The last apple fritter I ate before going gluten-free was an abomination. I bought it at a cute bakery. It looked a little smoother than a traditional apple fritter but I didn't think much about it one way or the other. Then I bit into the fritter and—What the hell?—apple pie filling burst into my mouth.
Apple fritters should not be jelly doughnuts in which the jam is merely replaced with an apple filling. No, an apple fritter is a nubby affair with crisp bits of chopped apples scattered throughout and just the slightest hint of confectioner's glaze.
For years, I've meant to make a gluten-free apple fritter. The only thing standing in my way? My own laziness. Apple fritters sounded like a lot of work and I just didn't feel like futzing with them.
This year, I set my laziness aside (not an easy task) and heated up a pot of oil. The results were meh—the fritters tasted like apple doughnuts and not fritters. I texted a professional baker-friend and asked what I was doing wrong.
Here's our exchange: (shared with permission)
Me: My apple fritters taste like doughnuts. Blerg.
Me: I want to make commercial-like apple fritters and I'm getting apple-studded flat doughnuts.
Steve: How are you leavening?
Me: Baking powder.
Steve: Use yeasted dough. Laminate the filling into the dough. Roll and cut into small pieces, then press together. We use leftover dough.
Me: MIND BLOWN.
Steve: Don't use pie filling. That's crap. Fresh apples. Sautéed. Apple cider and thicken. Done. You're welcome.
Me: Thank you!!!
It's funny. Even though the recipe now sounded 100x more complicated than I originally anticipated, I suddenly really wanted to make the fritters.
"A small amount of modified starch mimics a glutenous dough pretty well"
I did a little more digging and found some videos backed up exactly what Steve had described. But I knew the dough needed elasticity and I didn't want to rely solely on xanthan gum for it. So I grabbed a box of Chebe mix (it's made with tapioca starch and modified manioc flour) and added it to my flour blend. A small amount of modified starch mimics a glutenous dough pretty well. I'm just bummed that it's almost impossible for consumers to buy modified starch. To get it, you need to use a plain mix, like Chebe.
The dough rose nicely and rolled out nicely, but I ran into problems as I tried to cut the dough into small pieces and then work it back together. Without those lovely strands of gluten, the dough sort of smushed back together. The little squares of dough were lost. And the dough was incredibly hard to work with. It kept sticking to everything. Yet I kept moving forward, lying to myself that this would work.
The fritters burnt on the edges and were raw in the center. All the work of cutting the dough into pieces was lost too. The finished fritters were just like doughnuts with apple bits here and there.
Frustrated, I almost threw the remaining dough in the garbage. Then I looked at it, grabbed two spoons, and pulled off a little dough from one of the sloppily formed raw fritters. Perhaps size was my problem here. I made some new fritters, this time smaller, more like hush puppy size.
I let one cool, always a challenge with a hot-from-the-fryer doughnut before trying. It tasted good. Like a wheat-based fritter, it wasn't too sweet and contained bite-sized pieces of apples.
A few days later, I tried the fritters again. I skipped the messy process of laminating the apples into to the dough. Instead, I let the dough rise, punched it down, and then stirred cooked apples in. After another rise, I simply dropped small pieces of the dough into a hot fryer. Perfect.
I won't lie. Homemade apple fritters are a little time-consuming to make. However, the steps are just that—time-consuming, but not hard. For this recipe, you need gluten-free Chebe mix. You also need time. The dough takes several hours to rise and the filling is a two-step affair that requires time for cooling.
But, in the end, the fritters are totally worth it.
As I sat eating a fritter, I noticed that the yeast-raised dough tasted really great. Now I'm pondering what I can make with it beyond these fritters. Glazed doughnut holes, perhaps?