This has got to be the longest January on record. At least it feels like it to me. The temperatures in my home state have been all over the place. One day the temperatures are in the low 30's and raining zoo animals, and the next it's in the mid 70"s. Even the poor trees are confused! As I type, I am looking out my kitchen window at the tree in front of my house. The poor thing is budding! That's normally a sign that Spring is in the air. That is music to my ears being that I am not a cold weather type of gal. But until Spring comes around, I will bear the Winter cold and rain. I, however, will make the most of it by cooking up something to comfort my Winter blues whenever I get a chance. This Saturday I made some masala tea and mandazis to chase away my Winter blues. The aromatic smell of the mandazis and masala chai took me back to growing up in Kenya. I would wake up on many Saturday's to the smell of my mother's fresh mandazis wefting into my room. That was my cue to wake up :-) Somehow, this always seemed to brighten my day, no matter the weather outside. Fast forward X years later, those mandazis still have the same effect.
What exactly is a Mandazi, you might ask? A mandazi if a form of fried dough that originated in East Africa in the Swahili coastal areas of Kenya and Tanzania. It is popular in the region as it is affordable and convenient to make. There are many types of mandazis in East Africa. The one whose recipe follows has a bit of a crunchy exterior and an almost cake-like, fluffy interior (that is why it is referred to as a half-cake mandazi). You can eat your mandazis by themselves as a snack, or you can enjoy them with some fruit juice or masala chai. Whichever way you opt to enjoy them, they are delicious but not cloyingly sweet.
SERVING SIZE: Makes around 25 small mandazis.
-Wok or any deep pan for frying.
-Knife or cookie cutter of your choice.
-Paper towels & a colander (to drain any excess oil off of the cooked mandazi).
-Paper bag (I used a paper lunch bag).
-2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour.
-3/4- 1 cup granulated sugar, depending on how sweet you want the mandazis (I used 3/4 cup).
-2 teaspoons baking powder (not baking soda).
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
-1 teaspoon ground ginger.
-1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom.
-1/4 teaspoon yellow food coloring (optional).
-1/4 teaspoon salt (I used Kosher).
-Grated fresh nutmeg (about 1/4 teaspoon).
-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.
-1 large egg at room temperature, slightly beaten.
-1 cup milk.
-4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cubed.
-1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (for garnishing).
-1 tablespoon powdered/ icing/ confectioner's sugar (for garnishing).
-4 cups vegetable oil for frying (I used Canola).
-Medium bowl with 1/2 cup all purpose flour in it (for dusting your work surface).
-Slightly floured baking sheet (to place the cut out mandazis before frying)
-In a mixing bowl, sift all the dry ingredients-flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, food coloring, salt & nutmeg.
-Add the cubed butter into the mixing bowl, combining it with your fingers until you achieve a fine crumb.
-Create a well in the middle of the flour and add the egg and vanilla extract. Mix well.
-Add the milk, a little at a time and mix well until everything in the bowl is well combined. The dough should be soft and pliable, but should not stick to your clean hands.
-Form the dough into a ball, place in a container with a lid and cover. Let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes.
**AT THIS POINT, HEAT UP YOUR OIL IN YOUR WOK/FRYING PAN ON MEDIUM HEAT***
-After 30 minutes, lightly flour your working surface and place the ball of dough onto the floured surface. Shape it into a disc.
-Lightly flour your rolling pin to prevent the dough from sticking to it.
-Use the rolling pin to spread the disc to a sheet of dough of about 1/4 inch thickness.
-Dip your cookie cutters in the medium bowl with flour in it, to prevent them from sticking to the rolled out dough.
-Now use your cookie cutter to cut out shapes on the sheet of dough. Place these cut-out shapes on the floured baking sheet. Gather the scraps of dough into a ball and re-roll and cut shapes out of this. Repeat until all the dough is used up.
-To test your oil for readiness, use a small scrap of dough and drop it into the oil. The dough should stay at the bottom of the pan for at least a minute before rising up. If the dough comes up immediately you drop it into the hot oil, the oil is too hot. In which case the outside of your mandazi will cook, but the inside will be doughy (yuck!). On the other hand, if your oil is not hot enough, the mandazi will absorb a lot of oil as they will sit at the bottom of the pan for too long before rising (yuck!). You want your oil to be just right.
-Once you have confirmed that your oil is ready, gently drop the shaped dough into the pan one at a time. Place the mandazi in the oil AWAY from you. This will prevent the oil from splattering on you and burning you. Do not overcrowd your pan. Six mandazis cooking in the pan at a time is ideal.
-The mandazis should cook for at least 4 minutes on each side. Once they have a nice golden brown color, use your strainer to remove them from the oil, and transfer them to the lines colander to drain excess oil. Repeat this until all the mandazis are cooked.
-In a paper bag, add 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of confectioners/powdered sugar. Shake the bag lightly to combine the sugar and cinnamon.
-While still hot, place 6-8 mandazis in the paper bag, close the opening and shake the contents vigorously to coat the mandazis. Repeat this until all the mandazis are coated (you might have to add more confectioner's sugar and cinnamon). Alternatively, you can give the mandazis a slight dusting of just confectioner's sugar or eat them as is. The choice is up to you. Either way, they are delicious. Enjoy!