You may know of her from captivating Instagram photos, but Ashley Napoli, also know as the Focaccia Flourist, is a baking force in the Hudson Valley. Known mostly for her stunning sourdough focaccias, complete with intricate designs made from herbs and vegetables, Napoli is leaning into the Valley’s rich apple history and trying something new with her apple cider donut-making class. Skip the farm markets and grocery stores for this fan-favorite fall treat, and learn how to make it yourself this season.
Teaching out of Wildflower Farms in Gardiner, Napoli is used to instructing participants and bakers on how to create sourdough focaccia and maintain their starter. This fall, however, she was tasked with delivering a seasonal experience to the farm, and she thought that nothing felt more autumnal than making apple cider donuts from scratch. As someone who grew up in the Hudson Valley, Napoli is very familiar with the fall traditions of going to apple orchards and pressing the fruit into cider with her family, so this class seeks to capture that experience and nostalgia.
Consequently, Napoli has been teaching how to make this treat since the beginning of October at Wildflower Farms on Thursdays and Sundays. You don’t have to be an experienced baker to try it out; in fact, Napoli says one of her participants was a three-year-old girl who had never had cider or cider donuts before.
“Walking her through the process and seeing how much she enjoyed this first-ever experience was such a wonderful and rewarding moment,” says Napoli. To sweeten the deal even more, it only takes one class to learn the process from head to toe, although participants are always welcome to follow up with Napoli after the session with any remaining questions.
As far as the process goes, you can’t make cider donuts without cider, so the experience is sort of a two-in-one. Participants start by making cider. First, they put their apples in the hopper and turn a lever to grate the fruit, then the crushed apple bits slide down into the press where they’re turned until they become cider. Napoli sources all her apples from local purveyors, of which there are many in the Valley, and prefers to use Galas, although she has been experimenting with different varieties as the season progresses. In addition to the classic apple cider donut, Napoli also teaches a vegan recipe for those with dietary restrictions. Although the vegan version requires a bit more ingredients to make, the donuts taste very similar in the end.
While Napoli is no stranger to creativity in the form of design and flavor of her bakes, she typically opts for the classic route with her donuts. Sticking with the basics yields a nostalgic fall flavor that everyone should experience at some point, but still, she can’t help but give the donuts a fun shape or make them look like a pumpkin with a cinnamon stick stem from time to time.
If you’re interested in booking a class, you can contact the reservation team at Wildflower Farms to reserve your spot at this one-of-a-kind apple cider donut-making experience. Napoli will be teaching the class until January, so you don’t have to worry about fitting it into your schedule with the stress of holiday season, but book soon if you’re trying to impress family for fall and winter gatherings. With her class, Napoli hopes to inspire an appreciation for donut-making and maybe even start a new autumnal family tradition.