Medieval Apple Fritters
“For the sweet, Lord Caswell’s servants brought down trays of pastries from his castle kitchens, cream swans and spun-sugar unicorns, lemon cakes in the shape of roses, spiced honey biscuits and blackberry tarts, apple crisps and wheels of buttery cheese.” -A Clash of Kings
Modern Apple Fritters
This is my take on Martin’s “apple crisps”. I considered making something more like a conventional apple crisp recipe, with the crumbled oats and such on top, but since the excerpt from the book mentions “crisps”, plural, I wanted to find something smaller to go with the other individual desserts in the feast. And after I found the first fritter recipe, I was sold on the idea.
The batter for the medieval fritters comes out surprisingly light due, and garnered much praise from my taste-testers. The apples were perfectly crisp to begin with, but during the frying process transformed into a warm, soft texture just shy of gooey, while the outside batter stayed firm. The crunchiness of the fried batter is enhanced by the sugar coating, and the zest gives a hint of freshness to counter the oil. I swapped the ale in the original recipe for a sparkling hard cider, and I think it made all the difference. Add a little fancy presentation (medieval folks loved that), and all in all, the whole experience is Westeros-meets-State fair.
The modern fritters? I really liked the medieval version, but I’ll be honest: I ate a half batch of the modern fritters all by myself. They are less crispy than the old school recipe, and comes out with more of a dense, almost cake-like texture. The zest flavor is there, but helps compliment the apple flavors rather than interfering. I enjoyed mine immensely dipped in honey (maple syrup could be awesome, too), and could almost justify serving it as a breakfast dish, rather than a dessert.
Which one wins? They’re both great, but I’ve got to give it to the medieval version!
Medieval Apple Fritters
Take whete floure, ale, zest, safroun, & salt, & bete alle togederys as thikke as thou schuldyst make other bature in fleyssche tyme, & than take fayre applys, & kut hem in maner of fretourys, & wete hemm in the bature up on downne, & frye hem in fayre oyle, & caste hem in a dyssche, & caste sugre theron & serve forth. -Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks
Cook’s Notes: Although it’s not called for in the original recipe, I added a pinch of dry yeast to help simulate the more bready nature of old fashioned ale. This helps give the batter its lightness.
- 1/2 bottle sparkling hard cider (6 fl. oz)
- a few threads of saffron
- pinch of dry yeast
- pinch of salt
- zest of 1/2 lemon or orange
- 1 cup flour
- 3-4 smallish apples
- lard or shortening for frying
- sugar for sprinkling over, the coarser the better
- several whole cloves, and leaves (mint works well) to decorate
Heat the cider gently over low heat, then add the saffron. Allow to sit for about 30 minutes, which should let the saffron dissolve. Add the yeast, and stir (this should make the cider foam up impressively). Add the salt and zest, followed by the flour. Beat until the batter is light and smooth and there are no lumps of flour. You should end up with a thick, but not unworkable batter. Set aside.
Peel your apples. Using a sharp knife, take off the whole top in a slice about 1/2″ thick (this gives you a pretty top with which to top your reconstructed fritter-apples). Core the rest of the apple, then cut into 1/2″ slices. Pat dry with a paper towel.
Heat your lard or oil over medium heat; it may take some adjusting to get the temperature just right, especially as the oil is absorbed by the fritters. Dip each apple slice into the batter, then carefully lower into the hot oil. Let each slice fry for about a minute before flipping to cook the other side. The fritters are done when they are golden brown on both sides. Place on a paper towel lined plate to drain. When the slices are all cooked and cooled enough to handle, dip them in the coarse sugar.
To present, stack the fritters, small-large-small, and top them with one of the fried tops that you first sliced off the apple. You should hopefully end up with at least a couple of fritter-stacks that loosely resemble apples. If the top has no stem, place a clove in the very top, along with a leaf to add to the apple impression. Best served warm!
Modern Apple Fritters
- 2 eggs
- 2 Tbs. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. lemon or orange zest
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1-2 medium-sized apple, peeled, cored and diced
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar, followed by the zest and milk. Gradually add the dry ingredients and the apples until everything is incorporated. Continue to add flour just a little bit at a time until the batter is thick enough that it doesn’t drip off a spoon on its own.
Heat the vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When the oil is up to temperature, drop large spoonfuls of the batter into the pan, using another spoon or your finger to push the batter off. The fritters should flatten somewhat into thick shapes. Flip each fritter occasionally, until they are dark golden on both sides and cooked all the way through (you might have to check the first few until you get the knack). Place the cooked fritters on a plate lined with paper towel to drain.
Dust the tops of the fritters with confectioners’ sugar and serve with honey on the side.