Fried and Sugared

Fried dough, blistered and crowned with sugar, really should only be considered treat food for kids. Not that I didn’t scarf the corners of this disk until little of the middle remained. (Oh, I did.) But I’m saying that you don’t make fried and sugared bread dough unless you’ve earmarked it for someone who can use

Cultures the world round have such snacks. The French soak bread in cream and toss it in sparkly sugar. In the Middle East, fried dough gets a dunk in sugar syrup. The Anishinaabeg, my neighbors to the west, send fry bread into the sugar bin (maple or white) as well.

My grandma often reserved a ball of dough for frying when she made a batch of white potato bread. She’d divide it into balls, pat them into circles, and fry them in a shallow pool of bubbling oil until the dough puffed and rode high on its brown bubbles. Then she’d set it on a pad of toweling to drain, douse  it with sugar, and throw it to the hungry children.

I have heard this story countless times from my mother, and I’ve heard the same rendition from lots of other people who had grandmothers, or mothers, or aunts, who made homemade bread. So when my six-year-old burst into the house after school the other day, the pan was hot and the bread dough was already bobbing in the oil. (One thing I’ve learned this year: this kindergartner needs his after-school snack immediately.)

As usual, it was a mistake that led to this discovery. This dough, intended as a flatbread for the grill—but made with all-purpose flour instead of bread flour, only because I ran out—was too soft and flabby for much else. But frying at high heat is a kind of miracle fixer. When the droopy dough hit the oil it blew out as if inflated, the edges grew crisp, and the insides stayed soft, moist, and webbed.

This was not a cheesy after-school snack—“cheesy” being the current standard requirement for all of his meals—but my hungry guy devoured the warm sugary bread anyway. The genetic pull must have been strong.

Fried Flatbread3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
Pinch of sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Canola oil

Stir together the yeast, 1/2 cup of warm water, and a pinch of sugar in a large bowl and leave to sit for 10 minutes. When foamy, add the rest of the water, the oil, salt and 1 cup flour. Whisk until smooth. Switch to a wooden spoon and add the rest of the flour, stirring until smooth and combined.

Cover the bowl with a towel and leave to rise at room temperature for 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Transfer the dough to an oiled ziploc bag and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours and as long as 3 days.

Heat a large cast-iron pan over medium-high heat and add oil to reach 1/2 inch up the sides. Divide the dough into 8 equal portions, and on a heavily oiled sheet tray, pat each one out into circle. (It’s up to you, but mine were about 6 inches in diameter. )

When the oil is hot, carefully fry the bread dough one disk at a time, until evenly dark golden brown. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with sugar, and serve immediately.

(Knowing my grandma, I can be quite sure she also buttered this bread before dusting with sugar; I’m not directing, just throwing that out there. )

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