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.
From King Arthur Flour
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Makes 8 servings
- 2 cups (8 1/2 oz.) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and well chilled
- 1/2-3/4 cup warm water
- vegetable oil
In a large bowl, stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Using your fingers, incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients until the flour is the texture of moist cornmeal. (It feels good when it’s hot outside.) Add the water, starting with 1/2 cup and then drizzling in additional water a tablespoon at a time, until a soft dough forms. Cover the bowl with a plate or towel and let it rest for 15 minutes.
On a floured work surface, divide the dough into 8 pieces and cover with a damp towel. Flatten each piece into a thin (1/8-1/4 inch) round with your hands or a rolling pin.
Cover the bottom of a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed skillet with a thin layer of vegetable oil and heat over high heat until the oil starts to sizzle.
Carefully place one dough round at a time in the hot oil and fry for 45 to 60 seconds per side or until puffy and golden. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate before serving.