Bless me, readers, for I have sinned. It has been only four days since my last doughnut post, and I have again deep-fried dough for this blog. Forgive me.
Forgive me for making these apple cider fritters, so tender on the inside, crisp on the outside, dripping with apple cider glaze and bursting with caramelized apples…wait, scratch that. I’m not sorry at all. There’s nothing to apologize for when it comes to these apple cider fritters! Call me a deep-frying heathen if you must, a ruiner of diets and a scorner of the Food Pyramid, but these fritters are perfect—no forgiveness required. Amen and amen.
I wanted to call these Apple Cider Apple Fritters, but I was worried that all of those “apple” references would seem like a typo. How else to express, though, that these are the perfect combination of apple cider doughnuts and apple fritters? Imagine if you will that apple cider doughnuts and apple fritters had a baby. A beautiful, delicious, fluffy, super flavorful, apple-packed baby. Now imagine that babies are socially acceptable to eat. Yeah, they’re like that.
Many apple cider doughnut recipes are cake-based, not yeast-based. And most apple fritters don’t have cider in the dough, they just rely on the apple chunks to provide flavor. So this fritter recipe is the best of both worlds: it’s a yeast dough recipe, so it’s wonderfully light and fluffy, and it also has really concentrated apple cider in both the dough and the glaze on top, so even the bites without chunks of apple have a nice apple undertone.
And the apple chunks! Caramelized in butter and brown sugar, with a hint of cinnamon, they’re literally bursting out of every surface of these fritters. I used SweeTango apples, which are a variety I tried for the first time this year. I was sent a few samples to try, and I loved them so much I immediately bought a few more bags of them. When eaten raw they’re very crunchy and sweet (similar to a Honeycrisp) but they’re also a good cooking apple! They became tender but not mushy, and held their shape nicely during the caramelizing process. You don’t have to use these apples, though—any cooking apple you enjoy will work well.
I’d never made apple fritters before, so I was interested to learn that there’s a specific method for assembling them to produce the signature craggy bumps and edges and protruding apples. I read a lot of different recipes and cobbled together my favorite instructions into my own method. It’s a little more involved than the usual roll-and-cut doughnut process, but I think the wonderful final texture makes it worth it, and it’s fun to see ugly blobs of dough (there, I said it!) turn into beautiful fritters right before your eyes during the frying process.
The basic idea is to try and work the apple pieces deep into the layers of dough, so they’re randomly distributed and tucked into pockets of dough here and there, not all crammed together in the same place. To do this, I rolled the dough out, topped it with half of the apples, folded it into a packet, then rolled the dough out again, topped it with the other apples, and rolled it out once more. This is pretty good apple distribution, but we can do better—so we cut the dough into small squares and mash several squares together into a patty. It’s a little crude, to be sure, but it gets the job done. The rough balls of dough expand and puff out during frying, and they end up with that signature bumpy, apples-poking-out-everywhere look of traditional fritters. Pictures, you demand? Pictures you shall have:
I really can’t think of a more fall-appropriate food. It reminds me of apple picking and falling leaves and crisp mornings—all things I’m not enjoying in Southern California right now!—so it’s wonderful to have these edible seasonal cues, even if the weather outside isn’t cooperating very well.
Enjoy them for brunch with a mug of hot apple cider or hot cocoa, or warm them up and top them with a scoop of ice cream for dessert. They’re best the day that they’re made, but they’ll keep for several days at room temperature, so if you make them at the start of the weekend, you can enjoy them all weekend long! Still not convinced? I’ll let this parting shot do all the persuading for me….
Apple Cider Fritters
For the Doughnuts:
- 2 1/2 cups apple cider
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)
- 3/4 cup milk at room temperature
- 14 2/3 oz all-purpose flour (3 1/4 cups)
- 1 oz unsalted butter (2 tbsp), at room temperature
- 1 oz shortening (2 tbsp)
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 quarts canola oil for frying
For the Apple Filling:
- 2 lbs apples (4-5 medium apples– I used SweeTango apples)
- 2 oz unsalted butter (1/4 cup)
- brown sugar (1/4 cup)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
For the Glaze:
- 1/4 cup apple cider concentrate (made during the doughnut preparation)
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
To Make the Doughnuts:
Pour the apple cider into a medium saucepan, place the pan on medium heat, and bring it to a low boil. Continue to cook the apple cider until it reduces down to 3/4 cup, which might take 45-55 minutes. This step can be done ahead of time and the apple cider concentrate can be stored in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it.
