By Cheryl Shaffer, Chef Instructor
July – what a terrific month! We start off with Canada Day on the 1st., celebrating with our wonderful neighbors to the North and East, then zip right into our own Independence Day celebrations on the 4th. Throughout the month we gather families and friends for reunions, church picnics, fairs, vacations, camping trips, weekend getaways, and don’t forget, great fishing. Shucks, with almost round the clock sunshine we have oodles of time over our lower 48 friends to enjoy the weather, the scenery and life in general. It’s a non-stop go time, or chill and relax atmosphere, depending on how you want to roll.
For a simple, inexpensive recipe for summer fun, how about whipping up some elephant ears, just like you’d find at the fair, but without the oversized price tag, and you control the portion size, so you can enjoy a treat without it being a total diet buster. The elephant ears can be made at the counter and savored warm or allowed to cool to room temperature, packed in a picnic hamper and eaten on the go. I honestly can’t say whether or not they would be as delicious on the second day, as I’ve never had them last that long.
To make the elephant ears, you’re going to want to assemble the following ingredients and utensils:
2 Tablespoons instant yeast (we use the Saf Instant Yeast)
1 cup warm water
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
3 Tablespoons butter
4 cups flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
vegetable oil for frying
oil or Vegalene cooking spray for the proofing bowl and plastic wrap
topping: 1 cup powdered / confectioner’s sugar
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Any of the delicious Allen & Petersen sweet sauces or jams or fresh fruit.
I used our Zojirushi round fryer, but you could also use the T-Fal Deep Fryer, or a heavy frying pan, like the All Clad or Lodge frying pans, to fry the desserts on the stove top. Now from experience, it’s easier to monitor your frying temperature using an electric frying appliance than stove top, even with a thermometer. Remember, you want to keep your oil temperature at 350’F, to ensure even frying and to keep oil from burning or if too cool, being absorbed into your food.
Now for the recipe:I used our Bosch mixer to mix and knead the dough, but you can just as easily use the Kitchen Aid stand mixer or mix and knead your dough by hand, which is a great muscle workout for your arms. (And should net you a second dessert because of the calories you burned off!). Pour the warm water into the bottom of your mixing bowl and sprinkle the sugar and yeast over the top of the water. Give it a stir, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes to ensure that the yeast is working. (It should begin to bubble and release that wonderful yeast aroma.)
In a small, microwave safe bowl, pour 1 cup of milk and heat it until the milk is warm, about 1 minute. Add the butter and salt to the warm milk to soften the butter.
Add four cups of flour and the ½ teaspoon cinnamon to the yeast / water / sugar mixture and then add the milk / butter and salt mixture, and mix.
If using a mixer, with the dough hook, mix about 5 minutes on low. The dough should come together into a ball and start getting more elastic.
Spray a medium sized bowl with vegetable spray, or lightly grease it with oil, and place the dough ball inside. Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with the non-stick spray and cover the top of the bowl.
Set the bowl into a warm area for about 1 hour, or into a proofing oven for about 30 minutes, and allow the dough to double in size.
Prepare a cutting board or area that you can roll out your elephant ears. I used confectioner’s / powdered sugar instead of flour for my non-stick medium, so that my dough would not become tough.
Pour out your dough onto the rolling surface and separate it into about 15 balls of dough.(Pinch off pieces or roll the dough into a log and slice it into 12-15 pieces.)
Using your fingers or a small rolling pin, gently pat or roll the dough balls into 1/8” rounds.
Carefully slip them into the hot oil, being careful to not crowd the pan, so that they will cook evenly and not drop your oil temperature.The dough should sizzle and brown around the edges in just a couple of minutes, then flip with a pair of tongs and allow them to brown on the second side.
When the dough is nicely golden brown, remove from the oil with the tongs and allow the excess oil to drain back into the pan. Place on a plate covered with paper towels to drain and begin cooling.
Using a sifter or shaker, shake a nice “snowfall” of powdered / confectioner’s sugar over the top of the elephant ear or shake on some of the sugar / cinnamon mixture. You can also leave the cooked dough plain and use a dessert sauce or jam spooned over the top. I think they would be delightful served with fresh fruit and whipped cream instead of a traditional shortbread biscuit. The dessert is great served warm, but even cooled to room temperature, this recipe is delicious and yields a doughnut-like pastry that holds up to being served cool later, if you wanted to transport it to a picnic or hold it for dinner later in the day. I doubled the recipe and made half of dough for a demonstration, refrigerated what I didn’t fry the first day, (being sure to cover it with plastic wrap), then brought the dough to room temperature and fried it the next day with great results.
Whether you enjoy the elephant ears the fresh, hot out of the oil, or cooled to be enjoyed later, I think the sweet, yeasty flavor and aroma is going to delight your senses and become a new favorite go-to recipe for celebrating summer in all it’s glory. Who says you have to wait for the fair to treat yourself? I’m thinking that the sunrise hike tomorrow deserves a couple of elephant ears, wrapped in foil, with some juicy, ripe peaches, to greet the morning from the top of the trail. Join me?