It’s always time to make the doughnuts at New Hampshire’s Cider Bellies Doughnuts.
By Lisa Cavanaugh Photo Courtesy of Cider Bellies Doughnuts
It’s the unofficial state snack of New Hampshire, although the historical record gives New York State bragging rights for the invention in the mid-1950s of one of autumn’s most popular treats: the Apple Cider Doughnut.
That could be why Jessica Stephens was so enthusiastic about introducing them to her husband’s hometown of Meredith, New Hampshire. The New York native met her spouse upon graduating from Plymouth State College and, after settling into her new community, wondered why she couldn’t find the delicious pastries of her youth. “One October, I asked Rob, ‘Where are your cider doughnuts?’ Because living in apple country, that’s just something you do in the fall. You go apple picking, and you eat apple cider doughnuts,” says Stephens. “He said he didn’t know what I was talking about.”
Stephens quickly took her husband on a road trip back to upstate New York to experience firsthand the taste and popularity of the sweet and subtly tart delicacies. “He tried them and agreed they are amazing,” says Stephens. “So, I told him if I’m going to continue living in New Hampshire, I have to have access to cider doughnuts,” she says with a laugh.
Ron Stephens was working at the time as a landscaper on Moulton Farm, a more-than-a-century-old sustainable agriculture center at the north end of Lake Winnipesaukee, close to the couple’s home. They approached the owner, John Moulton, with the idea of making and selling cider doughnuts, and while Moulton didn’t want to tackle the project himself, he let the Stephenses set up shop at the farm. “The rest is doughnut history,” says Stephens.
Now in its twelfth year, Cider Bellies Doughnuts has taken New Hampshire’s Lakes Region by storm. The handmade circles of dough are infused with New England-sourced apple cider and fried to perfection. “I think the reason people love them so much is the bit of tartness in the sweetness,” says Stephens, adding that fans of Cider Bellies also compliment the doughnuts’ crunchier outside and soft inside.
“People really enjoy the fact that we’re making them almost to order,” she says. “Our on-site machines are constantly running, so the doughnuts are always coming out hot and fresh. A lot of people who have never experienced that are just amazed.”
While her husband has changed jobs and is now a landscaping manager at a different company, Stephens has taken her own doughnut expertise to a higher level. “I actually went to school for teaching, and I was completely out of my wheelhouse,” she says. “But I’ve always had the idea that if you’re going to do something, you should be in it 100 percent. We strictly do doughnuts.”
The team of eight employees at Cider Bellies focuses on making the most delicious doughnuts possible, with a variety of drizzles and toppings to jazz things up a bit. They stay open year-round (with a short break in winter), so apple cider doughnut fanatics can enjoy them in every season. “We don’t have a lot of places that make them in the Lakes Region,” says Stephens, “and most New England orchards and farms only offer them in the fall.”
Sourcing her cider from a regular vendor in Massachusetts ensures the doughnuts have the consistent and reliable flavor that her customers keep coming back for.
The other secret to her success is that Cider Bellies is clearly a passion project. “This was supposed to be just a side business for me, but I really do love apple cider doughnuts,” says Stephens,
“and I think that shows.”