Kitchen Call: Send in the cones
In the U.S., most ice cream is scooped into cones, but in other parts of the world, cones might be made of paper and certainly are not edible.
In Belgium, every citizen knows that the French did not invent crunchy, salty deep-fried potatoes. In that French- and Dutch-speaking country, they are properly called by their rightful name, frites. That word announces itself on food stands in every city, never needing translation. It beckons customers to carry them away in cones formed of heavy white paper. They are picked up with the fingers and dipped into the mayonnaise topping. Delicious street food.
Chocolate shops in Brussels and Bruges also use paper cones to display chocolate-dipped strawberries in their windows. Eating them while walking isn’t risky in this cool-weather country where it rarely gets hot enough to melt the chocolate on a stroll around town.
At the central train station in Antwerp, commuters ignore the grand architecture to hurry up the stairs and stop, at the risk of missing their connection, for a cardboard cone of fresh, sweet strawberries topped with whipped cream. The whipped cream is just barely sweetened, not highly sugared to allow the flavor of the strawberries to shine.
Here at home, cones find a place at the Greek festivals as walk-around packaging for bite-sized puffs of deep fried dough drizzled with honey, called loukomathes. The puffs are warm and light and more delicious than a glazed doughnut. Those in the know spend their summers on the lookout for signs announcing Greek picnics near city churches and on country roads all summer long.
The non-ice cream cone has found its way into restaurant dining rooms where they replace the bread basket. The vertical stainless steel or wrought iron cone-shaped baskets, lined with a second cone of loosely formed parchment paper, leave more space on the table for the main course.
The most festive cones are not filled with food at all. They make their appearance at weddings. White or colored paper, sometimes plain, other times lacy, they are filled to the brim with rose petals and passed among wedding guests. The petals are tossed in the air over the bride and groom on their way out of the ceremony, making a rainbow of wishes for a happy life.
You can make a cone out of something as simple as a sheet of computer paper, to start. Then let your imagination run wild as you find papers that work for your purpose. Just remember to cut it into a square so that the cone turns out evenly. Use 2-sided tape to hold it together.
Greek-style fried dough puffs
Makes 1 to 2 dozen depending on size
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
2 cups all-purpose flour (or more as needed)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Oil for frying, vegetable or canola
Powdered sugar, for garnish
Dissolve yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar in 1/4 cup warm water. Set aside, 10 minutes.
Sift the flour and salt together; add to the yeast mixture. Add 1/2 cup warm water and stir, adding more water, as needed, to form a soft dough. Transfer to a bowl rubbed with olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside to rise in a warm place, 2-1/2 hours, until the surface bubbles. Knead the dough in the bowl for 2 minutes; set aside.
In a deep, heavy pot, heat the cooking oil to 375 F. Place tablespoon-size dollops of dough in pot, a few (3 to 4) at a time, turning while cooking for about 3 minutes. Dough balls will puff up and turn golden. Remove with slotted spoon. Drain in colander lined with paper towels.
Dunk each puff individually in honey syrup (below). Pile into the paper cones to serve. Dust with powdered sugar.
2 cups honey
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Bring the honey, sugar, water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Turn down heat; simmer, 7 to 10 minutes. When the syrup thickens enough to coat a spoon, it is ready.
Transfer to a bowl. Cool partially. Stir in lemon juice. Dunk puffs into the mixture to coat, draining off any excess.
Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by email at email@example.com, read her blog at LindABCooks.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter at @Kitchencall.