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But what’s perhaps more synonymous with summers in the U.S. is the blooming of state fairs scattered around the country. Here, deep-fried butter thrust onto sticks and browned corn dogs stamped with a curl of mustard are a paradigm of Americana. And then there’s the crowning glory of all state fair food creations: the funnel cake.
Not planning to hit your state fair this year but still want to replicate its classic elegance-meets-the-unwashed-masses dessert? You can, armed with Walt Disney Company’s former pastry chef George Geary’s cookbook Fair Foods.
Geary’s colorful cookbook is a celebration of kitsch, walking home cooks through some of the most quintessential fair snacks, like bacon-wrapped tater tots, barbecue turkey legs, and frozen cheesecake on a stick.
Below, chef George shares a recipe for the ultimate state fair-style funnel cake. His version calls for plenty of butter, sugar, and eggs (warning: This isn’t for the faint of heart), along with a big stock pot filled with canola oil. Once you’ve whipped up your buttery batter, you’ll pour it into a pastry bag, then pipe curly logs into the hot oil, flipping each piece over every 30 seconds until puffed and golden.
You could go ahead and eat these plain — they’re that good — or pile the cakes together into one large mountain, crowned with a splattering of whipped cream and sugary berries. That is, after all, what a slice of Americana tastes like.
Makes: 6–10 funnel cakes
Ingredients for the cake
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 cup cool water
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
- 2 large egg whites
- Canola oil
- Powdered sugar
Ingredients for the berry topping
- 1 quart fresh berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and/or blackberries)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- Pinch of sea salt
- Make the Berry Topping. In a bowl, combine berries, sugar, and salt. Let stand for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the funnel cake. Combine butter, water, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and quickly stir in flour. Return the pan to low heat and cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes to cook the flour slightly and rid the mixture of a starchy, floury taste.
- Remove the pan from the heat and place the dough in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until most of the steam subsides, then add the eggs and egg whites, one at a time, until each is incorporated and a batter is formed.
- Pour 3 inches of oil into a stockpot and heat to 350°F (176°C).
- Meanwhile, place the batter in a pastry bag fitted with a round pastry tip no wider than 1/4 inch in diameter.
- Holding the pastry bag over the hot oil, push the batter out into the hot oil in a zigzag or spiral shape. Fry no more than 1 large or 2 smaller funnel cakes at a time.
- Fry the cakes until puffed up and golden (they will triple in size), 3–5 minutes, flipping every 30 seconds or so.
- Drain the cakes on a rack and cool slightly, then sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and Berry Topping.
Put the “fun” in funnel cake with these topping additions
- colored sprinkles
- a simple glaze of 1 cup powdered sugar + 2 tablespoons milk or lemon juice
- a dusting of cinnamon sugar
- whipped cream
- crushed cookies, such as Oreos, plus chocolate sauce
- apples and caramel sauce
- warm pie filling, like cherry or peach
- your favorite fruity cereal