If you're 30 years old or older, you've got to admit it—the McDonald's apple pies of your youth were some of the awesomest hot and sweet treats out there. Gooey, sweet, cinnamon-y filling with little chunks of soft apple, all encased in a flaky, crispy, deep-fried crust. There are a lot of things that McDonald's does wrong, but deep-frying isn't one of them.
Then, in 1992, the unthinkable happened: Ronald replaced his beloved fried apple pies with the vastly inferior, modern baked version. Pale and doughy, they simply don't compare with the apple pies of my youth. Now, I know that there are still a few McDonald's locations that deep fry their pies, and if you're one of the lucky few who live near such a franchise, you should count your blessings. (Here's a website that'll help you locate 'em). But what are the rest of us to do?
Answer: Fry 'em ourselves.
My initial goal was to see if a nice McDonald's store manager would be willing to give me a raw apple pie so that I could throw it in the fryer myself. Unfortunately, as I found out in my previous attempts at pulling one over on The Clown, it's not an easy task to get your hands on raw materials (see The Burger Lab: How to Make Perfect Thin and Crisp French Fries).
I had to settle for re-frying an already-baked pie instead.
For my first attempt, I simply dropped the apple pie into a pot of vegetable oil at 375°F—pretty normal frying range for things like empanadas and other stuffed pastries.
Unfortunately, I didn't account for the dusting of sugar and cinnamon that the pies have on their exterior. It rapidly burned, producing a pie that was crisp, but burnt to the point of being inedible.
Turns out the key is to go low and slow. A three minute bath in 300°F oil produced a crisp crust with the deep, burnished hue that immediately took me back to my childhood. Now that's the apple pie I remember!
This is now the second time I've fried fast food at home to produce a superior finished product (see re-fried Popeye's Fried Chicken).
Question of the day: Is there any piece of fast food that is not improved by deep frying?
Some serious investigation is in order.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.