Calgary·Recipes

Make your own midway deep-fried treats

Stampede is deep-fried food season. You can find sweet treats in a multitude of forms on the midway. CBC food columnist Julie Van Rosendaal tells how to make them at home.

CBC food columnist Julie Van Rosendaal creates Stampede-inspired delights

Deep-fried Nanaimo bars are on CBC food guide Julie Van Rosendaal's menu this week. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Stampede is deep-fried food season — you can find it in a multitude of forms on the midway, and over at the bannock booth at Elbow River Camp.

When you're off the grounds but still need a fried food fix, here are a few Stampede-inspired treats to make yourself.

Funnel cakes are classic but simple to make at home and you can customize them with spices, extract or citrus zest, or play around with different liquids (root beer! coffee!) if you'd like to fancy them up a bit.

If you're into deep-fried Mars bars, why not deep fry some Nanaimo bars?

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Just make sure they're well chilled, and you can fry them in a heavy pot with a couple inches of canola oil — no need for a deep fryer. 

And if you want to try baking bannock at home or at the campground (it's simple enough), here are some tips from the bannock booth at Elbow River Camp:

Bannock or fry bread

Bannock with haskap jam. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Most bannock recipes are very similar, like a quick biscuit dough made with flour and baking powder but without the butter, sometimes with oil and often just water. It can be baked, cooked on the grill, deep fried or in a skillet or wrapped around a stick over an open fire. 

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for working the dough 

2 tbsp baking powder

2 tbsp sugar

½ tsp salt

1/3 cup canola oil

1½ cups water

Canola oil, for grilling

Preparation:

Lots of love goes into hand-making the bread. Never overwork the bannock. Start with the dry ingredients and slowly add in the water bit by bit. You want to work the consistency just right. 

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Make a hollow in the middle, add the oil and water and mix until you have a soft dough. Note that it's very important to cut a hole in the middle of the bannock so it doesn't puff up too much (it may even explode without the cut in the middle). 

Knead until it's soft and only slightly sticky. Let it sit for about 15 minutes.

To bake: Roll it out onto a lightly floured baking sheet, pierce the top with a fork in several places and bake at 350 F for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Once in the fryer, care needs to be taken to flip in periodically to get maximum golden goodness. Cut into squares and serve. 

Alternatively, wind the dough onto the end of a stick to cook over an open fire. To make fry bread, pull off pieces the size of an egg, pat into a circle and poke a hole in the middle.

Cook in lard or oil in a heavy skillet set over medium-high heat or in an inch or so of oil, flipping often, until golden on both sides. Serve warm. Makes 1-2 dozen pieces of bannock or fry bread, depending on their size. 

Deep-fried Nanaimo bars

Deep fried Nanaimo bars. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

If deep-fried Mars bars are a thing in the U.K., why not deep fried Nanaimo bars in Canada? Store-bought bars are fine — just make sure you refrigerate them until they are chilled before you start. 

Ingredients:

4-6 Nanaimo bars

1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup cornstarch

¼ tsp baking soda

pinch salt

1¼ cup milk or beer

canola oil, for frying

icing sugar, for sprinkling

Preparation:

Refrigerate your Nanaimo bars until they're well chilled, and cut them into small, 1-2-inch squares or bars. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Whisk in the milk or beer, whisking until smooth. Add a bit more milk, beer or water if it seems thick — it should have the consistency of crepe batter or heavy cream. 

Heat about an inch of oil in a deep, heavy skillet or shallow pot until it's hot but not smoking. (A scrap of bread should sizzle if you dip it in — or drizzle in a bit of batter. If you have a thermometer, it should read about 350 F.)

Dip the chilled bars in batter, coating them completely, and gently lower into the hot oil. Cook a few at a time, without crowding the pot, turning as needed until deep golden.

Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate, sprinkle with icing sugar, and serve warm. Makes about a dozen deep-fried Nanaimo bars. 

Funnel cakes

Funnel cakes with icing sugar. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Although the classic way to serve a funnel cake is warm, doused in icing sugar, they're great with jam and make a tasty sundae base. At the Stampede, they've been used instead of fries to make poutine, and topped with whipped cream and crushed Oreos.

The batter itself is similar to one you'd use for pancakes, and because it's poured in squiggles and blobs, there's zero need for perfection.

Ingredients:

1½ cups all-purpose or red fife flour

2 tbsp sugar

1½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

1¼ cups milk

1 large egg

canola oil, for cooking

icing sugar, for dusting

Preparation:

In a medium bowl (if you have one, use a large measuring cup or bowl with a spout), whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the milk and egg and whisk until perfectly smooth.

It should have the consistency of crêpe batter or heavy cream — if it's too thick to run through a funnel, thin it with a little milk or water.

Heat about an inch of oil in a deep, heavy skillet or shallow pot until it's hot but not smoking. (A scrap of bread should sizzle if you dip it in.)

Get a funnel and put your finger over the end. If you don't have a funnel, you can use a squeeze bottle.

Pour in some batter, not quite ¼ cup, and take your finger off the end of the funnel over the hot oil, letting the batter pour out as you move the funnel in a squiggly motion over the oil. Let the batter cook for a minute, or until it's golden, and flip with tongs to cook on the other side. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain the excess oil.

Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve warm. Makes about a dozen, depending on their size.

About the Author

Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.