more cinnamon sugar. This will create that 360 shell of texture that gives way to a pillowy spiced loaf.
Your house will smell amazing all day as you make this; from the apple cider simmering on the stove to the cinnamon sugar of the loaf baking in the oven, it’ll be hard to wait for the loaf to cool before digging in!
Technique Tip: Make the apple cider concentrate in advance so you don’t have to wait for it to cool before making the loaf batter.
- 1½ cups apple cider
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1/4 cup neutral oil, such as canola
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
In a small pot set over medium heat, add the apple cider and reduce to ¾ cup, about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature before using.2.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line the bottom of an 8½-by-4½-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang on either side.3.
Melt 5 tablespoons of the butter and cool slightly.4.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooled apple cider, eggs, melted butter, oil, brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.5.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, cornstarch, baking powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.6.
Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined.7.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the remaining granulated sugar and cinnamon.8.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and use a pastry brush to coat the inside of the lined loaf pan with the melted butter. You should have about 1 tablespoon of butter remaining when you are finished.9.
Dust the inside of the loaf pan with half of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Pour the batter into the loaf pan, smoothing the top into an even layer. Pour the remaining tablespoon of melted butter on top and sprinkle the remaining cinnamon sugar evenly across the top of the batter. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, rotating after 30 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.10.
Let the loaf rest for 10 minutes in the pan, and then transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.