Some of my happiest childhood memories of autumn involve weekend daytrips to pick apples with my mother and grandmother. We’d pack a picnic and come home with bags and bags of beautiful red, gold and green fruit—not to mention all the apples we’d munch on right under the trees.
I’m so happy to see that it’s still possible in many places today to enjoy such outings. Even in greater Los Angeles, where I live, you can jump in the car and—just two and a half hours later—find yourself in beautiful countryside filled with orchards offering so many different kinds of apples you can pick for yourself.
Apple season in all its variety inspires me to prepare so many different recipes. I love to make apple salads, combining chunks of the sweet, tart, crisp, juicy fruit with bitter greens (like arugula and radicchio), toasted nuts, sweet dates and mustard vinaigrettes. Baked apples also delight me; their hollowed-out cores filled with dried fruit, nuts, a little butter and brown sugar. Chunky apple sauce is wonderful, served at breakfast and topped with yogurt or crème fraiche. Of course, I can’t resist a good apple pie or tart with a golden-brown crust and some whipped cream or ice cream. My list could go on and on.
But one of my favorite ways to prepare autumn apples is to cut them up into matchstick shapes and turn them into fritters. I’ll make an easy batter of flour, egg and buttermilk, flavoring it with familiar apple pie spices and adding baking powder to aerate the batter for lighter, crispier results.
Then, I coat spoonfuls of the matchsticks with the batter and ease them into hot oil. Finally, I dust the freshly fried fritters with some confectioners’ sugar and serve them with a caramel sauce. (I have included an easy recipe for the sauce; but you should feel free to use your favorite store-bought version or some other sweet sauce you think would go well.) You could also accompany them with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream, if you like.
Frying the fritters is especially easy if you have an inexpensive electric countertop deep-fryer that regulates the temperature so they cook quickly and don’t absorb oil. But you can also achieve good results with a heavy pan and a deep-frying thermometer that clips to its side; adjust the heat yourself to keep the desired temperature steady.
While the fritters naturally fall into the dessert category, I also think they make a delicious accompaniment to roast poultry, pork or ham. This gives you even more ways to enjoy them throughout autumn, right up to Thanksgiving dinner and throughout the holiday season!
Spiced Apple Fritters
Serves 6 to 8
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch ground allspice
Freshly ground white pepper
1 large egg
1 cup (250 mL) buttermilk
2 pounds (1 kg) red or golden delicious apples
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
Peanut oil or vegetable oil, for deep-frying
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Caramel sauce (optional, recipe follows)
Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and dashes of salt and white pepper into a medium mixing bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk. While stirring the flour mixture continuously with the whisk, gradually add the wet ingredients, whisking until smooth. Cover loosely and set aside at cool room temperature for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, peel and core the apples. Slice, stack and cut them into matchsticks about 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick and 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) long. Put the sticks in a bowl and toss with just enough lemon juice to coat lightly and prevent them from turning brown.
Heat about 3 inches (7.5 cm) of oil in an automatic deep-fryer or a heavy pot on the stove to 365 F (185 C). Place a platter covered in a double thickness of paper towels nearby.
With a tablespoon, scoop up a heaping spoonful of the matchsticks, draining off any liquid, and place in the batter, turning gently to coat thoroughly. With the tablespoon, scoop up the spoonful of coated matchsticks and then use another spoon to carefully ease the spoonful into the hot oil. Repeat quickly with more matchstick spoonfuls, taking care not to overcrowd the oil. Fry, gently turning as needed with a wire skimmer, until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the paper towels and repeat with remaining batches.
To serve, transfer the fritters to a clean, warmed platter and dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar. Spoon caramel sauce into individual ramekins on dessert plates, and pass the fritters for dipping.
Makes about 2 cups (500 mL)
2 cups (500 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) water
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Spread the sugar evenly in a deep, heavy, large saucepan. Pour the water evenly over the sugar. Over medium-high heat, cook without stirring, tilting the pan gently once or twice to insure that all the sugar dissolves, until the syrup starts bubbling, about 3 minutes.
Cook at a vigorous boil, watching attentively, until the syrup just begins turning a golden color, 5 to 6 minutes. Gently move the pan from side to side, without stirring, so the syrup continues to color evenly. Reduce the heat to medium.
Continue cooking the syrup, reducing the heat slightly, until it turns very dark amber, gives off slight wisps of smoke, and smells almost burnt, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
Carefully but quickly pour in the cream to stop the cooking. The caramel will bubble up vigorously, so keep your hands well clear. Immediately reduce the heat to low. Whisk to blend. Add the butter and simmer 1 minute longer, whisking until smooth.
Pour into a heatproof container. Use immediately or cover and store up to several days in the refrigerator, where it will thicken as it cools. Reheat gently in a double boiler, in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over very low heat, or in the microwave.
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