In planning and preparing a meal of eight courses for a birthday dinner (not my own) I really battled with the dessert course.
The theme was, loosely, Chinese. The preparation, endless. The decor, turquoise and white with many orchids and candles floating prettily in bowls of water. The courses, multiple. The cocktail, Jack Daniels Honey with iced tea and lemonade. The dessert, undecided until one of the last minutes.
I spent two days painstakingly stuffing and pleating pot stickers, making a masterful (if I say so myself) master stock, braising ribs to an unctuous hot and sour stickiness … I won’t bore you with more of the details, you get the picture.
During all of this I waited and waited for dessert inspiration to come and it never did. Finally, in a moment of near desperation (minutes after that point in the evening when you’ve already served seven courses and timidly, and with absolutely no confidence, say “um, would anyone like dessert with their jasmine tea?” And your guests stubbornly refuse to do the polite thing and say “no thanks, just tea for me.”) – I grabbed the puff pastry from the freezer, rolled it out, cut it into strips about 3 cm wide and dropped them into hot oil.
Now, I’m pretty sure I’m not the first person in the world to fry pastry – the Italians have a dessert called cenci (rags of dough) made from a flour, egg, water, sugar pastry, fried in a similar fashion but doesn’t really puff up much – but in that moment, as I watched my silky, pale strips of pastry puff up into magnificent, golden tubes of awesome I felt like a pioneer. I felt like the first person in the world to fry puff pastry. If not, I wondered, why are we not all doing this all the time? Simple and delicious.
Try it, please.
- Puff pastry – you can make your own, I didn’t
- Clean oil of a fairly neutral variety with a high smoking point – I used Canola
- Powdered sugar
Deep pot with about 4 cm or 5 cm of oil in it – heat to around 190 C. Be safe. Hot oil is dangerous.
Roll out pastry using as little flour on your rolling pin and work surface as possible.
Cut into strips about 3cm wide and 10cm long (although I think any size and shape will do).
Drop 3 or 4 into the oil at a time – don’t crowd the pan.
They take a minute or so to puff up and start to colour. Flip them over for a couple of seconds to make sure they colour all over.
Carefully remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
Leave to cool for a few minutes then dust with powdered sugar.
There is nothing Chinese or even loosely Chinese about this dessert but it is delicious and surprisingly light – no need to serve with jasmine tea if that’s not what you’re having. They would also be good with an espresso, a liqueur or just on their own.
Note – I experimented with a variety of thicknesses, from paper-thin to about half a cm and found that the best ones were made from pastry about 3mm thick – they had a crispy exterior but maintained a bit of a chew in the middle.