Recipes so good it oughta' be a sin!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fry Bread

I'd never had this until I moved to Arizona. We have a similar sweet down south called "Elephant Ears." They're considered "Fair Food" meaning that you eat them at the fair in the Fall. But Elephant Ears are more of a doughnut texture than this Fry Bread. Yet Fry Bread seems to be the choice in the Southwest as you can't go to any public festival without seeing vendors cooking it up. I've learned that despite it's festival appeal as a sweet it has also been traditionally used like flatbreads to serve as a basis for sandwiches, salads, or other non-sweet dishes!

The basis of the recipe I use came from an article on food history at the Smithsonian website. The first time I made this I went right by the recipe and, while it was OK, it wasn't my idea of good - even after I'd put cinnamon, sugar and whatever else I could find on it!

So, I started experimenting with the recipe and came up with what you'll find below. I do NOT recommend leaving this bread out very long. It has a tendency to get really tough and chewy when exposed to air or humidity. If you're going to keep it even overnight make sure you use an airtight container. Even then, I won't promise you it'll be as good. If you must make this in advance of entertaining, it's best to just make the dough first, seal it in plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge. Let it warm up to room temperature when you take it out before you start working with it though.

This is best served warm and eaten right away.


3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups warm water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Extra flour for processing

For optional coating:

1/2 cup Confectioner's Sugar
1/8 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Ginger

To make the dough thoroughly blend the flour with the baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl or on a suitable, clean working surface. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the warm water in the center of the well. Work the flour mixture into the water with a wooden spoon, or use your hands. Gently knead the dough into a ball and form it into a roll about 3 inches in diameter. Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel to prevent drying and let the dough relax for a minimum of 10 minutes.

To form the bread, place the dough on a cutting board. Cut the dough with a dough cutter or sharp knife into desired thickness. This process of cutting helps keep your portion sizes consistent. Once you have determined the size, begin cutting in the center of the roll and continue the halving process until all of the portions have been sliced. Cover the pieces of dough with a dry, clean towel while you process each piece to prevent drying. Place some flour in a shallow pan to work with when rolling out the dough. Lightly dust each piece of dough and then place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. With a rolling pin, roll each piece to about 1/4-inch thickness. Place each finished piece in the flour, turn and lightly coat each piece, gently shaking to remove the excess flour. Stack the rolled pieces on a plate as you complete the process. Cover with a dry towel until ready to cook.

Now, traditionally these are fried in a skillet with about an inch or two of oil (I use Canola Oil for all my frying). However, since I keep a deep fryer at the ready because I love French Fries, I find it works just as well. You just have to make some adjustments for size of pieces. If you go the deep fryer route, keep your oil temperature around 350. Fry each piece, being sure not to overcrowd your skillet or fryer. Cook it 2 to 3 minutes per side. It should be a nice light brown/blond color when it's done.

If you want just plain old bread (which I find bland and uninteresting) then just put them on a paper towel to cool and bit, brush with a touch of butter and have at it. If you're like me and need a little more taste for this simple dough (plus... more sugar!) then you can use my ingredients for a coating above. Those measurements are just guesses, y'all. I just throw those things in a bag and then drop each piece in as it's done and give it a big shake to coat it. Then let it cool on a paper towel.

If you use the skillet and make some nice large round bread you can always use fruit compotes, jams, or even strawberries and whipped cream to top your frybread.

So, there it is y'all. A traditional Native American recipe from the Southwest given a little Southern spin with the addition of sugar and spices!

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