Divide up the 3/4 cup apple cider concentrate: Pour 1/4 cup of it into a small bowl. Pour another 1/4 cup of it into the bowl of a large stand mixer, and reserve the remaining 1/4 cup to make the glaze later.
Heat the small bowl of apple cider concentrate in the microwave in short 10-second bursts, until it is warm but not scalding—it should be around 105-110 F, so hotter than body temperature. Sprinkle the yeast on top, stir it in gently, and let it sit for about 5 minutes, until the yeast foams up.
To the large mixing bowl with the apple cider concentrate, add the milk, butter, shortening, sugar, yolks, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour the yeast mixture into the large mixing bowl as well, then add half of the flour (7 1/3 oz, or 1 2/3 cups). Mix with the paddle attachment for 3-5 minutes, until very smooth.
Add the rest of the flour (7 1/3 oz, or 1 2/3 cups) and mix with the paddle for another 2 minutes. Switch to the dough hook and mix for 5-7 minutes, until the dough forms a soft, smooth ball around the hook and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If it seems very sticky while it’s mixing, add a touch more flour, but only another tablespoon or two. Let the mixing do most of the work and resist the temptation to add too much flour, or else you will have tough doughnuts. When the dough is smooth, supple, and pulling away from the sides of the bowl, turn off the mixer. It will still be a bit soft and sticky!
Generously oil a large bowl and turn the doughnut dough into the oiled bowl. Cover loosely with a cloth and set it in a warm place to rise for 1 hour, until doubled in size.
To Make the Apple Filling:
While you wait for the dough to rise, prepare the apple filling. Peel, core, and chop the apples into small pieces about 1/2-3/4" wide. Place a large saucepan over medium heat, and melt the butter. Add the sugar, and stir it in until the sugar melts. (The mixture will be sandy and grainy.) Add the apples, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, and apple cider vinegar.
Cook the apples, stirring occasionally, until they are golden and caramelized, and almost all of the liquid has evaporated from the pan. The time required depends on your pan and your apple variety, but 15-20 minutes is a rough cooking estimate. Scrape the apples into a shallow pan or bowl, and refrigerate them until they're room temperature or cooler. (Apples can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until ready to use.)
To Assemble, Fry, and Finish:
After an hour, dust your work surface with flour, punch down the dough, and turn it out onto your work surface. Gently pat it or roll it into a thin layer about 1/2-inch thick. Spread half of the apples over half of the dough. Fold the dough over on itself, and press down gently to seal the apples into the middle of the dough.
Press the dough out into a thin rectangle again, flour it as necessary to keep it from sticking. Add the rest of the apples on half of the dough, and fold it over itself again. (This process helps distribute apples randomly throughout the dough layers.) Pat the dough back into a thin rectangle.
Use a bench scraper or large sharp knife to cut the dough into small squares, about 1 1/2" or so. Line two baking sheets with parchment , and dust it lightly with flour. Gather together about 4-5 squares (total weight 2.5-3 oz) and press them together into a patty, pinching them at the top to help secure them. Don't worry if the patties seem to have a ragged appearance, or if apples poke out—this assembly method produces the beautifully craggy and randomly-shaped signature apple fritter appearance! Place a fritter on a baking sheet, then repeat until all of your fritters are formed. You should get about 15 fritters from this recipe.
Cover the fritters loosely with cloths and let them rise in a warm place until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes.
Toward the end of the fritter rise time, pour the frying oil into a medium-large saucepan, and insert a deep fry thermometer. Turn the heat to medium and heat until the oil reaches 350 F. During the frying process, keep a close eye on the thermometer and monitor the temperature carefully.
Once the fritters have risen and the oil is the right temperature, gently place 2-3 fritters at a time in the oil and fry them for 1-2 minutes per side, until they are puffed and golden brown. Once cooked, remove them from the oil using a slotted spoon or frying tool, and place them on a paper-towel lined wire rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining fritters. Periodically remove any stray apples or dough that's floating in the oil. If the oil gets too hot, turn the heat down or take the pan briefly off the heat, and if it gets too cool, pause your frying until it has a chance to heat up again.
To make the glaze, whisk together the reserved 1/4 cup apple cider concentrate along with the rest of the ingredients. Try brushing some on a warm (but not super hot!) fritter. It should brush easily, and start to melt into the outside of the fritter. If it is too thick, and looks more like frosting than glaze, add a little apple cider or milk, a small spoonful at a time, to get the right consistency. Brush the glaze on the fritters, or spoon it on and spread it around with the spoon. Repeat until all of the fritters have been glazed.
Let the glaze set for about 20 minutes, then serve! These fritters are best on the day they are made, but they will keep for several days in an airtight container at room temperature.