Apple fritole with calvados crème anglaise
Naming dishes can be fraught with danger, especially when you are making up a recipe that hasn’t existed before and is a culmination of techniques and flavours picked from here and there. Calling these little beauties doughnuts feels wrong even though they are fried and a little doughy. Calling them fritters doesn’t seem right either as, rightly or wrongly, I associate fritters with zucchini. And so, I settled on fritole, which is only a slight misnomer, as it refers to a specific Venetian dish that is a sweet fritter. They are traditionally made with a batter but here I use ricotta, which adds credence to their Italian name.
Then I go and mess with their Italian nature by serving them with a French crème anglaise scented with calvados, the very excellent boozy apple brandy from Normandy. But a hot, fried, sweet morsel swimming in a warmed custard sounds sensible regardless of where it’s from.
Desserts and sweets are not something you should necessarily be indulging in every day. But when you do you may as well make the most of it. Overly sweet is not really my thing though, and it’s rare that I make a dessert without at least a hint of salt. I also tend to find pepper livens things up a little by adding a hint of heat.
Custard, in any of its various forms, is always a delight to me whether baked or runny. I have a secret passion for the daggy supermarket crème caramel that was an occasional treat when I was a child and I have a vivid memory of the first time I tasted crema Catalana at a cafe in Spain, the thin bitter sugar crust hiding the most perfectly orange-scented, just-set, creamy custard underneath. Vanilla is the obvious partner for custard but here I infuse a little fresh bay as well. I’m not entirely sure how I first stumbled upon this flavour match, but I do remember the first time I used it, making a buffalo milk and bay leaf ice-cream that was extra creamy with an elusive herbaceous hint. Fresh young leaves are best as they are a little sweet and pair perfectly with the apple in the fritole. The apple flavour is heightened with the calvados, which also provides a boozy kick that doesn’t go astray.
The fritole themselves are easy to make, the apples caramelised and buttery, the mix simple and easy to put together. The only potentially confronting thing is the deep-frying aspect, which is never as scary as you think. Shaping them can be a little awkward, but to get the hang of the two-spoon quenelle action just do a quick search of YouTube and you should be on your way in no time. The beauty of these is they don’t need to be perfectly shaped; you want them to have raggedy bits, as you get more texture while frying, which gives more crunch and more nooks and crannies for the custard to soak into. All in all, a superfine coming together of cultures.
Serves 4 – 6 (makes about 16 fritole)
Time: 35 minutes + 10 minutes cooling
- 50g butter, rough dice
- 2 pink lady apples, cut into 1cm chunks
- 70g castor sugar
- salt flakes and black pepper
- 200g ricotta
- zest of 1 lemon
- 100g self-raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 4 whole eggs, separated
- 250ml milk
- 250ml pouring cream
- 1 vanilla pod, split and scraped
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 20g sugar
- 80ml calvados
- vegetable oil for deep frying
- icing sugar for dusting
- Place the butter into a large frypan over a high heat, allow to melt and then add the apple. Cook, turning occasionally until the apple starts to soften (about three minutes). Add the sugar and a little seasoning, turn the heat down to medium and continue cooking, and occasionally mixing, until the apples are nicely caramelised, dark and starting to break down (about eight minutes in total).
- Once the apples are cooked, place them into a mixing bowl to cool and use a fork to break them up just a little.
- Once at room temperature add in ricotta and lemon zest and use a fork to combine. Sift in flour and baking powder and use a spatula to mix. The mixture will not, and should not, be smooth.
- Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and gently fold this through the apple mix in three batches. The first batch you can mix quite vigorously, but get a little gentler as you go.
- The mixture is ready to be fried immediately. However, it will also sit happily for hours, or even overnight.
- To make the crème anglaise, combine the egg yolks, milk, cream, vanilla, bay leaves and sugar in a small saucepan and whisk to combine. Place the saucepan over a medium heat and gently cook, stirring constantly with a spatula until the mixture thickens a little (about 12 to 15 minutes). The magic number, if you have a thermometer, is 80°C. Set this aside somewhere warm, as it will thicken the more it cools. This can be made in advance and the calvados added later (see below).
- Heat about three centimetres of oil in a medium saucepan for deep frying. You want the oil to be sitting about 150°C on a low heat. Have your oven at 100°C with a wire rack sitting over an oven tray. As you cook your fritole in batches you can rest them in the oven on this tray.
- To cook the fritole, use two dessert spoons to shape about 40-45 grams of the mix into torpedo shapes. They may be a little uneven with bits of apple sticking out. Carefully drop them into the oil and cook them in batches, turning for evenness, until dark golden (about two-and-a-half minutes).
- Once all the batter is cooked, add the calvados to your crème anglaise, mix it through and rewarm over a high heat for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly.
- Serve the fritole lightly dusted with icing sugar, either on individual plates sitting in a puddle of crème anglaise or with the crème anglaise on the side.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 28, 2022 as "Euro clash".
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