Fried Apple Cakes
Yield: 16 slices
Growing up, I was a weird kid. I had an overactive imagination and lived in a world of my own creation. I spoke my strange mind openly and loudly, no matter the consequences. I had a taste for the flamboyant and dressed my round child body in feathers and sequins. And my best friend was a sixty-five-year-old Polish woman—my nanny, Irena.
To say I had a hard time in school would be an understatement due to all of these—shall we say—quirks. On especially tough days of ridicule, I’d come home feeling defeated. But once I walked through the door and heard the sizzling sounds of the oil frying, the intoxicating smell of sweet tart apples cooking, the entire world was transformed from a drab, gray place into technicolor. Irena had a way of using her age-worn hands for whipping up treats that could heal any wound and create a salve for the soul. But nothing matched her fried apple cakes.
As a little girl, Irena grew up in Poland during World War II. Her family was Catholic, and was incredibly outspoken about the the prosecution of and discrimination toward Jews. When I was a child, she would often recount to me the stories of her life growing up, and how her mother brought leftovers to their Jewish neighbors even when food was scarce. Or the time her father stepped in front of a Nazi holding a gun on a Jewish man, making himself a target to protect a stranger.
During these dark times, Irena’s mother treated the family to her fried apple cakes. She dipped apple slices in a mixture of flour and water and fried them in oil until they became crispy and juicy. On the most special of occasions, she went door-to-door collecting incremental amounts of precious sugar from neighbors in their apartment building to sprinkle on the hot cakes, a small luxury that would endure the worst of times.
During a moment in which we are experiencing our own unthinkable hardships, these stories of perseverance and generosity become more and more relevant. Perhaps today, as the world once again takes a stance against injustices, these apple cakes remain a symbol of hope of the power and kindness of the human spirit.
This recipe was published in The At Home Issue of Life & Thyme Post, our quarterly newspaper shipping exclusively to L&T members. Get your copy.
- 3 Granny Smith apples
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp. sugar, plus additional sugar for dusting
- 1 tsp. salt
- Pinch of cinnamon
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup of carbonated water
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- Peel and slice the apples into ½-inch rounds; stamp out the cores.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the carbonated water and egg and add into the dry mixture. Incorporate ingredients using a fork making sure not to overmix.
- In a large skillet over a medium-high flame, heat about 2 inches of vegetable oil until 350℉.
- Dip each apple slice in the batter, shaking off any excess. Gently use tongs to lower the apple into the oil and fry until deeply golden brown, for about 3 minutes. Don’t fry more than four slices at a time to avoid overcrowding.
- Once golden brown, remove the apples from the oil and set on paper towels to expel any excess oil. Immediately sprinkle with sugar while hot and continue frying the remaining apples.