Much like the beloved character Bubba from Forrest Gump, who painstakingly reviewed each and every way imaginable to enjoy shrimp, I consider myself somewhat of a funnel cake connoisseur. And I always look forward to the Cumberland County Fair when I can indulge my tastebuds with an ever-expanding array of funnel cake flavors.
Warning — low-carb dieters should read no further. This column contains enough carbs to last through next summer. It’s possible your cholesterol could also go up just reading about all the deep fried goodness found at the county fair.
The base of any funnel cake is the same — a sweet batter made with flour, sugar, a bit of salt and baking powder, eggs, vanilla, and milk that is deep fried in a vat of hot oil. It takes its name from the funnel the batter is poured through. You release a steady stream of the batter into the oil in a circular motion, providing a mountain of funnel cake with little fingers you can grab and pull apart to eat.
Traditionalists will only accept the funnel cake topped with powdered sugar. Real traditionalists will also forego the fork in favor of a messy, delicious treat that, inevitably, leaves one covered in a fine white sugary powder.
Those who like the traditional version minus the mess will be happy to know that the same sweet batter can be made into fries. If you’re doing this at home, use a squeeze bottle so you can start and stop the flow of batter more easily than with a funnel. Just squirt some strings of batter into the oil and cook to a golden brown.
Again, simply sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy.
Those with a bit more adventurous palate are constrained only by their imagination. If it's sweet or savory, it can probably go on top, or it could be a good dip for the funnel cake fries. Fruits, like apples, cherries, strawberries, blueberries — even pineapple — are popular.
You can top with your favorite ice cream sundae toppings, like chocolate or caramel or butterscotch. You can even top with an ice cream sundae!
You can add things to the batter, like chocolate chips, raisins or nuts. Or experiment with different types of batter. I saw a red velvet version at the fair. I bet that would be divine with a cream cheese frosting on top!
And that funnel cake batter can be used to batter and fry up all sorts of treats — from the deep fried Twinkie and Oreos to the so-over-the-top-I-can't-even-think-about-it deep fried butter. Yes, it's a stick of butter, battered and fried.
And the donut burger combines the main course with desert, using a glazed donut as the bun. As I am one of those food-shall-not-touch people, this does not appeal to me at all.
The Minnesota State Fair is known for pushing the boundaries. If you can think it, they've probably made it, and then deep fried it and topped it with whipped cream. This year, they introduced 31 new dishes ranging from a bacon fluffernutter sandwich (grilled cinnamon bun sandwich with bacon, peanut butter and marshmallow cream filling) to deep-fried red licorice.
The Bowl of Dough has me intrigued. That's what it is — a bowl of raw cookie dough served up like ice cream! And — to appease the food safety folks among us — it's safe to eat, with no raw eggs!
The fair has rolled up the midway for the year, and there isn't a lot of fried food on my menu for the next several months. That's probably a good thing since I'd like to end the year on a healthier note. But a deep fried treat, enjoyed every once in a blue moon, is always worth the wait.