One of my favorite treats during the Fall has to be the apple and pumpkin donuts that are available at your local apple orchard or corn maze/farm center. For years, I attempted to recreate these tasty donuts, using apple sauce and canned pumpkin, but I never came close to the original flavors found at the farm stand. Then, I discovered the secret ingredient: apple or pumpkin butter!
You've seen these ubiquious jars for sale not far from jams and jellies. The butters are thick, intense and rather sweet (although I look for brands with no added sugar) and, in truth, I never really liked them as a condiment. Just too strong. But, I was looking for a way to amp up apple/pumpkin flavor in my baked goods (my first experiment was for making pumpkin pancakes, I just added 1/4 of a cup of pumpkin butter and it worked great). After my success with the pumpkin pancakes, I was inspired to try using fruit butters to make apple and pumpkin donuts!
I'm not stuck on any one brand of fruit butter, but I do like to look for those that are unsweetened as the fruit has enough sugar on its own. Do taste test, however, as some brands are highly spiced, while others may need you to add a couple teaspoons of apple or pumpkin pie spices (ground cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, ginger, etc. I'm a big fan of Penzey's Chinese Five Spice mix, if you find it). It is optional, to add spices and it is really up to your personal taste preferences--I found my apple butter to be ready to go, but I added a teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice mix to the pumpkin donut mixture...
Note that you do not need to grease the mini donut baking machine plates as the recipe has enough oil in it to keep them from sticking. I did use a damp paper towel to clean the machine in between each batch. It is key to toss the hot donuts immediately with sugar; if you allow them to cool, the sugar will not stick. I just filled a quart plastic bag with a half cup of sugar and dropped three donuts in there at a time. A quick shake and the donuts were sufficiently coated.