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Lakeside rules in favorite cider doughnut poll

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Boston cream, glazed and jelly are on the doughnut team at Lakeside Farms in Ballston Lake.

But they’re all supporting players. Apple cider is the boss doughnut, the big wheel, the sugar-coated crew chief on the Lakeside bakery rack.

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“It’s the leader of the pack,” said Rich Pearce, who runs the longtime family business on Schauber Road with his brother Jeffery. “We get orders for a hundred dozen. Plus, people use them for their wedding favors. Some people make wedding cakes out of them.”

Other people order a box or bag of cider doughnuts for home or office, and they’re buying them all over the Capital Region. The Daily Gazette earlier this month asked readers to nominate their favorite bakeries, farm stores and orchards for cider doughnuts. It was “batter up!” and readers responded.

A total of 30 businesses were nominated. Cider doughnut fans submitted 178 votes, and the newspaper had a top 10 list.

Here’s the roll-out on the poll:

  1. Lakeside Farms, Ballston Lake, 37 votes
  2. Fo’Castle Farm, Burnt Hills, 25 votes
  3. Schoharie Valley Farms/The Carrot Barn, Schoharie, 18 votes
  4. Altamont Orchards, Altamont,16 votes
  5. Smith’s Orchard Bake Shop, Charlton, 11 votes
  6. Golden Harvest, Valatie, 9 votes
  7. Cider Belly, Albany, 7 votes
  8. Riverview Orchards, Rexford, 6 votes
  9. Hicks Orchard, Granville, 5 votes
  10. Indian Ladder Orchards, Altamont, 5 votes

Pearce said Lakeside uses a secret family recipe that dates to the 1960s.

“It’s a blend of ingredients in the the flour, the cider, the different spices in the flour,” he said, adding that if people think more cider means more flavor, they should think again.

“It will just make a darker doughnut,” Pearce said.

Pearce also said people can think about cider doughnuts all year round at Lakeside. Regulars already know the routine: frozen cider means Lakeside makes cider doughnuts during the store’s entire season.

“We make them every day from April until December,” Pearce said.

On weekends, people line up for apple flavors. Three machines in the kitchen do most of the work, plopping rounds of batter into bubbling hot vegetable oil. The batter basks in a minute-long bath, which includes a flip to ensure both sides cook to a dark shade of brown.

The doughnuts then travel an elevated series of chains and slide into a revolving, circular basket to dry. The cinnamon sugar coating comes a few minutes later.

“It’s my job, and I like it,” said Larry Cheuk, who was on doughnut detail at Lakeside last week. “Every doughnut comes out different. I like to see people enjoy the doughnuts, it makes me happy.”

Each 10-dozen batch takes about 15 minutes to make, with the three machines running most of the day. Pearce said a busy weekend day means Lakeside will move 40 batches – that’s 4,800 doughnuts. And at $9.29 a dozen, that’s money in the bank for the business.

Pearce doesn’t know why people love their ciders.

“Why do bees like honey?” he asked. “I don’t know. It’s something that goes good with cider and it’s a traditional thing. There’s nothing like one right off the press, it’s still warm. The hotter, the better.”

Fo’Castle runner-up

At Fo’Castle Farm, which took the number two spot in the poll, owner Glenn Hogue believes large doughnuts make a big difference.

“We’re cutting them bigger so we can create the crunch on the outside and soft on the inside,” he said.

Fo’Castle, which has conducted business on Kingsley Road in Burnt Hills since 1908, is open year-round. People can get cider doughnuts any time, but Hogue said they really want their dozens in September and October.

“When the air hits a certain temperature, the sun’s lower in the sky and people just think about apple picking and cider doughnuts,” he said. “We’ll have a line in here that’s 10 deep, we’re making them as fast as we can.”

Fo’Castle begins making the farm store’s doughnuts at 1 a.m. daily. Like the Lakeside team, Hogue said large amounts of cider are not in his batches. He’s tried cider-heavy doughnuts in California, and he said chewing the doughy Californians is more like drinking a cup of cider.

“I find the lighter taste much better,” he said.

Carrot Barn in third

Schoharie Valley Farms/The Carrot Barn offers farm-grown vegetables, deli sandwiches, carrot cakes and other baked goods and cider doughnuts.

“Right  now it’s the peak of popularity,” said Ethan Ball, SVF’s farm manager.

“It’s a fall thing. We don’t have an apple orchard here, but it’s the fall foliage and the gathering instinct. You have to get your cider doughnuts and your winter potatoes.”

Schoharie Valley Farms purchases its cider from Indian Ladder Farms in Altamont, which also made the Top 10 list. Ball said it’s a friendly competition: “We sell them produce and buy apples from them as well,” he said.

The business sells sugar-sprinkled and plain doughnuts and charges $7.50 per dozen.

Altamont places fourth

Altamont Orchards finished fourth. The apple yard and store has devoted doughnut consumers.

“Altamont Orchards has hit it on the head,” wrote one fan. “Perfect coating on a perfect soft do-nut. I drive miles to get a dozen.”

“Altamont Orchards, hands down!!” said Melissa Dover.

“Altamont Farm Orchard!” said Betty Jones. “Soft, crunchy and delicious.”

Smith’s rounds out Top 5

Shelley Smith appreciated the votes her Charlton business received – the affirmations were good enough for fifth place in the poll.

“They’re made fresh every day, we use high quality ingredients,” she said. “And they’re made with love.”

Like other orchard and bakery owners, Smith believes the change of season means a change in diet for many people.

“It’s that fall thing,” he said. “We make them all year, but once that calendar hits September, it’s amazing how sales go up. October tends to be our busiest doughnut month of the year.”

And the doughnuts make great company for a cup of tea, a mug of cider or a glass of milk.

Other favorites

Readers had other things to say about other finishers in the poll:

  • “Golden Harvest, in Valatie,” said Tad Hoddick. “When I bring a bag anywhere, they are the first item consumed, every time, usually with people asking for more.”
  • “Cider Belly doughnuts,” said Jill Eisner Weiss. “Their basic Cider Belly doughnuts are great, but they go one step further and top some with maple glaze, rum butter cream, maple glaze and bacon and so many more. Different flavors every day.”
  • “Riverview Orchards, Clifton Park,” said Catherine Fruhauf. “You can watch them being made and eat a hot one right there.”
  • “Indian Ladder cider and doughnuts,” said Sandy Champagne.
  • “Hicks Orchard,” said Shannon Bensalah. “Definitely worth the drive from Rensselaer. Went to a much closer orchard this past weekend and it did not compare to Hicks.”

Also receiving votes

Other local businesses that received votes in The Daily Gazette’s recent poll on cider doughnuts are:

  • Bellinger’s Orchard, Fultonville
  • Bowman Orchards, Rexford
  • Brick House Bakery, Cobleskill
  • DeVoe’s Rainbow Orchard, Clifton Park
  • Eagle Mills, Broadalbin
  • Gade Farm, Guilderland
  • Kristy’s Barn, Castleton-on-Hudson
  • Lansing Farm, Colonie
  • Lindsey’s, Rexford
  • Orchard Creek, Altamont
  • Pick A Pumpkin Patch, Esperance
  • Price Chopper supermarkets
  • Rogers Orchard, Johnstown
  • Sand Flats, Fonda
  • Schneider’s Bakery, Cooperstown
  • Schuyler Bakery, Watervliet
  • Sunnycrest Orchards, Sharon Springs.
  • Stanton Farms, Feura Bush
  • Terrace Mountain Orchards, Schoharie
  • Yonder Farms, Colonie

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at wilkin@dailygazette.com or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter.

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