As the leaves change and temperatures fall, a familiar urge takes hold that few Capital Region residents can ignore: a craving for apple cider doughnuts.
The puffed up, sugared, cider-sweet treats are so loved locally that most nearby orchards bake them year-round. But there’s no denying that the months of September, October and November are peak, with the season beginning just as soon as the area gets its first hit of cold air.
“On a busy weekend in the fall, we’ll do 200 dozen a day, easy,” said Glen Hogue, who owns Fo’Castle Farms in Burnt Hills alongside his wife, Anne. “We’ll start at two in the morning, and go until five in the evening.”
“We’re making them constantly, just all day long,” he said. “We have to stay up on it because the last thing you want is to run out of doughnuts, because then the person who came in to buy six will end up buying a dozen because they’re worried about supply.”
Hogue said he and his team can make 30 dozen doughnuts in an hour, and as many as 300 dozen in a day. One person will mix the dough and then a conveyor belt takes over, moving doughnuts down the line and into a fryer.
“The only thing we have to do manually is sugar them,” Hogue said, although he always has a tray of un-sugared options on the shelves for those who prefer them that way. He’s a fourth-generation owner of a farm which has been family-owned since 1908.
Some of the cider he uses in his doughnuts come from his own apples, although he does buy from other area farmers, including those in Plattsburgh and the Catskills, to ensure he has sufficient cider to keep up with demand.
“We’re open year-round and we have those doughnuts every day of the year,” he said. “But for some reason, there are these couple of weekends each fall where everyone just has to have a doughnut that day.”
Hogue said he’ll see people waiting in line for as long as 30 or 45 minutes, and he’ll remind them that they can always come back the next day, skip the wait and walk right in. But dollars to doughnuts they’ll almost always stick it out, he said. “They’re coming in for the fall experience, on a day when the air is cool and crisp. It seems to trigger them.”
When Hogue took things over in 2002, he said he had a decision to make: shrink the doughnut’s size, or up the price. He chose to raise the price but keep his doughnuts as they always were. It was a gamble that paid off, he said.
Changing the size would have changed the consistency, and that’s part of what has made Fo’Castle doughnuts legendary, he said.
The simple truth is that most area shops have pretty much the same machine—the variables are the amount of cider and the size of the doughnut. Smaller doughnuts tend to be cakier, for example. Add too much cider, and the density changes significantly.
“The nice thing about our doughnut is its crisp outside and soft inside, which is a result of us having kept the doughnut bigger. Plus, a lot of love goes into each one of these,” Hogue said.
But as to how much cider, he won’t tell: “That’s the whole secret, I can’t possibly tell you that.”
IF YOU’RE LOOKING
Here’s a quick round-up of our favorite places to snag an apple cider doughnut in the Capital Region:
- Fo’Castle Farms 166 Kingsley Road, Burnt Hills, 12027, focastlefarm.com, 518-399-8322
- Lakeside Farms 336 Schauber Road, Ballston Lake, 12019, lakesidefarmscidermill.com, 518-399-8359
- Cider Belly 25 N. Pearl Street, Albany, 12207, ciderbelly.com, 518-253-4640
- Bowman Orchards 141 Sugar Hill Road, Rexford 12148, bowmanorchards.com, 518-371-2042
- Apple Barn Country Bake Shop 604 U.S. 7, Bennington, VT 05201, theapplebarn.com, 802-447-7780
- Indian Ladder Farms 342 Altamont Road, Altamont, 12009, indianladderfarms.com, 518-765-2956
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Categories: Food, Life and Arts