Gluten-Free on AppleHill – A cider doughnut recipe included!

Gluten-Free on AppleHill – A cider doughnut recipe included!

sam2Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. Some of my best memories were made at various cider mills throughout Michigan where I grew up. There is nothing better than a steaming hot apple cider doughnut together with a cup of freshly pressed apple cider…pure heaven! I really missed the cider mills when I moved to California. Beside certain people, it was the one I really believed I could not live without. As a matter of fact, when I do visit family and friends in Michigan, I always try to do it in the fall when I can visit the cider mills too.


The prized apple cider doughnut…yes, full of gluten.


Enjoying the stream and water wheel at a cider mill in Michigan

One evening while out with some local moms, I mentioned the cider mills in Michigan and one of the mothers excitedly shouted out, “If you like cider and doughnuts, you have got to go Applehill in Placerville!” All my life problems were solved in that one single moment (or at least the cider doughnut dilemma). Little did I know that only two hours away from my quiet town of Pleasanton, California, lie a hillside lined with apple orchards, freshly made apple cider and hot steaming cider doughnuts. Needless to say, I scheduled my first trip as soon as I could.

I was not disappointed. Below is a picture of our first trip to AppleHill in Placerville, California.


Apple cider doughnuts in California!

Shortly after I discovered Applehill, Sammy was diagnosed on the autism spectrum which is when I implemented an elimination diet with him. I, myself, had been following an elimination diet having removed gluten, dairy, soy and other foods and was doing great. I resolved a long list of health issues include anxiety and depression. I eventually lost over 60 pounds. At the time that Sammy was diagnosed, I followed the 80/20 rule as advised by doctors…80% free of the foods listed above. I convinced myself that I could occasionally indulge in foods that contained gluten such as an apple cider doughnut while at Applehill. I’m glad that I did do this because over time I realized that the 80/20 rule does not apply to me. My body absolutely does not like gluten. I eventually became what Dr. Rodney Ford refers to as “Gluten-Zero.” When I applied my new dietary theory to Sam, his autism symptoms quickly began to resolve. It wasn’t long before we were both Gluten-Zero. You could imagine how this squashed our excitement about a visit to Applehill. The thought of no apple cider doughnuts literally made me want to cry. What is a Michigan born and raised girl (with apple cider coursing through her veins) to do? I’ll tell you what…grab her best bag of GF flour (Authentic Foods brand…Bette’s blend is my favorite), buy a couple doughnut pans and start baking.

After some research, I tried a couple of recipes and settled on this one by Lisa Lewis. I love her book Special Diets for Special Kids. It’s great for families that eat gluten, dairy and soy-free. I adapted the recipe a little swapping out regular sugar for coconut palm sugar and I used duck eggs instead of chicken eggs since we have issues with chicken eggs. The doughnuts turned out awesome. I still can’t believe that I’ve made homemade doughnuts. The length at which I go to recreate comforting childhood experiences never ceases to amaze me.

Another recipes I recently found but have not tried yet is by Gluten-Free on a Shoestring.


Sammy mixing the dry ingredients for our doughnut recipe

donut pan

Greasing the doughnut pan



taste test

The test taste…will they stand up to our Michigan favorite?


Sam greasing the doughnut pan this fall. He’s now turned in his Thomas the Engine apron for a Star Wars.


Gluten-free apple cider doughnuts. We’re back in business!


Enjoying our GF Cider Doughnuts on Applehill


Pure joy…we do not feel left out now!

The things we love about Applehill….

High Hill Ranch is our number one favorite. This orchard offers fishing, hay rides, a winery, vendor booths for local art and products, an apple store and cafe which includes all types of apple products, a fudge shop (which offers caramel covered apple wedges) and a play area for kids. Several years ago they had a bucket train but I did not see it this year. Go to this place early as it gets so busy from 10am on that you can’t even get into the parking lot.


Fishing at “High Hill Ranch”


The patience that fishing teaches a little one…no immediate gratification happening here.


Actually catching a fish!


Catching a 1.4 lb fish!


The hay rides at High Hill Ranch


Farmer John who drives the tractor during our hay ride


Pony rides at High Hill (the pony looks annoyed though)


Apple slices smothered in caramel and nuts

Other favorite orchards on Applehill…

Rainbow Orchards is our favorite place to go for lunch. They offer simple burgers, hot dogs, sausage and barbecue beef. You can eat under the apple trees. They sometimes have live music and offer the best house-made caramel. They also have the best cider doughnuts. They are the only place that serves them hot right out of the fryer. They are so fresh out of the fryer that the bag is usually greasy when they hand it to you. As my brother, Kevin, would say, “Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.” For those who can indulge in gluten, this is the place for doughnuts.


