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A Man, A Mission And Hundreds Of Apple Cider Doughnuts

Alex Schwartz is hunting for the best cider doughnuts New England has to offer.
Alex Schwartz is hunting for the best cider doughnuts New England has to offer.

Armed with opinions and an appetite, Alex Schwartz has a cinnamon-sugar-dusted dream: To taste and review every fresh apple cider doughnut he can get his hands on.

Schwartz has been cataloging his travels and reviews on an Instagram page where he goes by the name "Cider Donuteur." He calls it his "life-long mission to try every cider donut."

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Alex the Cider Donut Reviewer (@ciderdonuteur)

He's compiled a map which so far lists more than 200 places where aficionados can get their taste buds on the classic cider treats. Schwartz has tasted and ranked many on the list, and also took suggestions from impassioned Reddit users to create the searchable map.

He started the cider doughnut odyssey last year and has picked the quest back up for the 2021 season.

Apple cider doughnuts are a fall institution in many parts of the Northeast, but Schwartz contends they're not all the same. He reviews a doughnut's freshness, crumb texture, sugar level and, of course, taste.

Yes, it is close to 70 degrees in much of New England right now. But the prompt arrival of seasonal foods has become a modern tradition (we're looking at you, pumpkin spice lattes in August). And what's the harm in starting early when there are so many delicious doughnuts to discover?

Trying every apple cider doughnut is a lofty dream, though. If Schwartz is going to succeed he'll need his resolve to be as strong as his hunger.

He told Boston Magazine he once ate six apple cider doughnuts from six different places in one day. "My stomach was not super jazzed about that," Schwartz said. "But, you know, I was doing it for the cause."

Tips for your own tasting experience

No family secrets here: Schwartz is happy to share this advice for how to make the most of your own doughnut-tasting expedition:

  • Always seek out hot and fresh cider doughnuts that are made in front of you. Nothing compares to the experience of opening up the bag on a cool fall day with a hot doughnut. If steam comes out of the bag when you open it, you know you're doing fall right.
  • In my mind, the perfect cider doughnut should be a delicate balance of a number of factors: sweetness, airiness, moistness, crispy fry-ness, and sponginess.
  • Take a single bite and pause. Close your eyes. If you feel like you want to scarf down the rest of the doughnut, that's a good sign, but savor it if you can. Note the taste. 
  • Make sure you're optimizing for experience. Take at most one picture of the moment and be present for the rest. Are you standing in the parking lot, sitting in your car and eating the doughnuts? Or are you headed toward the aptly placed bench overlooking the rolling orchard hills? Is it a cool day? If so, a warm cider in-hand really hits the spot. No need to dunk — think of it more like a very tasty hand-warmer.
  • I try not to take notes during the act of eating the doughnut. I experience the farm and the doughnuts and then write my thoughts down afterward. That helps keep me present for the actual experience.
  • If the farm offers it, try out their plain, un-sugared version in addition to the cinnamon sugar version. You'll be surprised at how some folks are able to make a cider doughnut with a subtle sweetness in the doughnut itself without additional sugar on top doing the heavy lifting.

  • This story originally published in the Morning Edition live blog.

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.