When we started this project, we envisioned an overview of fried breads from around the world with a handful of accompanying recipes. We soon realized that this was a project with no end, that every culture seems to have fried breads with never ending iterations. We ended up with a sampling of breads. We hope that this whets your appetite. Do a little research and experimenting. Fried breads are wonderful—especially in the summertime when we may not want the oven on.
Pancakes and waffles are the most popular fried breads in North America. Typically served for breakfast or brunch they can also be made as savory cakes and served with sauces for lunch or dinner.
There are many other variations of fried breads in America. Of course, many donuts and pastries are fried and therefore qualify as fried breads. Yeasted dough is fried at home or sold in food stands, carnivals, and fairs. Yeasted fried bread is often called fried dough and in some areas of the country, scones. These are usually served with butter and syrup or honey or dusted with powdered sugar. Fried yeasted bread is also known as elephant ears, flying saucers, and in Canada, beavertails.
In Mexican restaurants in the United States, you will often find fried bread served as sopadillas though they are unknown in Mexico. These breads can be made with yeast or baking powder and are deep fried.
There is also a history of fried bread among the American Natives. When the American Indians were located to reservations in the 1800’s, they were often in dire straits and learned to make bread from not much more than flour and water. From this came their style of fry bread. The dough is pressed flat and can be leavened with either yeast or baking powder. Often these bread pieces are topped with beans, ground beef, salsa, and cheese to make Indian or Navajo tacos.
Central and South America
While Mexicans may not have sopadillas, the Chileans do. Theirs are often from a dough including pumpkin or squash. Sopadillas are also popular in Argentina though these may be baked in an adobe oven, not fried. Both wheat and corn flours are used in these South American sapodillas.
South American sopadillas are used as either side dishes or desserts. For side dishes, they are often salty. For desserts, they are sweetened with cinnamon and maybe a little orange.
Buñuelos are made in Latin America. Traditionally, they are pretzel-shaped and covered in anise caramel or served with a cinnamon and sugar topping.
Churros originated in Spain but are popular in Latin America and the Caribbean. They have found their way to the United States and can be found in Hispanic neighborhoods, ball parks, and fairs.
Churros are extruded through a nozzle creating an eight-pointed star. They’re fried to a crispy consistency as doughnuts are and can be straight or twisted. Depending on the size and sweetness, churros are used as a sweet snack or a dessert.
Bannock originated in Scotland but like so many fry breads, has evolved considerably. Traditionally, a bannock was an oatcake but in Eastern Canada where bannock is quite popular, it is made with wheat flour.
Bannock was a staple for Western and Canadian fur traders, the bread that accompanied their pemmican. Today, bannock works for backpackers and canoeists. For these campers, the flour, baking powder, and oatmeal are mixed in a bag before leaving home with dried fruits and nuts added. At camp, enough water is added to make a stiff dough, the dough is shaped into patties and fried. If you are going to do some camping, consider making a bannock mix.
Zeppole are small, light, fried cakes from Italy. These sweet cakes are sold on the streets, given as gifts, and consumed on holidays. They can be filled with custard, jelly, or honey-butter and covered with powdered sugar.
We looked at a number of recipes, many of which were too complicated for the home baker. The following recipe is easy though maybe not authentic. Authentic or not, these are decadently good.
Crepes are thin pancakes that originated in Eastern Europe but have migrated to America. They can be made in a frying pan though if you use a specially made pan intended for crepes, it’s a little easier. Crepes are filled with cheese and sometimes fruit fillings to make blintzes.
Chapatti is an unleavened griddle bread similar to pita bread. In India it is cooked on a special griddle called a tava and held over a fire so that steam within the bread puffs it up. The result is a puffy disc of flat bread. Of course, we didn’t have a tava or a fire in our test kitchen so we improvised. Our version may not be authentic but it is so quick and easy, it’s worth making.
Chapatti is made from whole grain durum flour. We used a mixture of stone ground whole wheat and all purpose flours. We anglicized the recipe further by adding a touch of sugar.
In India, Chapatti is a complement to vegetables, stews, and other dishes. We buttered them. Katie, our teenage daughter, walked in during the session and promptly found some jam to smear on them. She graduated to hot buttered chapatti sprinkled with plenty of cinnamon and sugar and declared them scrumptious.
Portuguese fry bread is a made with baking powder but is quite similar to the yeasted fry breads that we find in the US. Because it is made with baking powder, it is quick and easy.