The West Coast has the sunshine, and the girls all get so tanned,” Brian Wilson famously glossed in his 1965 love letter to California. And, sure, the Golden State has many virtues.
But as the leaves turn and the air becomes crisp, there is no better place to be in the world than rambling through an orchard in the Northeast with a bag of fresh, steaming cider doughnuts in your hand.
I wish / they all / could be / cider doughnut days.
A distinctly autumnal treat, cider doughnuts are traditionally made from a batter flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg and apple cider, then fried and dusted with granulated sugar.
When paired with a hot cup of freshly milled apple cider, the combination is a formative sense memory for many – a Hudson Valley childhood distilled in a bite.
From farm stands to supermarkets, there are myriad opportunities for procuring one in a pinch. But, as with all things, some are simply more delicious than others. After sampling an unreasonable number of golden O’s around the region, we’ve deemed those listed below the Top 5 greatest cider doughnuts of the Hudson Valley:
Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard
If you’re looking for immediate satisfaction, you’ve come to the right place. The doughnut booth at Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard is set up right at the entrance, where kitchen staff fry batches to order, perfuming the air of the adjacent parking lot with their eau de fat, spice and sweetness. The small rings are about 2 ½ inches in diameter, pleasingly nonuniform in shape and a warm shade of caramel. Dusted in cinnamon sugar, the treats have a crunchy exterior that gives way to soft cakey insides infused with a light tang. Prices start at $5 for six.
Go: 130 Hardscrabble Road, North Salem; 914-485-1210; harvestmoonfarmandorchard.com
Stuart’s Fruit Farm
Slightly larger in size than the traditional cider doughnut, these golden, puffy specimens can be ordered with or without a sugar coating — so you obviously should try both versions. The unsugared variation allows one to really zero in on the sweetness of the dough and notice the tiniest bits of apple speckled within. Sold for 85 cents per doughnut or $4.50 for six, the cider doughnuts at Stuart’s are fried nonstop on busy days at the farm and, of all those we sampled, held up the best tastewise after having cooled down hours later.
Go: Granite Springs: 62 Granite Springs Road, Granite Springs; 914-245-2784; stuartsfarm.com
Take your pick of the apple cider and powdered donuts at Vera’s in Cold Spring, made fresh daily and displayed prominently in a glass case upfront. The apple cider doughnuts are tops, appropriately sized and not too sweet. It’s easy to go through more than a few before you even realize it. Pick up a gallon of cider from Soons Farms to go with the box or a cup of locally roasted coffee from the shop next door.
At Barton’s Farm Market & Bakery in Poughkeepsie, the cider doughnuts are prepared three ways: old fashioned, dusted with cinnamon-sugar or iced with vanilla frosting. (Photo: Joanna Prisco/The Journal News)
Barton Orchards Farm Market & Bakery
If you’ve already gone apple picking or don’t want to pay the admission fee to Barton Orchards sprawling fields in Poughquag (orchard! live music! tap room! corn maze!), the farm market and bakery located on Noxon Road in Poughkeepsie is a fuss-free way to get a weekend cider doughnut fix. There, toothsome golden-brown rings are sold in a variety of styles: old fashioned, dusted with cinnamon-sugar, dusted with powdered sugar and even slicked with frosting. At first glance, an iced cider doughnut seems far less wholesome than its simply dressed sisters — almost unorthodox. But if you’re a been-there-done-that type, or have been scarfing countless cider doughnuts for research, it’s also an exciting novelty. The lightly crisped exterior of Barton’s cider doughnut holds up well against the vanilla icing, which offers a sweet and creamy contrast to the cinnamon-flecked dough.
Go: 462 Noxon Road, Poughkeepsie; 845-471-2879; bartonorchards.com
Sold as singles or in a plastic pack by the dozen ($9.75), Dubois Farms’ cider doughnuts are noticeably plump and pillowy in texture, with a distinct, almost-malted, flavor that can be attributed to the dough being made with an enriched wheat flour. The doughnuts pair exceptionally well with cider, but also are well suited to strong, black coffee in the morning or a scoop of soft salted caramel ice cream at night.
Go: 209 Perkinsville Road, Highland; 845-795-4037; duboisfarms.com
Honorable Mention: Westwind Orchard & Cidery
Let’s be very clear: There are no cider doughnuts to be found at Westwind Orchard & Cidery. An organic family-owned orchard in Accord, the 32-acre farm offers pick-your-own apples, berries and pumpkins, it produces an array of beautiful dry ciders for adults to drink afterward, it bottles maple water for kids, and there is an outdoor oven where a handful of pizzaioli fire off seasonal pies loaded with local produce and stretchy mozzarella.
But when you have had your fill of all that, get on line inside the store and say a prayer that there are at least two powdered ciambelli left for dessert. These Italian doughnuts are hand-rolled by orchard owner Fabio Chizzola’s mother, Nonna Pia, who flies in once a year from Rome to make desserts. Reminiscent of zeppoles in texture but much lighter than those sold at street fairs, the doughnuts have a crispy fried exterior, potato dough insides and are enthusiastically doused with confectioner’s sugar. You will not leave disappointed.
Go: 215 Lower Whitfield Road, Accord; 845-626-0659; westwindorchard.com
More great places to find cider doughnuts
Adam’s Fairacre Farms, Poughkeepsie: 765 Dutchess Tpke., Poughkeepsie; 845-454-4330; 1560 Ulster Ave., Lake Katrine; 845-336-6300; adamsfarms.com
Fishkill Farms, Hopewell Junction: 9 Fishkill Farm Road, Hopewell Junction; 845-897-4377; fishkillfarms.com
Orchards of Concklin, Pomona: 2 South Mountain Road, Pomona; 845-354-0369; orchardsofconcklin.com
Salinger’s Orchard, Brewster: 230 Guinea Road, Brewster; 845-277-3521; salingersorchard.com
Stew Leonard’s, Yonkers: 1 Stew Leonard Drive, Yonkers; 914-375-4700; stewleonards.com
Thompson’s Cider Mill and Orchard, Croton: 335 Blinn Road, Croton-on-Hudson; 914-271-2254; thompsonscidermill.com
Weed Orchards & Winery, Marlboro: 43 Mt Zion Rd., Marlboro; 845-236-2684; weedorchards.com
Wright’s Farm: 699 Route 208, Gardiner, 845-255-5300. Also sold at The Pleasantville Farmers Market on Saturdays.
Westchester Greenhouses and Farm, Hartsdale: 450 Secor Road, Hartsdale; 914-693-2935.
Wilken’s Fruit and Fir Farm, Yorktown: 1313 White Hill Road, Yorktown Heights; 914-245-5111; wilkensfarm.com