Our favorite orchard for lunch


Sammy (2 yrs old) eating the apple that comes with your lunch.


The band serenading us during lunch…fun!


If you know someone who can eat gluten…these are the best on the hill. Fresh out of the fryer at Rainbow Orchard.


Freshly pressed apple cider!


Rainbow Orchard’s caramel apples made with house made caramel



The beautiful squash and pumpkin offered at Rainbow Orchards.


Sam enjoying the old tractor


Sam doing laps around the hay bales. It’s a great energy burner after all that sugar.

Another favorite…Eldorado Trails

Eldorado Trails has a train the kids can ride. Sam is a die-hard train fan so this is an orchard we must visit every year.


Riding the Apple Ridge Railroad at Eldorado Trails


Sammy’s very first ride on the Apple Ridge Railroad in 2008


Sam’s most recent ride earlier this month

Our favorite orchard for apple picking…Denver Dan’s Apple Patch

If you want to pick apples, Denver Dan’s Apple Patch is the place to go. Keep in mind, prime apple picking time is in August and September (so I’m told). We went in October and there were only two types of apples left to pick. They did however have the largest selection of apple varieties to choose from (for buying…not picking).


Apple picking at Denver Dan’s

Largest variety of apple products…Boa Vista Orchards

Our favorite orchard for buying apple products is Boa Vista Orchards. It’s like a small grocery store. They press their own cider which you can watch through a window and they also have a apple wine tasting area. Their cider is awesome.


Boa Vista Orchards –  The largest apple product store on Applehill.

Largest variety of caramel apples…Abel’s Apple Acres

Abel’s had an amazing selection of caramel apples which include chocolate varieties. They also offer other apple products such as pies, danish, sauce and butter like you see featured below. I used their apple butter in my cider doughnut recipe. They also have a hay maze and a few other children’s activities.


Apple butter from Abel’s Apple Acres.

Other Favorite Things to Do…

Berry picking at Patrick’s Mountain Grown Berry Farm. I love picking food. It’s very grounding and calming. We always pick enough to make a pie, crumble or jam. They usually have raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and sometimes, strawberries. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothes. You will get dirty (although they do have a wash up area). They also have a wonderful dining area under the trees.


Berry picking!


Tasting a berry fresh off the vine.


Blackberries…yum! Take home enough to make a pie and jam.

Wine tasting at Chateau Davell. Applehill has some fun wineries but this is our favorite. This quaint bohemian style winery offers a 5-6 pour wine tasting together with a cheese and chocolate selection. All for only $5 a person and they refund you if you buy a bottle. They sell local goat cheese and organic vegetables. Their wines are also organic.


Our favorite winery…Chateau Davell


The play structure to keep the kids occupied.


My favorite wine at Davell, Marguerite Rhone Varietal Blend


The amazing view from one of the wineries.

Our favorite dining spots in downtown Placerville…

Brick’s Eats and Drinks in downtown Placerville has gluten-free items marked on the menu and house made GF bread. Check out the delicious salad I had below.


Brick’s Eats and Drinks in downtown Placerville


My fabulous salad. Notice the apple theme.


Brick’s housemade GF bread

Another GF option in Placerville…Cuppa Coffee and More cafe. This cute little cafe offers a few GF options including a Shepherd’s pie. They offer GF cookies and cupcakes. It is, however, not a dedicated bakery but they seemed knowledgeable about cross contamination issues and said they take extreme care in preparing and handling GF products. They also had a GF hard cider in the cooler.


Cuppa Coffee and More in downtown Placerville


Inside Cuppa Coffee and More cafe


A nice little sitting area in Cuppa Coffee and More


One of the cupcakes at Cuppa Coffee…GF but not dairy-free

Applehill is truly one of our favorite places to visit in the fall. Below is Sam riding by himself on the Apple Ridge Railroad for the first time. Afterwards I asked him how it felt (riding by himself). He said, “kind of scary…I think you can go with me next time.” That’s okay because I’m not ready to let go of my little boy quite yet just like I wasn’t ready to let go of apple cider doughnuts.


Sam’s first ride alone (parent-less) on the Apple Ridge Railroad…

Recipe being revised – coming soon!


  1. What a great travel guide for Placerville apple country! Thanks for showing all the fun things you found to do there besides not eating the donuts. I must try one so I know how the recipe should turn out for my hubby (wink, wink).

    • Thanks, Danine. It’s a really fun place. If you haven’t been, I highly suggest it. Be careful with the gluten doughnuts though. I had one after I went GF (trying to re-live my youth) and I got really sick. Not fun on Applehill where most of the bathrooms are porta-potties. :0

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