Fried Dough That Doesn’t Need a Deep Fryer

Danielle Oteri

by Danielle Oteri on June 10, 2011

photo credit: Jess Scranton

“I’m just going to fry some dough and put lots of sugar on it and eat it and hope.”

Best Facebook status update I’ve read in a long time, courtesy of a dear friend in the midst of grading Art History 101 term papers at the community college where she is a professor. Despair has set in.

It got me thinking about street fair funnel cakes, San Gennaro zeppole, and even the Ye Olde Fried Dough stand at Fort Tryon Park’s Medieval Festival. There’s something so giddily exciting about the greasy goodness of fried dough, perhaps because it’s so fleeting. As soon as it cools, you’re left wondering what you were thinking.

Much like the empanada-dumpling-pierogi-ravioli-samosa instinct to pack good food into pastry, fried dough is found in nearly every cuisine, almost always as some form of comfort food.

First, there’s the doughnut, which, when made traditionally, is nothing more than a circle of fried dough. Take it down to New Orleans, dust it with powdered sugar, and you’ve got a beignet.

In Sicily, vendors on the streets of Palermo will fry a ball of dough, slice it in half, and then stuff gelato in it. Or wait for the Feast of Saint Joseph and eat zeppole stuffed with ricotta custard. Christmas in Naples wouldn’t be the same without strufoli: fried balls of dough the size of your thumb and then drizzled in honey.

Churros are basically just fried dough, squeezed through a pastry tube and then dusted in cinnamon after emerging from their deep-fried bath. Now that it’s summer, there will surely be that woman and her kids selling churros out of a grocery cart on the 42nd Street subway platform!

Poori makes a dramatic entrance when it’s brought to your table to accompany your chana masala just before it’s pierced with a fork, deflated, and then ripped into by everyone in grabbing distance.

It’s also savory in Turkey where you would crumble feta cheese into it before frying, and a proper English breakfast would be incomplete without a piece of bread fried in bacon drippings.

But all these musings aside, I’m still left with the craving for that simple mound of fried dough found at street fairs, minus the overused vat of peanut oil. With the following recipe from the good people at King Arthur Flour, there’s no reason that I, or my haggard professor friend, can’t make it at home with nothing more than a pan on the stovetop.

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