Your kids won’t be the only ones who instantly gobble up these chubby, slightly sweet, airy puffs of golden dough. In most cases, the first bite will expose a deep pocket, which becomes the perfect scoop for the luscious sauce of curried dishes. Now, the tricky part: The oil must be hot enough or the dough won’t puff correctly, and if the oil is too hot, the dough can easily burn because the sugar makes it sensitive to heat. A few darker spots, though, add to the overall flavor. After you make these once or twice, you’ll get the hang of it. And, whether or not they puff, these taste great. Oh, and I don’t use a cast iron skillet to fry these, because I find the darker heat-retentive interior makes it more likely to cause the dough to scorch.
- 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder
- 2/3 to 3/4 cup very warm tap water (almost hot)
- Flavorless vegetable oil or light peanut oil
To assemble the dough
In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the water and oil. Whisk to lighten and thoroughly mix. Sift into another bowl. Slowly pour in the water, while using the fingertips of your other hand to blend the wet and dry ingredients.
To knead the dough
Begin to knead dough (inside the bowl) until it forms a mass. Turn out mass onto a lightly floured wooden board and continue to knead in a push, fold and turning motion until smooth, elastic, and not sticky. If necessary, as you work dough, lightly dust board with additional flour to prevent sticking. If dough sticks during kneading, use a pastry scraper to remove it cleanly from the board. Cover dough and allow it to rest and relax for 15 to 30. If desired, dust the dough with a bit of flour and wrap in un-greased plastic wrap. This way, the dough can rest for up to 1 hour, without forming a skin.
To cut and roll the dough
Using a pastry scraper, cut dough into 4 equal sections. Shape each section into a smooth ball and cover the remaining balls while you work with 1 at a time. Flatten 1 ball of dough and roll it out on a lightly floured board until 5 to 6 inches in diameter and about 1/4 inch thick (not too thin or thick). Using a pastry scraper, divide the circle of dough into 4 equal wedges and cover while you roll and cut the rest. When completed, you will have 16 pieces in all.
To set up for frying
Line a tray or shallow baking sheet with a double thickness of paper toweling. Line a serving basket with a pretty napkin. Heat 1/2 inch vegetable oil in a 12-inch skillet until 365o F. If not using a thermometer, the oil should shimmer but never smoke; add a small piece of bread and, if it quickly sizzles and turns golden, the oil is ready. Adjust oil while frying to avoid burning.
One at a time, ease some of the triangles (in batches) into the hot oil, allowing each to sit free without touching another. Within 30 seconds, the dough should begin to puff through the center (the size of each puff will vary). Cook on the first side until uniformly golden but not burnt, 1 or 2 minutes, then turn triangles over and fry on the other side, going for the same color.
To drain and serve
Remove each batch and drain on prepared paper towels. Continue to fry the remaining triangles of dough and serve hot.
Timing is Everything
Although, for best enjoyment, these puffs should be served soon after frying, you can combine and sift your dry mixture early in the day (or days before needed). Give the mixture a good swish with a whisk before adding water.
The dough can be fully assembled an hour ahead of being cut, rolled and fried, and kept covered with un-greased plastic wrap, at room temperature.