This is a true apple fritter story—the tale of one man’s tortured relationship with apple fritters and how they saved his life, ruined his diet, and in the end probably shortened his life.
A couple years ago I dove headlong into this diet routine, where you had to eat very specific combinations of food on a very rigid schedule for six days a week, and then on the seventh day you could eat however much of whatever the hell you wanted. Sunday through Friday every week I would eat piles of roughage and big honking portions of lean protein four times a day, and by Friday night I was ravenous for something with some heft and richness to it.
Then Saturday would come around, and I’d leave the house early and return sometime later either having eaten an outrageous feast of fat-soaked starch, or with the makings of an outrageous feast of fat-soaked starch (by the way, this is not a sustainable way of eating, and I do not recommend it). For a few months this routine stuck, and I felt pretty good, and I lost some weight.
There came a Saturday when I leapt into the car bright and early and sped down to the end of my driveway, thinking of nothing but eggs benedict and possibly also a pile of corned beef hash that could block out the sun. At the end of my driveway, I was met by an enormous, endless crowd of women, all dressed in tie-dye and workout pants, all of them running along the middle of the dirt track that is the only way from my house back towards civilization. Hundreds and hundreds of them, in a line that stretched as far as I could see in either direction.
It turned out one of the local wineries had arranged a popular 10K along a route that included the stretch of road that meets the end of my driveway. They’d gone through the trouble of putting fliers in all the mailboxes, but I had apparently thrown mine in the garbage unnoticed, and now I was stuck at home for at least the next few hours, just me and a refrigerator full of lawn clippings. Needless to say, this was a bummer. After six days of eating twigs and leaves, the prospect of having to sate my Saturday hunger with a handful of lettuce had me thinking about chopping my own head off.
A frantic search of my pantry and fridge revealed a few basic cooking essentials—flour, oil, sugar, salt, a small can of baking soda—and very few non-leafy-green produce items. What I had was a couple apples. What I came up with, after a brief, intense period of raging against the cruelty of fate, was apple fritters. Apple fritters are exactly as slick with fat and shiny with sugar and dense with starch as a cheat-day dieter could possibly want. What follows is more or less what I came up with. This recipe kept me from performing gruesome self-murder in a ritual somehow involving romaine hearts and cucumber. It will yield some bitchin’ donuts. Let’s get to it.
Here’s your shopping list: some all-purpose flour; a couple apples; some eggs; some sugar; some milk; some butter; a little baking powder; a little vanilla extract. Also, we’re going to glaze our apple fritters, and so you’re gonna want to get some powdered sugar, and a lemon.
I am going to say something about apples, here, that is going to make you crazy: I am not much a fan of apples. In fact, the thought of biting into a raw apple makes my skin crawl, in much the same way your skin might crawl at, say, the sound of someone drawing a fork across a chalkboard. And I’ve really, really tried. My whole life, in fact, I have been testing the raw apples problem for angles of approach, which mostly means trying lots of different kinds of apples under lots of different kinds of circumstances, to no avail—in fact, tackling this problem is why I had the two apples that fateful day.
My raw apples problem is unlike any other food experience I have ever had. I love the taste of apples! I love apple things! I love the shape and weight and shiny skin and smell of all apples, everywhere! But every time I convince myself to bite into an apple, I instantly regret it. Something about the way the apple breaks in your mouth, and that strange shearing sound it makes as your teeth grind through it. Sheesh. I mean I really hate to eat an apple.
I’m confessing this awful personal flaw in order to impress upon you the following: You do not have to feel any particular way about apples to eat the absolute hell out of these apple fritters. There will be apples in these apple fritters, but they will be lending only what is great and good about apples, and none of that unbearable veiny hard-foam brittleness that makes me want to curl up and cry. And if you are a huge apple enthusiast, so much the better!
So, apples. Get yourself a couple of big, bright, shiny, heavy Granny Smith apples. Devil apples. Hateful things, Granny Smiths. We are going to do the only right thing a person can do to these abominations: We are going to skin them, cut out their guts, and drop them into a vat of boiling oil until they are mush. So, use a peeler or a paring knife or a chef’s knife and EXTREME CAUTION to peel the skin off your apples. If you’ve got one of those fancy apple-coring kajiggers, umm, use it to take the core out of your apple. For the rest of us, cut the damn apples in half from stem to bottom, then carve out the core. Now, chop up those apples. I go for little cubes, maybe a little smaller than standard dice, but little matchsticks would be fine, as would whatever shards and shrapnel would emerge from your basic, hasty rough chop. Chop up the damn apples, dump the chopped apples into a bowl, and set the bowl aside.
