Food News

Alex Schwartz is on a quest to find the best cider doughnuts in New England

Here are his top three favorite spots so far.

Cider doughnuts at Bolton Spring Farm
Cider doughnuts at Bolton Spring Farm. Alex Schwartz

Early on in the pandemic, some of us decided it would be the perfect time to pick up a new hobby: knitting, baking, nurturing a green thumb.

Alex Schwartz developed a cider doughnut obsession.

The Cambridge resident, who grew up in Connecticut and has lived in the Boston area for the past two decades, told Boston.com he developed an affinity for cider doughnuts as a child, when he first tried one fresh off the fryer at a county fair. But his passion for the popular baked good really took off last fall.

“COVID hit, and trying to figure out safe adventures to go on during the pandemic was a tough thing,” he said. “I was thinking, Oh, I’d love to get a cider doughnut, but who knows if they’re open or if these places are closed during the pandemic. But it turned out [farm stores] are a perfect place to go because you can go to an outdoor orchard and get a doughnut and have a great time.”

Alex Schwartz, "The Cider Donuteur"
Alex Schwartz, “The Cider Donuteur” – Provided

Schwartz started cataloguing his cider doughnut excursions on Instagram, writing reviews under the account @ciderdonuteur. He created a map of cider doughnut destinations throughout New England. Last year, the map listed roughly 100 spots. This year, it has over 190, and he continues to update it as more recommendations from the public come in through Instagram and Reddit.

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Since starting the project, Schwartz said he’s visited over 30 orchards and farm stores to review. He provides feedback on the doughnuts, but the overall experience is just as important.

“There’s the coating of cinnamon sugar, or whether they do it plain, how sweet the doughnut is, how spongy, what the crumb is, whether you can taste the apple actually showing through as an apple cider doughnut — those are the doughnut texture properties,” he said. “But then the other part is: You could have the best doughnut and eat it in a dirty parking lot and have a terrible time. So for me, it’s like, is it a real orchard where I can be wearing plaid flannel while it’s 50 degrees out and [seeing] fall foliage while I’m eating this fantastic doughnut and taking it all in? That’s the metrics I’m using — experience plus doughnut quality.”

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Schwartz has found a few standouts in his travels. Bolton Orchards, where he tried the soft-serve accompanied by a hot cider doughnut, is a favorite, as is Smolak Farms in North Andover — “the doughnuts are fantastic.” But at the top of his list is Russell Orchards in Ipswich, which he crowned the 2020 winner.

“Russell Orchards, in my mind, was the best doughnut I had last year, plus the best experience,” he said. “You could spend a whole beautiful day there. It’s gorgeous. They’re pumping out those doughnuts at an incredible clip, and they’re all so fantastic.”

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This year’s doughnut tour is just getting started. So far, Schwartz has visited Rocky Ridge Orchard in Bowdoin, Maine, and Bolton Spring Farm in Bolton, both of which received rave reviews. He also tried a few cider doughnut-themed snacks (His advice: stay away from apple cider doughnut Oreos) and cider doughnuts in non-traditional settings.

“Some people are like, well, what do you think about [the cider doughnuts from] Entenmann’s or Shaw’s or Hostess or even Dunkin’,” he said. “It’s a hard one. The ones in the store are just not nearly as good. Getting them hot is so much better, and that’s part of the experience. If it’s not hot, it’s kind of not the same. … I wrote a review on the Dunkin’ one and was like, farm stores are great but they’re open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and when you’re driving late at night and you need a coffee and it’s 10 o’clock, and you’re trying to make it home on the Mass Pike, Dunkin’ is there for you. That’s their value. Respect for them, but also if you’re going toe-to-toe, they’re not going to be as good as going to the farm.”

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With another cider doughnut-eating season stretched out before him, Schwartz has some advice for those who are hoping to get their fix.

“Make a day of it, but don’t pack ’em in too tightly as far as your visits go,” he said. “It’s about the experience, not being a doughnut-eating machine.”

Check out Schwartz’s 2021 Cider Doughnut New England Map below. Don’t see your favorite? Share it in the comments — Schwartz said he is continuously updating the map with reader recommendations.

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