Thursday, August 6, 2015

Doughnuts, crullers, beignets: A roundup of fried pastries to salivate over

While I like to think that loving deep-fried dough treats is as American as apple pie and baseball, especially if I'm just basing it on the whole panoply of greasy goodies available in our fairs, there's actually an entire world of fried pastries waiting to be eaten.

In North America, we have the plainly named "fried dough," also known as elephant ears, doughboys, or beaver tails. This fairground staple is, as its name describes it, fried bread that can be served savory or sweet. Popular sweet toppings are powdered sugar, chocolate sauce, and the Canadian favorite, maple syrup. Tomato sauce, garlic butter, or cheese varieties are also well-liked.

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Coming to us from France by way of New Orleans are the pillowy beignets. Made from choux pastry, the beignet is often sprinkled with powdered sugar and may sometimes be filled with jam or preserved fruit.

Also from Europe are the churro, typically eaten in Spain, Portugal, and their former colonies, and the Greek loukoumades. The former comes in stick or pretzel form, and can be eaten with a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon, or dipped in hot chocolate or coffee, while the latter is drenched in sweet syrup or honey, with a dash of cinnamon powder.

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Fried pastries are also well-represented in Asia and Africa. There are the beloved Indian dessert, gulab jamun, made from fried milk solids and sweetened with syrup infused with rose fragrance or cardamom, and the light, crisp, and soft Thai crullers called pa thong ko, which are sometimes dipped in fresh soy milk or pandan cream. Meanwhile South Africans enjoy their vetkoek filled with beef or jam while their neighbors in West Africa have the black-eyed pea flour-based akara, which bears similarities to the Brazilian acaraje.

There are still many more fried pastries around the world, but truly, the American penchant for deep-frying batter is a different (but tasty) beast of its own. While we do have the aforementioned fried dough, crullers, and the ubiquitous but truly magical doughnuts, we've also come up with some truly bizarre fried foods ranging from candy bars, cheesecake, to even soda. They're not strictly pastries on their own, but I'd argue that adding dough or batter makes them more pastry-like, delicious, and worth braving the carnival crowds for.

Hello! My name is Pamela Rothe and I'm a big fan of artisan breads and pastries, doughnuts included. Learn more about my favorite baked treats by reading my blog.

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