Now we’re gonna make dough. Another confession: I hate dough. Not because eating dough is bad—actually, it’s very good—but because dough is messy, and baking is infuriatingly alchemical, and the only way to become good at it is apparently to become a grandparent. But, ah ha, we’re not baking! In fact, we are going to do the only right thing a person can do to something as treacherous as dough: We are going to grab great handfuls of it and cast it into a vat of boiling oil until it is brown and crispy. Also, we are going to call this dough batter.
Get out a huge mixing bowl and dump into it a bunch of all-purpose flour. How much flour you use will depend some upon how many fritters you think you can eat today. If you’re a reasonable person, a cup of flour will do the job. If you’ve been eating like a rabbit for six days and dreaming of donuts and no motherfucker alive is gonna stop you from eating apple fritters until you are good and dead, go for two cups. We’re going to proceed with a one-cup recipe, here, because if I can keep you from dying of a donut overdose I probably have a moral responsibility to try. That said, if you are truly bonkers, double the shit.
Onto your pile of flour, dump a teaspoon or so of baking powder and a fat pinch of salt, and mix it all together. This bowl contains your dry ingredients. Like cinnamon apples? Add some cinnamon if you want. Nutmeg? Sure! Dry mustard? Absolutely not, why would you even think of something like that.
In another bowl, crack a couple of eggs, drop in a couple splashes of milk, a couple drops of vanilla extract, two tablespoons of melted butter, and toss in a mighty handful of regular sugar, then use a whisk or a fork to mix all this together. This bowl contains your wet ingredients. If you wanted to drop in some almond extract or whatever, that’s fine. You want this mixture to be a little bit thinner, in the end, than pre-cooked scrambled eggs, so use milk to thin it out as necessary.
We’re gonna be frying, again, and so we need to get some oil going. Pour two or three inches of high heat oil into your deepest, heaviest cooking vessel, and get it onto your stove over medium heat. That’s gonna need a few minutes to get into our temperature range, so let’s use this time to bring our dry and wet ingredients together. It will be better to do this by adding wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients, so I certainly hope that is the bigger of the two bowls. Also, it will be good to have a trusty rubber spatula for this part.
Pour the wet mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients, and use your rubber spatula to gently fold the two together. A good way to do this is to run the spatula along the side of the bowl, pushing the flour from outside in, and then gently scooping the flour from the bottom of the bowl up, so that the wet stuff slides in there under it. Repeat these sorts of actions until wet and dry ingredients are incorporated, and you’ve got something vaguely paste-like, thicker than pancake batter, but not quite cookie dough. If it’s too wet, add a little flour. If it’s too dry, a splash of milk. Err on the thicker side.
It’s gonna be fine.
In order for these to be apple fritters, we will need to add some apples. And, hey, look who’s got a whole bowl of chopped up apples! Dump the apples into the batter and fold them in. If you’re unsure how much apple content you want in your apple fritters, start with a big handful and go from there. My wife likes her apple fritters chunky with apples. I like a little more conservative distribution of apples. Another thing I like: raisins in my apple fritters. If this sounds like your bag, fold in some raisins. If, like my mom, you are disgusted and horrified by raisins, maybe pass on this opportunity.
One final step, before we start frying these fuckers: let’s make some glaze. Oh god, how I love glaze. In another bowl (or, perhaps, the wet bowl, which you have quickly and thoughtfully rinsed out), mix together a big handful of powdered sugar and a splash of milk. I like my glaze—basically any glaze, you could be glazing a meatloaf—to be lemony, so I add a splash of lemon juice and a pinch of lemon zest, and so for this preparation I highly recommend you do the same. Stir this together, adding liquid or powdered sugar as needed, until you’ve got something the color and consistency of (don’t say semen don’t say semen don’t say semen) semen. Not semen. Sorry. It should be opaque and loose, but thicker than cream. Here’s how this glaze works: When it gets onto something porous and spongy, like a donut, its liquid begins to soak into the donut, leaving behind a progressively crunchier sugar coating on the surface. You get the idea.
