Maple Ginger Fry Bread
Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 5 minutes
Just like matzo, fry bread is a bread “born of suffering.” When the Navajos were forced onto reservations, their traditional wild and cultivated food sources were closed to them. Instead, they relied on U.S. government staples—flour, lard, sugar, salt, and baking powder. These were not as diverse and healthful as their traditional diet, but tribal cooks found a way to make them palatable. Here, we’ve tweaked the classic recipe by adding cornmeal (a Native American staple before the arrival of the Europeans), maple sugar (well known to the Native Americans of the Northeast), ginger (which came to the Americas via the spice trade) and powdered coconut milk. Today, fry bread is still found on Navajo tables, often served with savory tacos. This is our sweet version.
¾ cup (97.5 grams) unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus another ¼ cup for dusting
¼ cup (32 grams) masa or finely ground cornmeal
¼ teaspoon (about 1.5 grams) salt
1 teaspoon powdered coconut milk (see Kitchen Tips)
3 teaspoons maple sugar (see Kitchen Tips)
1¼ teaspoons (6 grams) baking powder
½ cup water
⅛ teaspoon ginger, peeled and finely grated
4 cups corn, vegetable or peanut oil, for frying
Maple sugar for sprinkling, optional
Allspice, nutmeg, or cinnamon for sprinkling, optional
- Combine ¾ cup flour, the cornmeal, salt, powdered coconut milk, maple sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add the water and ginger and mix until the dough until starts to come together into a soft raggedy ball. Do not overmix.
- Dust a work surface generously with the remaining flour. Place the ball of dough on the floured surface and shape into 4 pieces (they will weigh about about 2¼ ounces each). Stretch, pat, and form each into a disk about 6 inches in diameter. They should be a bit moist inside and coated with flour on the outside.
- Pour the oil into a deep cast-iron or heavy, deep skillet, set over medium-high heat, and heat until the temperature reaches 365°F on an instant-read thermometer. Affix a kitchen thermometer to the pan (most thermometers these days have a clip that you can attach to the pan; otherwise, take the temperature of the oil often; see Kitchen Tips). The oil should be kept between 355° and 365°F during the frying process, so keep an eye on the heat and the thermometer (if it becomes too hot, move the pan off the burner for a moment). While the oil is heating, line 2 baking sheets, trays, or paper plates with several layers of paper towel for draining.
- Carefully place 1 dough circle into the oil. Using a spider (the kitchen tool, not the arachnid) or heat-proof slotted spoon, hold the dough down so the top is submerged in the hot oil. Fry for about 30 seconds, until browned, and then gently turn and fry the other side for about 30 seconds. Place the cooked fry bread on the towel-lined baking sheet to absorb any excess oil. Repeat with the remaining dough circles, draining them in a single layer directly onto the paper towels. Sprinkle with maple sugar and allspice, nutmeg, or cinnamon and serve immediately. The fry bread is also great with savory dishes and corn dishes; fry bread tacos are a Southwestern tradition. It can be kept warm in a 200°F oven for up to 1 hour.
- This recipe was adapted from National Indian Taco Championship held in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. To learn more, visit http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/NavajoFryBread.htm
- You can find dried (or powdered) coconut milk powder and maple sugar at good baking supply shops, gourmet markets , some supermarkets, or online. One source we like is King Arthur Flour.
- If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, you can heat the oil over medium heat and carefully drop in a small piece (about an inch square) of bread. If it turns brown all over and floats to the surface in 60 seconds, the oil is about 350 to 365°. If it browns sooner, the temp is higher: 20 seconds and it’s somewhere between 382° and 390°F; 40 seconds and it’s between 365° and 382°F.