by Lauren Chattman
Did you know that it is possible to make a beautiful fall dessert for four with just one apple and half a bottle of beer? This knowledge was buried deep within my cerebral cortex. But on Wednesday, while shopping for apples at the Milk Pail, I inhaled the scent of some freshly fried cider doughnuts, and it began to resurface. At the farm stand I retrieved a fuzzy memory of eating fried apple slices around this time of year. By the time I got home, I had remembered exactly where in my kitchen I could find the recipe. And that evening, after dinner, I made some economical, seasonal, and deeply satisfying Beer-Battered Apples for the family to enjoy.
It was simple: I just stirred together some flour, sugar, cinnamon, and a little beer. Then I dipped the slices in the beer batter, dropped them into hot oil, and briefly drained them before dusting them with confectioners’ sugar.
The selection at the Milk Pail and other local orchards and farm stands is overwhelming at this time of year if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Some types of apples become mealy and mushy when cooked, so are best eaten out of hand. McIntosh, Empire, Cortland, and Red Delicious fall into this category. I like Galas and Golden Delicious, which break down easily and smoothly, for applesauce. For pies and tarts as well as beer-battered apples, firm fruit that keeps its shape when cooked is best. Locally grown apples in this category include Honey Crisp, Granny Smith, Braeburn, and Mutsu. When in doubt, ask. The Milk Pail’s staff can describe the characteristics of each apple on display, and can recommend a particular apple if you have a recipe in mind.
Luckily, I had purchased another variety well-suited for my recipe: Jonagold apples, a hybrid of Jonathan and Golden Delicious, have firm flesh and a nice balance of sweet and tart. Rummaging through the bag, I found an extra-large apple that could be sliced into 16 generous wedges. If your apples are on the small side, you might want to use 1 ½ or 2.
A light lager-style beer gives the batter a pleasantly yeasty flavor without overwhelming the apple slices the way a darker brew might. The Southampton Public House Pale India Ale I already had in my refrigerator was perfect. Make sure your beer is chilled. For some reason, cold beer produces a crispier crust than room temperature beer.
Use a deep pot (I like my enamel-coated cast iron Dutch oven) for frying. With just an inch of oil, you won’t get too much splattering and clean-up will be minimal. Test the oil by dipping a tip of an apple into it. If it bubbles up, you can fry your apples. If it doesn’t, let it heat some more. When the oil is nice and hot, your battered apples will cook up crisp and greaseless. Apples fried in insufficiently heated oil will become soggy as they soak up the oil like sponges.
Finally, don’t skip the last step. The apples are only mildly sweet, and the batter has a relatively small amount of granulated sugar. Sifting some powdered sugar over the hot wedges is a quick way to give them a proper finish.
Beer-Battered Apples (Adapted from Dessert Express by Lauren Chattman; Taunton Press 2008)
Vegetable oil for frying
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup lager-style beer, chilled
1 large apple, peeled, cored, and cut into sixteen ¼-inch slices
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
1. Heat an inch of vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
2. Whisk the flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and beer together in a medium mixing bowl.
3. Put 8 of the apple slices in the bowl and toss to coat with the batter. Lift them with a slotted spoon or spatula, one at a time, from the bowl, letting any excess batter drip back into the bowl, and put them in the hot oil.
4. Fry the slices, turning them once, until golden brown on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes total. Use a clean slotted spoon to transfer the fried slices to the baking sheet to drain. Repeat with the remaining slices. Let the fried apples rest on the baking sheet for a minute or two, dust heavily with confectioners’ sugar, and serve.