When it comes to summer fun in Pennsylvania's Americana Region, festivals and fairs rank high on my list of things to do. While they may differ in theme and location, you'll find events filled with people, entertainment, activities, and of course, delicious food. Vendors line midways, streets, and sidewalks, selling a tempting array of fair favorites like French fries, cotton candy, snow cones, and the yummiest of them all, the funnel cake. This delectable indulgence of fried batter and powdered sugar gets me every time.
As a resident of Berks County, I have always thought our Pennsylvania Dutch settlers created this sweet treat. However, the confection dates back to medieval Arab countries and later spread to Europe. The German immigrants who settled in our region brought the dish to America, but they can only be credited with the baking powder version we know today, along with its new name, funnel cake.
Funnel cake comes in various forms, from light and fluffy with thin strings of sweet goodness to the thicker, heavier concoction that resembles what Canadians call an "elephant ear." Don't be confused by the two. Funnel cake is made of fried batter, while an elephant ear is made of fried bread. Regardless, how could you go wrong with either?
From what I've read, I failed to appreciate the versatility of funnel cakes. I learned of so many interesting toppings, like bananas, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, chocolate, and cinnamon. Some people add cream cheese, jalapenos, and shredded chicken to their funnel cakes. No judgment here, but I'll continue to savor funnel cakes' sweet, warm goodness the traditional PA Dutch way.
One of the best places to sample funnel cakes is at one of our festivals, like the premier PA Dutch event, the Kutztown Folk Festival. If you can't wait, try making funnel cakes at home with the recipe below.
PA DUTCH FUNNEL CAKES
1 1/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 cups oil for frying
1. In a large bowl, beat egg on low speed with an electric mixer. Add flour, sugar, and salt and mix together with a wooden spoon.
2. Add the milk to the mixture gradually. Beat it with an electric mixer on low speed until it looks smooth and creamy.
3. In a medium-sized frying pan, heat the oil.
4. Using the funnel, pour the batter through the funnel into the oil using a circular motion.
5. Cook for 2 minutes and then turn funnel cake over with a spatula. Cook the other side for 2 minutes.