Monday, July 18, 2005

Deep Frying Desserts: An Introduction

I think it was in the mid-to-late 1990’s when I learned that the Scots were deep-frying Mars bars. At the time, I associated deep-frying solely with the namesake product of their ubiquitous fish ‘n chips shops (where these desserts are apparently still as popular as ever). The idea of dropping a chocolate bar into a fryer with a few pieces of cod did not immediately appeal to me. But I’ve since become aware of the versatility of the deep-fryer, and I now understand that just because something is battered, it doesn’t have to be sprinkled with vinegar and dipped in tartar sauce.

Deep-frying desserts is an idea whose time has come. We recommend that you start with Oreos. Because these little suckers are so hard (that’s why I always dunk mine in milk), there’s little chance of them falling apart or oozing out their melty contents while being fried. A deep-fried Oreo is vastly superior to one straight out of the package. With a crisp golden batter yielding a moist chocolately centre, you won’t even think of dunking it in milk. Though I wouldn't think less of you if you did.

Once you’ve mastered the Oreo, you’ll no doubt want to move on to other fried confections. The Mars bar (or a similar bar, like the Milky Way) is perfect. A few minutes in the deep-fryer softens the nougatty interior nicely, seemingly intensifying the flavour and undeniably making for a tongue-tantalizingly pleasing texture. Our detailed documentation of the Mars bar-frying process will follow soon, but for now be advised that most chocolate bars benefit from an hour in your freezer before they’re fried, lest they completely collapse after three minutes in scalding oil.

American carnivals are seeing an upswing in vendors hawking deep-fried Twinkies. Though I’d like to try frying Ding-Dongs or Hostess Cupcakes some time, we skipped the Twinkies in favour of putting a Canadian spin on things by frying a Nanaimo Bar. It just made a good thing better. And once you start deep frying desserts, you'll start making a list of products to pick up the next time you hit the candy or cookie aisle of your nearest grocery.

The below account of deep-frying Oreos, though attributed to me, was written entirely by Lisa.

How to Deep Fry an Oreo - Getting Started

The batter is made out of common household ingredients that you probably already have.

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (yes, salt, even in a dessert)
1 cup milk (we use 1% because that's what we have, but 2% or whole would work too)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar (yes, vinegar, even in a dessert - don't worry, you won't taste it)

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. Stir all the wet ingredients together in a separate small bowl. With a whisk (or a spoon or a fork or whatever you've got) mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Stop as soon as everything is moistened. Don't worry about getting the lumps out and definitely don't use a food processor or blender to do this job. Lumps are good. Believe me. Do NOT try and take the easy way out and use pancake mix. Yuck.

The batter should by kind of runny, like very thick cream or crepe batter. If it is too thick add some more milk. If it is too thin add some more flour. If it's just right, move on to the next step. Don't let the batter sit around on the counter - snap on some plastic wrap and put it in the fridge if it has to wait.

Time to prepare the area. Deep frying takes organization and concentration. It should never be undertaken by children or adults who are under the influence of drugs, alcohol or a bad case of the giggles. NEVER leave your hot oil alone and don't let it get too hot. It needs you. Have a fire extinguisher or a lid handy just in case. Read the instructions on your fryer and do what they say. If you are using a pot, make sure that it is deep enough to hold the oil and the desserts with plenty of head room. Use vegetable oil and heat it to 190 degrees celcius (375 fahrenheit). For the best results use a fryer or a thermometer to make sure your oil is at the right temperature. Too low and your dessert will soak up grease and too high and it will burn. You don't want that, do you?

Your fry station consists of some flour, your batter, tongs, a deep fryer or deep pan and thermometer and a sheet pan covered in paper towel with a rack on it.

The Sticky Part

Unlike other fried desserts, Oreos don't need to spend any time in the freezer before cooking, so you can get started as soon as the craving hits. The cookies need to be dipped in a little flour before battering. If you skip this step you are taking the chance that the batter will not stick and will slide off your cookies into the oil, leaving your Oreos naked and greasy. Naked and greasy Oreos are a sad sight indeed.

Shake the flour off well. Just a light dusting is all you need.

Now it's into the batter. Make sure to keep your batter in the fridge between batches. Cold batter makes for crispier treats.

Using your tongs, remove the Oreos from the batter and shake off the excess. You want them light and crispy, not padded with lots of undercooked batter. Unless that's your thing. Then go ahead and try to load as much on as you can.

The Hot Stuff

It's time to fry! Make sure your oil is pre-heated to 190 degrees celcius (375 degrees fahrenheit). Use a thermometer if you're not using a fryer.

Using tongs (not your hands!), carefully plunge your Oreos into the hot oil. Don't overcrowd the pan, it will cause the temperature to go down and you will end up with a greasy ugly dessert (no one wants a greasy ugly dessert). The cookies will want to sink to the bottom of the fryer and stick. Don't let this happen! Coax them off the bottom with your tongs (not your hands!) as soon as you can. After you get their lazy selves up off the bottom they will happily bob along in the oil for the rest of the cooking process. As they fry, flip them over a few times so they will evenly brown. They are ready when they start to get golden. This takes anywhere from 3 - 4 minutes.

Remove the Oreos from the hot oil carefully with your tongs (not your hands!) and place on a rack over top of some paper towels to drain briefly (a few seconds will do). Yes, you can eat them now, but why not take them to the next level?

The Finishing Touches

A simple chocolate sauce (homemade or store-bought) drizzled artistically (or haphazardly, that looks good too) around the edge of a pretty plate begins the presentation.

The pastry chef's secret...now it's yours. Just put a little icing sugar in a strainer and shake it over your dessert. It will make even the most awful looking mess appear as if it came from the kitchen of the finest 5 star restaurant. I promise. Try it.

Whipped cream? Of course! Everything is better with a little whipped cream! Isn't it starting to look fabulous?

Here's the finished product in cross-section so you can admire it's hot and chocolatey goodness. Yum.