Normally I can take doughnuts or I can leave them. But in the fall, I'd much rather take them. The frosting-leaden glazed doughnuts that are the stock-in-trade of supermarket pastry cases are left behind in autumn for the promise of fresh apple cider doughnuts.
A recent visit to the Maple Hill Orchard in the Baraboo Hills resulted in a bag of Honeycrisps and a half-dozen puffy apple cider doughnuts ($3) that look a bit like pregnant beignets. These were far from the heavy, cakey doughnuts I've experienced at some orchards -- these fresh sugary haloes seemed quite nimble for such a substantial frycake. Maple Hill is located on circuitous county highway PF near North Freedom, and for the views alone this time of year, it's worth the trip. The orchard is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through December; S 6234 County Hwy. PF, North Freedom; 608-522-4466. Call to check doughnut availability.
More fresh apple cider doughnuts are made at Lapaceks Orchard near Poynette (W7729 Bohling Rd, 608-635-4780) on Saturdays ($4/half dozen). The Lapaceks also bring cider doughnuts with them to their Saturday stand at the Sun Prairie Farmers' Market, 300 East Main St.
In town, the Greenbush Bakery fries up a delicious facsimile with its apple cinnamon doughnuts. Cakier and denser than Maple Hill's, they hold up to dunking in a good French roast (85 cents each, or $5 for a half-dozen). These tempters are also available at the Willy Street Co-op, and manage to taste almost as fresh.
And while I was out driving around Sauk County this weekend, Ironworks Cafe at the Goodman Center was serving what are described as "sugar-crusted-on-the-outside, warm-and-fluffy-on-the-inside, fresh-fried-to-order apple cider donuts." Currently available weekends only; call 608-241-1574 ex. 252 to check on availability.