LadyDi and I consulted on this week’s cooking project and settled on Apple Fritters. As with all my projects, I started with a goal in mind, then started reviewing different recipes to identify common pitfalls and to determine the ideal approach. The thing that surprised me is the differences in recipes for Apple Fritters. The Joy of Cooking and many of the recipes on the web are for fritters that are batter based with apples mixed in. The Slovak American cookbook describes apple slices that are dipped in batter and the fried. I was looking for one that was a yeast dough, and closer to the Apple Fritter that is made by the Publix Bakery. After looking at over 20 recipes, I finally found something that was close to what I was looking for.
I want to give The Kitchn blog credit for the recipe (https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-glazed-apple-fritters-210596). Because I used the recipe, with minor tweaks, I will provide details about the process of making these Apple Fritters and let The Kitchn be the source of the recipe. If you are interested in the recipe ingredients, please visit this great blog.
To be honest, I haven’t done a lot of frying. I have played around a little with things like Funnel Cakes, Fried Twinkies, Fried Oreos, and such. As you can imagine, not having a lot of frying experience made me a little nervous going into this project. So, here we go.
The Kitchn recipe calls for mixing the yeast directly into the flour. As with all of my yeast dough recipes, I am a firm believer in activating the yeast before adding the yeast to the rest of the ingredients. If the yeast activates, then it almost certain that your dough will rise.
So, I use Fleischmann’s Dry Active Yeast. To activate the yeast, mix the yeast (1 packet or 2 ¼ teaspoons from a jar), a tablespoon of sugar, and ¼ cup of water that is between 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the ingredients with a spoon. By the time it is well mixed, you should start seeing bubbles (picture 1). Wait 5 – 10 minutes, and the mixture should be foamy (picture 2). This means that the yeast is alive, kicking, and doing its job (converting sugar to carbon dioxide).
In a stand mixer, mix the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon together. I always like to mix the dry ingredients, while the yeast is activating. When the yeast is ready, add it into the flour, and with the dough hook, start the dough mixing. When most of the ingredients are moist, mix in the milk, then mix in the eggs. At this point, the dough should be relatively dry. Now, mix in the softened butter, one tablespoon at a time. When mixing in the butter, make sure the butter is thoroughly mixed in before adding another tablespoon. The butter will gradually make the dough softer and stickier. If, after mixing the butter into the dough, the dough doesn’t gather on the hook, you will need to add flour a tablespoon at a time and thoroughly mix in until the dough is the right texture. For me, my goal was to have a dough that was slightly sticky but gathered on the dough hook (see picture).
Once you are happy with the consistency of the dough, put the dough ball in a greased bowl. I like to use a large glass bowl that has been coated in vegetable oil. Put the dough ball in the bowl and wipe around the bowl, then flip the dough over. This will leave an oil coating on the dough facing upward. Cover with a dish towel and let raise. I like to let my dough raise in a warm oven. By warm, I mean the temperature of the oven is about 90 degrees. This creates an ideal environment for the yeast to work.
Let the dough raise for 1 – 2 hours, or when the dough has doubled in size. Now work on the apples.
When I did the Apple Strudel, I used an apple peeler corer to make quick work of the apples. In the case of the fritters, the apples really needed to be diced to a medium size. The peeler corer would have resulted in apple pieces that were too thin. So, LadyDi and I peeled the apples by hand, then using an apple slicer corer (device that cuts the apple into 6-8 slices and removes the core) we cut the apple into slices. Then we took the slices, cut them in half across the length, round side down, then cut them in half across the length again, flat side down. Then we made 5 – 8 cuts down the length. This seemed to produce nice sized pieces of apple. We put the apple pieces into a large bowl, covered with water, and mixed in lemon juice. We actually cut the apples before we made the dough.
Once the dough is raising, take the butter for the filling and brown it over a medium to medium high heat. We let the butter reach a light brown color and become very aromatic. As the recipe says, the smell will be somewhat nutty. It’s hard to miss.
Drain the apples and add them to the butter. Stir the apples until they are coated with the browned butter. Once coated, add the sugar and cinnamon. If you like a strong cinnamon flavor, don’t be afraid to add an extra teaspoon of cinnamon. Stir frequently until the apples start to soften. I think that, ideally, this means the outside of the apple bit is soft, but still a little crisp in the middle. Sampling an apple bit is the only way to check, just don’t burn yourself.
Once the apples have softened, add in the Apple Cider Vinegar. The vinegar does a couple of things. It makes the apple flavor a little more robust. It also helps the apple bits to take on a soft but firm texture. Now let the apples cook, while stirring frequently. You need to reduce the liquid at the bottom of the pan by about half. The liquid should be thick and a little syrupy. Once the juices have thickened, remove from heat, and let cool.
