To Make Appel Flitters

 

Who can resist an apple fritter? Alyssa and I are both crazy about the apple fritters at Reading Terminal Market. Dotties, my local doughnut shop, makes a mean vegan apple fritter. These tasty pastries are a highlight of apple picking trips (or at least stiff competition for the apple cider doughnuts). Naturally, I was thrilled when Alyssa added a recipe for “appel flitters” to our cooking list. This one comes from UPenn MS Codex 830, Eliz[abeth?] Kendrick’s recipe book which was signed and dated by its original owner in 1723.

The Recipe

Take a pint of Cream 8 eggs 4 of the whites beat them very well
together then take a peny lofe & grate it in or biskits if you
will put to it a Cofe Cup of good wine and one spoonfull or two of
wheat flower and a little Oringe flower or Rose water then put in
som white sugar Nutmeg & Salt a Cording to your pallit then mix
all thees to geather, lett your batter stand an hour before you use
It then take som pippins and par them and scope all the Core out &
Cut them in thin Sliceis pices then take lard and set it over a sharp fier &
When it is hot dip your slices of pipins in to the batter then in to the
Liquor turn them often straw white suger ouer them and serue
them up

Unlike their complex, pastry cousins, these apple fritters are battered and shallow-fried apple slices. They tasted best when they’d cooled just enough to eat without a burn risk.

Although pippins are a common apple variety in England, they’re much less common here. We used two aging honeycrisp apples I had around. Instead of using bread (penny-loaf) we used sweet, store-bought ladyfingers  (biskits) to bulk out the batter. (We’ve made our own “biskets” before.) You might need to adjust the sugar if you use grated bread. We opted for rosewater over orange blossom water and neutral frying oil instead of lard.

Our Recipe

Even halved, this recipe made enough batter to coat six (or even eight?) apples. We cooked up two in our test and had lots of leftover batter.

1 C heavy cream
4 eggs, (2 whole, 2 whites)
4 ladyfingers, crumbled
1/3 C white wine
1 T flour
1 t rosewater
2 T sugar
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t salt
apples, peeled cored, and sliced into 1/2 inch wedges
1/3 C neutral oil (like canola) for frying

Whip together the cream, egg whites, and eggs in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine the crumbled ladyfingers, wine, flower, rosewater, sugar, and spices. When the cookies are soft, add this mix to the cream mix and stir to combine. The batter will be somewhat clumpy. Let it sit for an hour.

After the dough has rested, prepare your apples. In a sturdy, high-sided pot, heat your oil. (We used a dutch oven to prevent oil spatter.) Dip apples in the batter and cook in the oil for 1 minute on each side (until the outside is brown).

Consume immediately!

The Results

Spicy, sweet, fried apples: A radical transformation of those apples in the bottom of my fridge. The frying process was fun to do together and could be a nice activity for a rainy weekend afternoon. I think these apples would be especially delicious on top of vanilla ice cream or served with this syllabub.

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To Make fry’d Cream

Confession: I don’t love rosewater. Or orange flower water. To me they’re like cilantro – I’m just happier without them. And yet, because of this project, flower waters have become a fixture in my baking rotation, flavoring treats like Portugal Cakes and Artificial Potatoes. (Early modern recipes use flower waters when we might more readily use vanilla extract, for instance, which would have been cheaper and more readily available.) So, this time I decided to give myself a little vacation from floral tastes. Something easy, something that didn’t make me sigh and reach for the rosewater again.

I also wanted to check out a recipe book we hadn’t explored yet. It’s easy to play favorites – I’m looking at you, Ms. Codex 1038 – but the Kislak Center’s holdings include many others. I recently spent a pleasant morning going through some of these, including UPenn Ms. Codex 830. Unlike most of the recipe books we’ve cooked from so far, it is identified as the property of one person, Eliz. Kendrick. The title page displays her name, 1723, and a striking calligraphy drawing of a bird.

