Monday, August 3, 2009
The Italians had Crescia and Torta al Testo...My mother had Doughboys. When I say fried dough to people, they immediately think of going to the fairs and carnivals where they would stretch and flatten dough into big patties and drop it into hot oil or shortening. Then they would dust it with cinnamon and sugar. I would certainly not refuse one of those right now, but my waistline would not thank me. What I am talking about is what you did with bread that was not doing its thing. Either it did not rise at all, it rose perhaps weakly or perhaps you forgot about it and it over-rose. Also, you may have made bread and you could not get the wood burning stove going well. Perhaps you did not have time to get it up to temperature in time for a meal. If you were cooking in August and it was 98 degrees outside, you might not want to heat the kitchen up. The Italians make breads in a similar way, on heated stones or on griddles over coals. Sometimes they would coat the top of the dough with ash too. Depending upon the wood, you could impart distinctive flavors to the bread. Dough that was in good condition(rather than the failed dough from Mom) would be put into a cast iron pan to rise then baked after rising. You could then split the pizza-like disk in half horizontally, stuff it with braised greens, cheeses and cured meats, then return it to the oven to crisp(crunch really) and melt the cheese inside. All that is pretty good, but I prefer Mom's...big surprise. When the monkey ruined the dough, the water was too hot for the yeast or a cold draft hit the pan the dough was rising in, you had to use the dough. Mom just tore off orange sized pieces of dough, flatten and stretch it into an oval. This would be dropped into the cast iron "spider" that was greased with butter and fried till it puffed(When willing to do so) and browned. Then it was flipped to finish cooking on the other side. It was put into the oven to stay warm(if it was not immediately snatched by passing children or husband) till they were all done. It could be served with something like pea soup or lentils.
This is really an English Muffin! The only real difference is that the dough has less flour so it is more like a "batter" bread. You put metal rings into the hot butter, similar to cookie cutters(which you could easily use). Then you pour a quantity of the batter into the mold and fry it till it all firms enough to pop it out of the mold and flip it over to cook the other side.
If you have a passion for bread, you should search out: English Bread and Yeast Cookery by Elizabeth David. It is out of print and difficult to find, but it is a wonderful bible for bread lovers. There is a revised edition which will be good, but if you can get the original it will be much better.