Prudence Hilburn: Funnel cakes range from sweet to savory
Funnel cakes are special sweet treats that are enjoyed by young and old alike. I will never forget the first time I tasted a funnel cake. This special treat reminded me of beignets that I enjoyed in New Orleans. Perhaps it was because both snacks are fried and then generously dusted with powdered sugar.
When making funnel cakes, I like to use self-rising flour, which makes preparation easier. As the name implies, to make funnel cakes, you need a funnel. It is best if the hole in the funnel has at least a 3/8-inch opening.
Funnel cakes are very versatile, and the flavor can be changed just by substituting another liquid for the milk. Personally, I think a cinnamon apple funnel cake would be delicious. For this, I would substitute apple juice for the milk and add just a hint of cinnamon. If you prefer, you can sprinkle the hot funnel cake with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.
I also think a chocolate peanut butter funnel cake would be delicious. For that one, I would probably combine chocolate milk with a little peanut butter, stirring until smooth.
After I started experimenting with funnel cakes, I decided to see if I could make a savory one. The result was my Fiesta Funnel Cake. For a portion of the liquid, I used picante sauce. A generous sprinkling of Monterey Jack cheese over the hot funnel cake adds the final touch.
For a pizza funnel cake, use pizza sauce for the liquid and add anything you like on a pizza, sprinkling the hot funnel cake with mozzarella cheese. A food processor is needed for mixing these savory versions to make the batter smooth enough to flow evenly through the funnel.
Whether you choose sweet or savory, funnel cakes are fun to make and a delight to eat.
1 1/3 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
Oil for frying
Powdered sugar for sprinkling over top
Pour oil into electric skillet to about 1/2-inch deep. Heat to 375 degrees. Combine the eggs and milk in a mixing bowl. Beat until blended. Add sugar and flour. Beat until smooth. Cover the bottom of the funnel with your finger. Pour about 1/4 to 1/3 cup batter into funnel. Hold the funnel over the skillet. Remove your finger and release the batter in a spiral motion. Fry until golden brown on one side. Carefully turn the funnel cake over and brown other side. Remove from oil and drain well on paper towels. Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve warm.
Fiesta Funnel Cakes
1 cup self-rising flour
1/4 cup self-rising cornmeal
1/2 cup picante sauce (mild or hot)
6 tablespoons milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
Oil for frying
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Combine the flour, cornmeal, picante sauce, milk and egg in the bowl of a food processor, fitted with the steel blade. Process until smooth.
Heat oil in electric skillet to 375 degrees. Oil should be at least 1/2-inch deep. Cover the bottom opening of a funnel with your finger. Pour about 1/4 cup of the batter into the funnel. Hold the funnel over the skillet. Remove your finger and move the funnel in a slow, circular motion to form a spiral. Fry each funnel cake about 1 minute or until edges are golden brown. Turn the funnel cake over and fry the other side until golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper. Immediately sprinkle each funnel cake with 1/4 cup of the cheese. Serve while still warm and crispy. Makes about 6 funnel cakes.
Prudence Hilburn of Piedmont, Alabama, has won more than 30 national cooking awards and written several cookbooks, including “Simply Southern and More.” Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit prudencehilburn.com.