Okay. Your oil is most of the way there. Let’s prep the work space. Get your batter bowl next to your stove, as close as possible to your oil without exposing it to much heat. Then, on the other side of your oil, get a big plate or platter set up with a couple layers of paper towel on top. On the other side of that plate, set up your glaze, so that you can go batter to oil to drying plate to glaze. I have a hunch the only thing you’ll need on the other side of the glaze is your open mouth, but maybe get a bowl or something there in case you want to take a selfie before the devouring commences.
Stab a wooden spoon or chopstick into the oil and look for little bubbles. If you see little bubbles, spoon out a small amount of your batter and drop it into the oil. If the oil is ready, it will start boiling around the batter as soon as it hits the surface. You’ll know it’s too hot if the batter turns dark brown in less than a minute. Adjust the heat as needed.
You are now ready to rock. This frying will be like all the other frying: you are going to drop a quantity of food into the oil; the food is going to bob to the surface; you are going to give the food a few minutes to brown on one side; then you are going to flip the food and give it a few more minutes to brown on the other side; then you are going to extract the food from the oil and set it on a drying plate.
It’s up to you to determine how big this particular food deposit will be. I like my apple fritters to be almost fist-sized, but certainly frying them will be quicker and easier if you drop about a golf-ball sized blob of batter into the oil for each fritter. Whatever you decide, drop a couple blobs of batter into the oil and give them three or four minutes to bob around the surface and fry. When the bottom is a lovely golden brown, flip them over and give them another few minutes to fry on the other side. Keep an eye on the heat, and remember that having room-temperature batter dropped into it will cause the oil temperature to fluctuate. This process can fool you one way or the other, so be prepared to adjust the heat under the oil as necessary. You want the fritters to spend enough time in there that the insides cook all the way through without the outside turning into a smoking black layer of char. Look for a temperature range that gets your fritters golden brown on one side in about three minutes.
When both sides of your fritters are a lovely golden brown color, remove the fritters from the oil and set them on the paper towels to dry. You’re gonna repeat this process a few times until the rest of your batter has all been converted into fritters. Once that’s done, turn the heat off and maybe move the oil to a cool part of your stovetop. Later, after it’s cooled and you’ve gorged yourself on apple fritters, you can haul it out back and take your worldly frustrations out on some dastardly crabgrass.
What you’ve got now is a pile of warm apple fritters and a bowl of glaze. You can probably figure out how to proceed from here—grab a spoon and the bowl of glaze and just fucking eat it dude! Or? Or, you could dip each fritter into the glaze and rotate it and flip it until it’s completely coated, and then replace it on the plate, and continue in this fashion until all fritters are coated in glaze. Or, you could use a clean paint brush or basting brush to paint the glaze onto the fritters as they lay there on the plate. Or you could just spoon it on there. Or you could lift the whole bowl of glaze and tilt it over the fritters and let her rip. The choice is yours. However you choose to do it, glaze the apple fritters.
Now you are done making apple fritters. Might as well stand right where you are in the kitchen and slam one into your face at the speed of sound. Right away you should notice the bright, citric sweetness of the glaze and the dark, crunchy outside of the fritter, already delightfully soaked full of lemony sugar juice. Then the warm, steaming, cake-like interior, with the buttery vanilla flavor of a good yellow birthday cake, studded here and there (or everywhere) with little zesty bites of apple, in various states ranging from browned and caramelized towards the fritter’s exterior, to still mildly crunchy and fresh-tasting in the warm interior. That pinch of salt did juuuuust enough to balance the outrageous sugary sweetness of the fritters, which you suddenly realize you are cramming down your gullet two and three at a time. Whoa that happened fast.
There’s a coda to my true and tragic apple fritter story: I spent a week daydreaming about apple fritters, and then spent the following weekend once again cooking and then eating way too many apple fritters, and within a few weeks the whole diet and all my plans for being a healthier person with a more disciplined way of eating had been crushed and buried under a cascade of apple fritters. It took me literally years to recover the willpower and motivation to take another whack at shaping up. What I’m saying, here, is I’m sorry. I’m afraid this will be the death of your New Year’s resolution. But, enjoy!