If I were to say the words “fair food” what items come to mind? For me it is the Gyro, fresh Corndogs, Space Burgers (a local treat) and the classic Elephant Ear. Oh how I enjoy a crispy little treat as I walk around the exhibit buildings. And since I am there all week long, I don’t know how I manage to have only one. The good news is that you can make them at home and I think you will be surprised at how easy it is.
1 pkg yeast
1 c Water (110 – 115 degrees)
1 c Milk (110 – 115 degrees)
3 Tb Sugar
1 Tb Salt
3 Tb Butter Flavored Shortening
4 1/ to 5 1/2 c Flour
Oil for Frying
6 Tb Sugar & 2 Tb Cinnamon
Total prep time: Allow 1 to 3 hours for chilling, 90 minutes for rising, 15 minutes to mix and knead. Makes 16
Please notice the temperatures on the liquids. It is very important to follow them when using yeast, no matter what the recipe. Cold water will not allow the yeast to grow. Hot water will kill it. It is best to invest a few dollars in a thermometer so you can be sure to use the correct temperatures. You can get them for about $5 at Wal Mart.
Combine the water, yeast and a tiny bit of the sugar in a small bowl. The yeast will start to bloom and you will see froth on the top. If you don’t see this happening, you either had the wrong temp on the water or the yeast is old. Far better to find out now that you need to redo the yeast then after it has been mixed with all the other ingredients.
In a bowl combine the yeast mixture, milk, remaining sugar and salt. Once it has thoroughly dissolved, add 2 cups flour and the shortening. I prefer butter flavored but you can use plain as well. Stir the batter and slowly add more flour as needed. It will become a giant, sticky mess for awhile. Keep adding a little at a time until it is smooth enough to handle, it should be pulling away from the sides of the bowl.
If you are using a mixer with the paddle, it will take the place of most of the hand kneading. Keep the mixer running for 5 minutes. Then remove the ball onto a lightly floured surface. Knead by hand for 3 additional minutes. If you have never kneaded before, this page will show you the basics.
After kneading, place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. This will keep the dough from sticking. Tightly cover the bowl and place in the fridge for 1 to 3 hours. This allows the dough to rest and will help in the rolling process. You can skip this step but the dough will keep trying to bounce back as you stretch it later on.
Remove the bowl from the fridge and place in a warm spot to rise. It will take 60 to 90 minutes to double. That means it is twice the size it was when you first placed it in the bowl. Keep it covered the entire time! It is ready when you can place a finger in the dough and the hole slightly closes up on itself, but you can still see the dent.
Lay the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into 16 equal parts. The easiest way to do this is cut the dough in half, cut each of those parts in half, and then half again.
Using your hands, flatten each section out as much as you can. Holding it up from one side, you can let the weight of the dough do some of the stretching. Just keep turinging it in yoru hands.
The key to a crispy elephant ear is to get it as thin as you can. Hands can only do so much so eventually you will need to pull out the rolling-pin. The reason we don’t start with it is because it can overwork the dough and make it chewy. Get it as thin as you can.
Your frying oil should be at least half an inch in depth and set to 375 degrees. Fry each piece of dough till it is golden brown on each side. Bubbles will form , just pierce them with a fork. If they are allowed to get too big, once you flip them all the dough won’t be touching the oil. Drain for a few seconds on a cooling rack of paper towel. Serve with your favorite topping. I don’t actually measure the cinnamon and sugar mixture as anything left over will just get used on toast.
The dough can be frozen if you don’t want to use the whole batch. Either as a single ball, or cut into pieces. If you freeze the pieces, you can remove a few at a time. Wrap the dough TIGHTLY in cellophane and then place into a freezer bag. Try to remove as much of the air as you can before sealing it. I cannot tell you how long it will last in the freezer because it never makes it longer than a month in my house.
To use, remove the dough and place on a lightly floured surface, keeping it covered the whole time. It needs to come to room temperature again before you try to roll it out.
I hope you try your hand at making elephant ears and have a little bit of the county fair at home. Let me know how it goes!