By now, you should have dough that has doubled in size and a pan full of cooled cooked apple bits. If you have both of these, then you can begin assembling your fritters.
On a lightly floured surface, place your dough. Roll the dough into a rectangle with a thickness between ¼ – ½ inch thick. When you have a rectangle that you are happy with, spread ¾ of the apple mixture evenly over the rectangle.
Take the dough and roll it along the longest edge. Once it is rolled up, flatten the roll with your hand and add the remaining apples across the top of the dough. Once the apples are added, roll the dough along the short edge. You should end up with a roll of a roll. If apples fall out, and they will, just push them back into the dough.
This next part was a little messy because the dough became moist and sticky because of the liquid from the apple mixture. Just wanted to point out that this is ok. Take your ball of dough and apples and roll out into a rectangle between ½ – ¾ inches thick. Do not roll out the dough too thin, otherwise it may become too hard to work with. Once you have the dough rolled out, cut the dough into squares between 2 and 3 inches wide.
I used a scraper to lift the squares from my floured surface. Take the corners of the squares and fold them to the middle of the square, pinching them together. You should end up with a nice little octagon or a somewhat wet mess. Mine ended up being somewhere in between the two extremes. Take your square and put it on a parchment paper covered pan. Allow for 3 – 4 inches between fritters, on the pans. The dough will rise and expand quite a bit.
Once you have formed all of the squares and placed on the pans, cover with plastic wrap. Let the fritters raise for about 30 minutes.
Hope you’ve made it this far, intact. For frying, I used my large dutch oven. The dutch oven is cast iron, which means it holds its heat very well and allows you to manage the temperature of your oil. I filled the dutch oven with a little over a gallon of vegetable oil. I put a digital thermometer, capable of measuring up to 500 degrees, in the oil. Make sure the tip of the thermometer is not touching the bottom of the pan. I tried to make sure my thermometer was about ½ inch from the pan.
Do not turn your burner on high. Use a medium high heat to heat the oil. It took about 25 minutes for the oil to reach 360 degrees Fahrenheit. If you turn the burner on high, the iron of the dutch oven will absorb that heat and will in turn make the oil too hot. Oil that is too hot has a couple of problems. You can scorch the oil which will make your fritters taste odd. Also, it will take a while to cool your oil to the right temperature. So, use a medium high heat and be patient.
Heat your oil while the formed fritters are raising again. When your oil reaches 360 – 370 degrees, you can begin cooking. I used a scraper to lift a fritter from the parchment paper and gently lowered the fritter into the oil. Cook at most 4 fritters at a time in the oil. 4 fritters will lower the temperature of the oil about 20 – 30 degrees. Adding a 5th or 6th fritter might drop the oil temperature too low, where the oil won’t cook efficiently.
Let the fritter cook for between 1 – 2 minutes on one side. You will notice the fritter starting to become golden brown, just below the oil line. When it’s golden brown, flip the fritter over with your slotted spoon. Let the fritter cook for between 1 – 2 minutes on the other side, or until golden brown. When you are satisfied with the color, remove the fritter from the oil and place on a cooling rack which is covered in paper towels. You really want to let the oil drain from the fritter, while it cools.
Once you have removed all of the fritters, let the oil reheat to 360 – 370 degrees. Once the oil has reached temperature, cook another 3 – 4 fritters. Keep repeating until all of the fritters have been cooked. When done, remove the oil from heat and let cool.
Note, apple bits will fall out of the fritters. That’s ok. Let the apples cook with the fritters and remove them after the fritters have finished cooking. The cooled fried apple bits are very delicious by themselves.
Mix the icing while the oil is heating. Icing is really simple, consisting of powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla. If you mix it too soon, you may end up with the top of the icing drying while you wait to use it.
When the fried fritter has cooled to the point that you can handle it, you can ice it. I have a silicon pastry brush that I use for icing. Dip the brush in the icing and coat the top and sides of the fritter. Don’t over do it.
After everything was said and done, LadyDi and I sampled our goods. LadyDi thought it was one of the best things she had ever tasted. I was greatly pleased with the results. The Apple Fritter was light and slightly doughy. It had a good consistency of texture. The apple flavor came through quite nicely. It had a good balance.
I think on my next attempt, I will use fewer apples. We used 3 lbs of apples, which I think was too much. I think cooking down the liquid in the apples, a little more, may help with the dough being easier to work with, instead of being sticky. I may try scalding the milk in the bread dough to give the dough a little more sweetness. This is all part of improving a recipe.