The Texas State Fair season is upon us. Starting Friday, fair-goers and rubber neckers across the country will be slowing down to gawk at the endless smorgasbord of deep fried delicacies. By now, you've all heard about deep fried butter, which I honestly find to be the sanest of choices when up against the pure lunacy that is fried bubblegum, deep fried frozen margarita, deep fried upside down pineapple cake and Kool-Aid balls (which is fried too, in case you were wondering).

The Big Tex Awards not only encourages, but rewards these kinds of battered madness. Every year the ante is catapulted even further. 2012 is no different. Try and wrap your mind around deep fried jumbalaya, deep fried tres leches cake, deep fried bacon cinnamon roll and chicken fried cactus.

Here's the thing. There's a time for exploration and there's a time for enjoying ol' faithful. The funnel cake has never done me wrong. Crispy on the outside, fluffy cake on the inside. Slightly sweetened with a thin sprinkling of powdered sugar. I don't drown it in chocolate sauce or caramel or gooey fruit. I'm a purist.

Then I thought, maybe there is a way to make funnel cake even better, without jeopardizing its good intentions. And it does not include wrapping it around sausage, chicken frying it and bathing the whole thing in queso. Perhaps that's a discussion for another time. Instead, I added rich cocoa, cinnamon and cayenne.

The cocoa powder thickens the funnel cake batter, which means you can't really use a funnel to create the cake in the "traditional" way. It's more like funnel-cake-without-the-funnel cake. But that's alright, the funnel is a pain in the ass to use anyways. Rich, chocolatey and a little spicy, Mexican Chocolate Funnel Cake should be at the top of your list this fair season. And before I forget, Happy Birthday Big Tex!

Mexican Chocolate Funnel Cake

(makes about 4 large-ish funnel cakes)

1 egg
2/3 c (150 ml) milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 c (190 g) flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sugar
pinch salt
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp (45 g) butter, melted
vegetable oil for frying
powdered sugar (optional)

For the batter

In a heavy pot or cast iron skillet, add enough oil to be 1" deep and heat to 375F (190c). In a small bowl, whisk together egg, vanilla and milk. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cayenne, cinnamon, cocoa, sugar, salt and baking powder. Keep melted butter separate for now.

Add wet mixture to dry ingredients. Whisk to combine. Fold in the melted butter. Batter will be thick. Since this funnel cake batter is thicker due to the addition of cocoa powder, your best options for dispensing the batter into the oil are:

  • The Zip Top Bag Method

    Fill a quart or gallon-size plastic zip top bag with batter and seal it. Cut a small opening at one end to create a 1/2" diameter opening. Squeeze the bag, starting at the top, to release batter into the oil. This method gets points for no cleanup.

  • The Pastry Bag Method

    This is the same as using a zip top bag, only you use a pastry bag instead. If using tips, select one with a funnel size opening, approximately 1/2".

  • The Fancy Tool Method

    There is a tool specifically for dispensing batter. It can also be used for pancakes and other batter-intensive tasks. But it costs money, has few uses and normally is pretty irritating to clean.

For the frying

Heat oil in heavy bottomed pan or cast iron skilled to 375F (180C). 

Release the batter into the oil in an abstract, yet circular manner, overlapping as you go. Size, in this case, doesn't matter. Make the cakes as big or small as you'd like.

Once the batter is dispensed, let fry until puffed, about 45 seconds to 1 minute. When you see bubbles in the batter (similar to pancakes), flip the cake and fry for 45 more seconds. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Dust with powdered sugar or top as desired with jam, chocolate syrup, whipped cream or ice cream.


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