For many Americans, going to the state or county fair is as much a summer tradition as baseball and fireworks on the Fourth of July. Despite the searing heat and sweaty crowds, we flock to the fair to enjoy the carnival games, rides, attractions, and, of course, the food. For me, the food is only one reason to go. Shocking, right? I can skip the games (I’m way too old for stuffed animals), the rides (I never understood the appeal of spinning really fast while suspended in mid-air), and the animals (too smelly, too hot, and ewww, too smelly). I just can’t skip the corn dogs, grilled corn, and, of course, the funnel cake!
No trip to the fair is complete without funnel cake. I can’t resist, no matter how much I try. For crying out loud, it’s deep-fried, sugar-coated, and topped with whipped cream so it’s absolutely irresistible. Since one order is big enough for three adults, I can only eat about a quarter of it before I feel a bit sick to my stomach from all the greasy, fried food I’ve already eaten. Right about then, I swear that I’d never eat another one. Yet, the next year, I’m right back in line, giddy with the deep-fried sugar rush that’s about to hit me.
I’m not sure if it’s a good thing that I have finally learned how to make funnel cakes at home (or corn dogs, for that matter), but it’s nice to know that when that craving hits, I can.
Yields 2 to 3 servings
8 cups vegetable oil for frying
1 1/2 cups milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
zest of 1 medium-sized orange
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup powdered sugar, for garnish
fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and quartered, for garnish
Whipped cream, for garnish
In a deep-fryer, or heavy skillet, heat the vegetable oil to 375 degrees F.
In a large bowl, beat the milk, eggs, and vanilla paste or extract together. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, orange zest, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the milk/egg mixture and stir until well incorporated and smooth.
Pour one cup of batter in a funnel, covering the funnel hole with one finger. Starting from the center, swirl the batter in the hot oil, making a circle around 6 or 7 inches in diameter. Fry on both sides until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes per side.
Remove and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and top with strawberries and whipped cream. Serve immediately.
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