I’ve written about it before—I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. Dessert at home is usually a piece or two of seasonal fresh fruit. But sometimes I crave something more elaborate. I love fruit tarts or torts or fruits poached in red wine, for example, but when I’m really feeling indulgent, there’s nothing like these Tyrolean Apple Fritters. I love them because they are warm and sweet, but not too sweet, and—like all fried foods—very satisfying.
These fritters are originally from the Südtirol aka Alto Adige region, where most of Italy’s apples are grown, but they are now popular everywhere. A traditional Carnival treat, they’re too good to save just for that holiday. And they’re not just for dessert: an unsweetened apple fritter sometimes make their way into a platter of mixed fried foods, or fritto misto.
- 4-6 apples
- Rum, cognac, Marsala wine or other liqueur of your choice
For the batter:
- 3 eggs
- 250g (1/2 lb) flour
- 250ml (1 cup) milk
- 1-2 Tbs sugar
- A few drops of vanilla extract (optional)
For frying and finishing the dish:
- Vegetable oil
- Confectioners sugar
Separate the eggs. Prepare a batter by mixing the yolks and all the other batter ingredients together until they form a smooth, rather thick batter. If it’s too thick, however, you can add a few drops more of milk. Let the batter rest for at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour. Just before you are ready to fry, whip the egg whites until stiff and fold them into the batter using a spatula.
Meanwhile, peel and core your apples (see Notes) and slice them horizontally into thin rounds. As you go along, transfer the slices to a bowl and sprinkle some sugar and liqueur over them. Let the apples macerate for at least 30 minutes as well, preferably longer, then pat them dry.
When both your batter and apples are ready for cooking, dip the macerated apple slices in the batter, making sure they are well coated on all sides. Shallow-fry the slices in the oil until they are lightly golden brown on each side. As for any frying, make sure your slices are well spaced in the skillet to ensure proper browning and avoid sogginess. Transfer the slices to a plate lined with paper towels or a baking rack as the slices are done.
Sprinkle your Tyrolean Apple Fritters with confectioners sugar and serve.
Notes on Tyrolean Apple Fritters
You can core an apple with a paring knife, but the job is made so much easier with a purpose-made gadget. The one pictured below, by Cuisipro, set me back a trifling $10; it makes short work of coring an apple. As you can see, it has a cylinder with a serrated edge. You simply twist down from the top of the apple, through the stem and core; you then twist it back up, taking the core with you. This one is particularly smart because the cylinder opens for easy disposal of the core. You then proceed to peel the apple with a peeler. You can also buy fancy Rube Goldberg-style apparatuses that both core and peel, but they hardly seem worth the trouble unless you are in the business of processing apples in massive quantities.
While most recipes for Tyrolean Apple Fritters will tell you, as indicated above, to separate the egg whites from the yolks and add the beaten whites to the batter at the last minute as leavening, a few recipes skip this step. Instead, they may call for a pinch of baking powder, although Ada Boni, in her classic Talismano della felicità, calls for a simple batter of flour, water and oil, with no leavening at all. The initial maceration of the apple slices is not necessary but, to my mind, adds some nice extra flavor. If you prefer a simpler dish—or want to avoid alcohol—just sprinkle the apple slices with a bit of lemon juice so they don’t discolor.
And if you don’t have an apple corer or are just looking for a simpler way to make these fritters, you can peel and dice your apples, then mix them into the batter. When you’re ready to fry, spoon out dollops of the apple and batter mixture to the pan to make free-form fritters. The nice part about this method for making Tyrolean Apple Fritters is you can add all sorts of other flavorful stuff to the mix, like raisins (softened in liqueur or just warm water) or nuts.