Column: Fry bread, beignets and churros

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Around the world, most cultures have some type of deep fried bread, either yeast raised or quick breads. Many are sweets for dessert or as snacks, but others are neutral, to be eaten as part of the main meal such as Indian fry bread.

Italian Fried Bread

Rowena P. wrote recently asking for a recipe for fried Italian dough. Asking my Italian friends, I was told this was a sweet made from pizza dough. Fried dough, doughnuts, and any fried bread-like product is best cooked with the oil at 360F. Hotter and the outside tends to over brown and a cooler temperature will allow the dough to absorb the fat, making it most unappetizing. This dough will make good hard rolls, pizza crust and fried bread. It differs from raised doughnut dough in that it consists only of water, yeast, flour, salt and a very little sugar.

1/3 cup lukewarm water

1 package dry yeast

1/8 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup warm water

3-1/2 to 4 cups flour

In a large deep mixing bowl, place 1/3 cup warm water and stir in yeast letting it blend 3 to 5 minutes. Add sugar, salt and 1 cup of warm water, stirring. Add 2 cups of the flour and beat vigorously until a smooth batter is formed. Reserve 1/2 cup of the flour for later and blend in the remaining flour. Lightly dust your work board with some of the reserved flour, turn out the dough, lightly dust with flour and rest a couple of minutes. Then knead the dough about 10 to 15 minutes until it is elastic and the gluten is developed. The gluten is what traps the yeast gases, making the dough rise. Use only a bit of the flour just so it doesn't stick too much to your hands. Let rise, covered, in a large bowl until doubled, about one hour. This will make about a dozen hard rolls, two 12-inch pizzas or a couple dozen fried breads. When risen, turn out on a lightly dusted board, roll to about 1/2 inch thick, cut as you desire, place on a greased sheet, dust very lightly with flour and cover with a towel until raised about double. Fry a few at a time in 360F oil, turning when nicely browned and fry until done. Drain on paper towels and dust in a plastic bag with confectioner's sugar or granulated sugar with cinnamon.

Beignets or French Market Doughnuts

Anyone who has been to New Orleans learns about these delightful confections served in La Monde or other French Market coffee houses. La Monde is the place to go late at night for hot beignets and cafe au lait. This recipe makes about 5 dozen, but the dough will keep for about a week in the refrigerator. Prepare the night before you wish to make your beignets.

1-1/2 cups warm water

1 package dry yeast

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 cup canned evaporated milk (no substitutes)

7 cups flour

1/4 cup vegetable shortening

oil for deep frying

confectioners' sugar

In a large bowl, stir yeast into water until dissolved. Add sugar, salt, eggs and milk stirring well. Add 4 cups flour and beat until smooth. Beat in soft shortening, then beat in flour about 1/3 cup at a time until too stiff to stir. Blend in remaining flour by hand. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Roll the dough on a floured surface to 1/8 inch, cut in rectangles 2-1/2 inches by 3-1/2 inches. Heat oil to 360F. Fry a few at a time until puffed and golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and hold in a 200F oven until ready to serve. Sprinkle with sugar and serve hot.

Cafe au Lait

Luzianne coffee is perhaps the closest one can fine to New Orleans chicory-laced very dark roasted coffee. To come close, buy freshly ground very dark roasted coffee and make it strong.

6 to 8 cups hot coffee

3 cups whole milk

1/3 to 1/2 cup heavy cream

Bring milk and cream to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Fill large cups or mugs 1/3 full of coffee, then add hot milk and cream until 2/3 full. Always pour the coffee first.

Churros or Spanish Fritters

On the streets of Tijuana I first tried these tasty hot fritters right out of the big sugar tray beside the frying pan of a street vendor. I have never made them myself, but understand this recipe is genuine. Some use only granulated sugar, but I like them best with cinnamon added to the sugar. Serve with hot Mexican chocolate for a fine snack or dessert. In Mexico, they use a specially made squirt gun to form the churros, but a large 1/2 or 3/8 fluted or star tube on a decorator's bag will work.

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon safflower or canola oil

1 cup flour

1 large egg

oil for frying

granulated sugar and cinnamon

In a 1-1/2 quart saucepan place water, milk, salt and oil and bring to a boil. Add flour, lower the heat and beat vigorously with a spoon until a stiff dry ball forms. Place in the large bowl of a mixer, cool about 5 minutes, then beat on medium-high speed for a minute until the dough softens then beat in the egg. Continue beating until it comes together into a smooth mixture. Let cool. Heat oil to 350F in an 8 or 9 inch skillet. Place dough in the decorating bag and squeeze out 3 to 4 inch lengths of dough directly into the hot oil cutting off the dough with a knife. Cook several at a time until golden brown on one side, then brown the other side. Keep the oil hot to ensure the churros cook through. Drain and coat in a pan of plain sugar or sugar and cinnamon. Serve hot.

Need a recipe? Have a cooking question? E-mail or write Ada Roelke, The Nevada Appeal, 200 Bath St., Carson City 89702.


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