The summer season is peppered with beach days and melting popsicles, grilled burgers with charcoal-dusted plumes of smoke, and sticky afternoons clogged with humidity. But what’s perhaps more synonymous with summers in the U.S. is the blooming of state fairs scattered around the country, where deep-fried butter is thrust onto sticks and browned corn dogs stamped with a curl of mustard are a paradigm of Americana.
But summer this year is going to look different. Fairs in many states have already been canceled due to COVID-19, which means you may not be able to get your fix of the best part of state fairs: the food.
Luckily, you can still replicate some of those staples this season, armed with Walt Disney Company’s former pastry chef George Geary’s cookbook “Fair Foods.” Here, he walks fairgoers through some of the most classic snacks, like bacon-wrapped tater tots, barbecue turkey legs, and frozen cheesecake on a stick. Sure, the scent of fried foods and smoke unspooling from stands won’t set the mood, but once you pull that first deep-fried Twinkie out of the fryer, all will be forgiven.
Below, chef George shares a recipe for funnel cake, the epitome of fair foods. His version calls for plenty of butter, sugar, and eggs (warning: this isn’t for the faint of heart), along with a big stock pot filled with canola oil. You’ll pour the batter into a pastry bag, then pipe curly logs into the hot oil, flipping each piece over every 30 seconds until puffed and golden. You could ahead and eat these plain—they’re that good—or pile the cakes together into one large mountain, crowned with a splattering of whipped cream and sugary berries. That is, after all, what a slice of Americana tastes like.
Funnel Cake with Berries Recipe
Makes: 6-10 funnel cakes
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 cup water, cool
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
- 2 large egg whites
- Canola oil
- Confectioners’ sugar
- Combine butter, water, salt and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the flour. Return the pan to low heat and cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes to cook the flour slightly and rid the mixture of an starchy floury taste.
- Remove the pan from the heat and place the dough in the bowl of the mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until most of the steam subsided, then add the eggs and egg whites, one at a time, until each is incorporated, and a batter is formed.
- Pour 3-inches of oil into a stockpot and heat to 350F.
- Meanwhile, place the batter in a pastry bag that is fitted with a round pastry tip no wider than 1/4 inch in diameter.
- Holding the pastry bag over the hot oil, push the batter out into the hot oil in a zigzag or spiral shape. Fry no more than 1 large or two smaller funnel cakes at a time.
- Fry the cakes until puffed up and golden (they will triple in size), 3 to 5 minutes, flipping every 30 seconds or so.
- Drain the cakes on a rack and cool slightly, then sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and Berry Topping (recipe follows).
Makes: 2 cups
- 1-quart fresh berries (Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries) 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- Pinch sea salt
- In a bowl, combine berries, sugar and salt. Let stand for 30 minutes before serving.
Header image courtesy of “Fair Foods.”
Amy Schulman is an associate editor at Chowhound. She is decidedly pro-chocolate.