Why It Works
- Toasted sugar adds light notes of caramel and complexity to the topping.
- Freeze-dried apples give the sugar a tart fruit flavor that puts the focus on apples.
- Subtle use of spice plays up the aroma of apples without overwhelming them.
- Fennel pollen pairs well with apple, adding a delicate fragrance.
It's hard to imagine improving on the simple combination of cinnamon and sugar, but freeze-dried apples do just that: Their tart, fresh fruit flavor elevates this classic topping in a major way, adding an almost juicy note of apple to everything from cider doughnuts to that morning bowl of oats. If you like, try starting with toasted sugar to reduce the sweetness of the topping and layer in notes of caramel.
- 1 ounce freeze-dried apples (about 1 1/3 cups, although volume will vary by brand; 30g); see note
- 7 ounces plain or toasted sugar (about 1 cup; 200g), or more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, or more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel pollen, such as Pollen Ranch fennel pollen (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon (0.5g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt, or more to taste; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
In the bowl of a food processor, grind freeze-dried apples into a fine powder, with no visible bits of fruit remaining. Add sugar, cinnamon, fennel pollen (if using), and salt and pulse until well combined. If you like, continue grinding to create a finer, less granular powder.
Season mixture to taste with additional salt or spice, or add more sugar to dilute the intensity of the apples if you find their flavor too strong. Use immediately or store in an airtight container. Due to the presence of freeze-dried fruit, this mixture is very hygroscopic and will readily absorb moisture from the air, causing it to clump over time.
Many supermarkets carry their own house brand of freeze-dried fruit, including freeze-dried apples (try Trader Joe's freeze-dried Fuji slices). Other major groceries may carry products such as Natierra Organic Freeze-Dried Apples and Mother Earth freeze-dried apples. When in doubt, call ahead or shop online.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Due to the nature of freeze-dried apples, the spiced apple sugar will readily absorb moisture from the environment. However, when carefully stored in a truly airtight container, it will keep for several weeks at cool room temperature.