Eliz Kendrick bird

Kendrick’s book includes a higher than usual concentration of recipes for wines: damson, balm, raisin, elderflower, sage, lemon, gooseberry, birch. I’m not feeling quite adventuresome enough – yet – to turn to winemaking, but my curiosity about the taste of sage wine might eventually win out. Kendrick also includes many recipes for baked good like “Appel flitters [i.e., fritters],” “Biskets Cousins Hobbs way,” and “A Rich Cake,” which calls for 25 eggs. (The “Exelent Cake” on the same page only calls for 20 eggs, in case you’re feeling stingy.) I added a few of these to my to-be-made file but stopped short when I flipped to a recipe “To make fry’d Cream.” Fried cream? SOLD.

The Recipe

fry'd cream image

To Make fry’d Cream

A poynt of cream [th]e yolks of 4 Eggs a glas of wine, Nutmeg and Sugar
Mix them all to goather, Stir it oufer [th]e fier till it is hott [then] take
It of, and putt in thin Slices of bread lett it ly in half an hour
take it out in [th]e wole Slices, whet as much of [th]e Cream upon it
as you Can then it, as it is a frying power the rest of [th]e Cream
Upon it if aney be lost

Our Recipe

[halved from the original]

1 c. heavy cream
2 egg yolks
1/2 c. white wine
1 tbsp. sugar
scant 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
6 slices bread (thicker slices, around 1/2″, will hold together better than thin slices)

Arrange the bread slices in a pie dish or other heatproof vessel, even a rimmed baking sheet. Depending on the size of your vessel, they might overlap, but try not to have more than two layers. Heat all other ingredients over low-med. heat, whisking frequently, just until small bubbles form along the edges of the pan and the mixture is hot to the touch. Pour slowly over the bread slices, trying to distribute the liquid evenly. Press down gently on the bread with a fork to soak each piece; cover loosely with foil or plastic wrap and let sit 30 mins. Flip the slices and press down on them a few times while they’re soaking to make sure each piece is saturated.

Heat a nonstick frying pan or griddle on med. heat. Carefully lift one slice of bread at a time and place it in the pan; once you have fit as many slices as possible, pour a few tablespoons of the soaking liquid over them. Fry for 3-4 mins. on one side, flip over, then fry for 2-3 mins. on the other side, until they’ve picked up some color, like french toast. Serve warm.

The Results

Not surprisingly, fried cream turns out to be like a very rich, slightly boozy, soft french toast. The white wine and high proportion of heavy cream make this a heavy-hitting dish; I’m no lightweight when it comes to rich food, but I managed about half a slice before needing a breather. The main difference between fried cream and french toast is that fried cream has a higher cream-to-egg ratio, producing a softer, wetter result.

It’s unclear when in the day Kendrick and her contemporaries might have eaten this fried cream. We think of french toast as a breakfast/brunch option, and fried cream would certainly work for a decadent brunch, alongside fruit and coffee. Minus the sugar, it would also make a simple dinner with a green salad plus vinaigrette. (Whenever you eat it, I think some acidic accompaniment to cut the richness would be helpful.) I really liked the tangy addition of white wine to the soaking mixture – something a little different from other boozy french toasts made with bourbon or liqueurs like Grand Marnier.

I used sourdough in 1/4″ slices, but these were really too thin to hold together well after soaking; I think the thicker 1/2″ slice would be easier to work with. A denser white or multigrain loaf, even challah, would work well – anything you’d like for french toast.

It would be easy to play with the spices here, adding other flavors to the nutmeg. Cinnamon would work, of course, and ginger in the winter might be nice. You could also infuse the cream with a vanilla bean, cinnamon sticks, or another flavor before adding the other ingredients. Some orange zest would be lovely. And while I have no qualms about heavy cream, substituting milk for maybe half of the cream might lighten things up a bit. Just a bit – the recipe IS called “fry’d Cream,” after all. Light it isn’t.