“You could build an empire on those fritters!” Those are the words I would quote in a court of law, proving without a doubt that my husband loved the fritters at first bite. Even after the fifth bite, he was grinning like a kid. It was only 5 minutes later, after I told him the truth about the fritters, that he tried to change his tune.
It comes down to apples. We’re just never going to see eye to eye on apples. I bake. And Gus loves apple desserts. The expectations of that arrangement are obvious. But I’m afraid I’m not interested in complying.
But the other day, Gus suggested apple fritters. Who can deny a fritter? Fried yeasty doughnut magic. Like those big, fat, knobby monstrosities that we loved as kids. I figured I could put aside my dislike of apple treats for one week. It is fall, after all. I gave it a shot. The first apple fritter attempt wasn’t bad. I had some dough tweaks in mind for the next round. Gus tasted one and agreed that it was a little dense. We discussed the crumb and few other tweaks. But I didn’t mention the crucial change I had in mind.
Thus commenced Operation Secret Pear Fritter. It was a covert mission and the stakes were high. One whiff of the plan and Gus would be sure to shut it down. The mission was need-to-know only. Pear and I were staging a coup. Apple's reign was over.
Two nights ago, Gus went out for a run. Perfect time to hit the supermarket. I bought some firm Bosc pears, wrapped them in an opaque bag, and put them in the fridge. By the time he came home, I was kneading the dough for the second batch of fritters and he was none the wiser. I deflected any interest he had in the fruit by talking about the dough and Gus promptly tuned me out. First step of the mission accomplished.
The next morning, Gus started asking fritter-related questions. I deflected. I asked him questions about the conference he was planning on attending this weekend. Instead of digging into my baking project first thing as usual, I patiently waited for the opposition faction to depart. And then, when my sweet, totally ignorant husband left for work, I got down to business.
The result was fritter gold. Crisp on the outside. Warm and tender on the inside. Studded with perfect, floral, luscious pears. After gorging on a hot one, dripping with glaze, I set the others aside for Gus. When he came home, he was thrilled. He took a first bite and declared them a great success. He starting hatching plans for us to sell them at soccer games and bake sales and rake in millions. Fritter fortunes to fritter. He was ready to start building our empire.
And then I dropped the bomb on him. He never saw it coming. The apple fritters he so loved were actually made with pears. And they were better. And just like that pear is in. Apple is out. All hail the new queen of fall.
The dough rests overnight so be sure to plan ahead. You could make the pear filling the day before as well.
Makes 12 fritters (but should probably serve 24 to 36...)
For the dough:
1/2 cup whole milk
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and the surface
1 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the bowl
oil for frying
For the pear mixture:
2 small Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and diced
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons whole milk
1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat just until bubbles form around the edge. Transfer the milk to a small bowl and let it cool to about 110°F degrees.
2. Meanwhile in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
3. Add the egg to the milk and whisk to combine. With a wooden spoon, add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir it into a ball. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough until it is smooth, about 5 minutes. You can add a little bit more flour at this point if necessary. (Remember, pudgy babies.)
4. Next knead the butter into the dough, piece by piece, using a bench scraper to scrape the butter back into the dough as you knead. The dough will seem sticky and buttery but don’t add more flour. Just keep kneading and stretching the dough until the butter is completely absorbed and the dough is smooth. Pop the dough into a buttered bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
5. The next day, prepare the pear mixture. Toss the pears with the cider vinegar. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium. Sprinkle the sugar over the melted butter and cook, stirring, until the sugar turns deep golden brown. (The butter and sugar may separate. Don’t worry.) Add the pears and toss to combine. Cook until the pears release some of their juice and are just tender but still hold their shape, 1 to 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pears to a plate. Cook the remaining liquid down until thick and syrupy, about 3 minutes more. Drizzle the caramel over the pears and toss gently to combine. Let cool to room temperature.
6. Pull the dough out of the fridge. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a large rectangle, with the short sides at the bottom and the top, about 1/4 inch thick. Use a slotted spoon to transfer half the pears to the bottom half of the rectangle. Leave most of the pear liquid behind. Fold the top half of the dough over the bottom half. Press the dough down to seal in the pears. Spread the rest of the pears, without too much of that liquid, on the right half of the dough square. Then fold the left half of the dough over the pears and press to seal. Roll this into a ball and transfer it to a buttered bowl, cover lightly, and set aside to double.
7. On a floured surface, tip the doubled dough out and press it into a big square. Use the bench scraper to cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a rough ball as best you can. Don’t worry if they seem messy or pears pop out. Just smoosh them back together and proceed. Transfer the blobs to butttered parchment-lined baking sheets. (You can see that I tried to use floured dishtowels in the pictures but they stuck. I’m hoping the parchment is a better solution.) Cover lightly with plastic and let stand until puffed.
8. Heat three inches of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot to 360°F. Meanwhile, whisk together the glaze ingredients. Add more milk or a little water if necessary. It should be runny.
9. Very carefully transfer a puffed blob to a large spider or large spatula and lower it into the oil. Add a few more blobs but don’t crowd the pan. Cook until they are golden brown and puffed, 2 to 3 minutes, flipping halfway through. Make sure to maintain the oil temperature at between 350° to 360°. Lift the fritters out with the spider and set them on a paper-towel lined baking sheet for about 3 minutes.
10. Transfer the fritters to a rack and use a pastry brush to cover them in glaze. Devour hot or at room temperature.