PCA 2020

What Not to Eat

The very best thing about Stampede, now that I’ve become too susceptible to motion sickness to enjoy the rides (OK, I was too chicken even back when I was young enough to avoid getting sick anyway) is the food.


It’s the kind of food I can rationalize eating because it’s only once a year; in fact, I’m sure if it was available year-round it would lose much of its appeal.

Ever since I was a kid and had the Curious George book that finds him running amok in a donut factory I have been infatuated with the things, not to mention the machines that pump them out. I always said if I won the lottery, my first purchase would be one of those mini donut machines; on the midway I become fixated on that golden batter being rhythmically squeezed out into bubbling oil, then flipped into sandy cinnamon-sugar. Now, it turns out, I don't need one. (Although it would still be pretty cool.)

We also made corn dogs - ridiculously easy to make, and far better than the midway ones (which are what, $6 apiece?) or those Pogos you buy frozen at the grocery store. And because you are making them at home in fresh canola oil (that's the sort of fat you want to include in your diet), you don't have to worry about how many hundreds of times the oil your corn dog/mini donut was cooked in has been heated and cooled, which produces trans fats. You could even use turkey dogs, which are slightly leaner than the regular ones, or even veggie dogs.

So here's how to make midway food at home - save yourself a couple bucks, maybe have a Stampede midway in your backyard and make a few friends while you're at it. (Cranking out corn dogs and mini donuts will make you the coolest mom/dad in the neighborhood, and not only with the kids!)

Corn Dogs

1 cup all-purpose flour (or use half whole wheat)
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 - 1 lb. pkg. hot dogs
canola oil, for frying
wooden sticks – bamboo skewers, popsicle sticks or chopsticks work well

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the middle, and add the buttermilk, egg and baking soda; whisk until well blended.

In a deep, heavy pot, heat enough oil to accommodate the corn dogs (depending on if you want to make big long ones, or cut them in half to make shorter ones, which are more manageable) until it’s hot, but not smoking. You’ll know when it’s hot enough by dipping in a piece of bread or a bit of cornmeal batter – it should start sizzling right away. If the oil is too cool, they will take too long to cook and will absorb too much oil, making them heavy.

Stick a wooden stick into the end of each hot dog (cut them in half first if you like), and dip them in the cornmeal batter to coat. Place them no more than two at a time (you don’t want to crowd the pot, or it will cool down your oil) into the hot oil, and turn them as they need it until they are golden. (When they are nice and golden they are done – hot dogs are already cooked so you don’t have to worry about properly cooking them all the way through.) Remove with tongs and set aside on paper towels.

Mini Donuts

1 package active dry yeast (2 tsp.)
2 Tbsp. warm water
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for sprinkling and rolling out dough (use half whole-wheat if you like)
1 cup milk at room temperature
2-4 Tbsp. butter or non-hydrogenated margarine, softened
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
canola oil, for frying
cinnamon-sugar, for dipping (spike sugar with as much cinnamon as you like)

In a large bowl, stir together the yeast and water; set it aside for 5 minutes, until it’s foamy. (If it doesn’t foam, throw it out and buy fresh yeast. It won’t foam much, but if it just sits there and does nothing, it’s inactive.) Add the flour, milk, butter, egg, sugar and salt, and stir until you have a soft, sticky dough. Stir for a minute or two, then cover and set aside for 2 hours or overnight.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat with floured hands until it’s about 1/2 inch thick. Cut out as many rounds as possible with the rim of a shot glass, and poke a hole in each with your finger, stretching it out a bit as it will puff up as it cooks, closing the hole somewhat. If you like, cover with a kitchen towel and let them rise for another 20-30 minutes (this isn’t necessary, but will produce lighter doughnuts).

Heat about 2” of oil in a deep, heavy saucepan until it’s hot but not smoking. You’ll know when it’s hot enough by dipping in a piece of bread or a bit of dough – it should start sizzling right away. If the oil is too cool, they will take too long to cook and will absorb too much oil, making them heavy.

Cook doughnuts 2 at a time, turning occasionally with tongs or a slotted spoon, until puffed and golden brown, about 2 minutes per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then toss in cinnamon-sugar while still warm.

Funnel Cakes

I never quite understood these, but it turns out they are pretty good - they were originally made by the Amish, who poured batter through a funnel into the hot oil.

2 cups flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
canola oil, for frying
icing sugar, for sprinkling

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs; add to the dry ingredients and whisk until you have a smooth batter.

Heat about 2 inches of oil in a deep, heavy pan until hot but not smoking. To make your funnel cakes using an actual funnel, pour the batter through the funnel into the hot oil, using your finger to control the flow. Otherwise, spoon some batter into a zip-lock baggie and snip off one corner; squeeze the batter into the hot oil.  

Either way, make a squiggly pattern or swirl, then flip once it has turned golden on the bottom. Transfer to paper towels to drain the excess fat, then sprinkle with icing sugar while they are still warm.


Julie is a best selling cookbook author, food writer, cooking instructor and the food and nutrition columnist on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC radio. She lives in Calgary with her husband and 
her son, Willem. Watch for her new cooking show, It’s Just Food, with co-host Ned Bell, to air on Access TV and CLT stations across Canada this fall. For recipes and daily ramblings visit her blog at dinnerwithjulie.com.

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