30 December 2011


Happy New Year. These days, we celebrate New Year's Eve with a multi-course extravaganza. But as a child, New Year's Day meant one thing in our house. The Mennonite dish portzelky (pronounced por-tzell-chè - roll the r).

This dish is all about deep-fried, doughy goodness.  Yes, nothing says "I'm going to lose weight this year" quite like deep-fried raisiny goodness. But really, I had you at deep-fried, didn't I?

This recipe is one quarter of the recipe my mother gave me. This recipe gave enough portzelky for my wife, my son, my mum and I, and gave me another 10 portzelky I could bring in to work the next day.  What can I say, Mennonites are used to cooking for 15 young farm workers who know how to eat.
1 ½ tsp yeast softened in 1 cup warm water and a little sugar
½ cups milk, scalded and cooled
¼ cup cream, scalded and cooled.
2 eggs, well-beaten
18 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 tbsp butter
½ lb. raisins
2 ½ cup flour enough to make a stiff batter
enough vegetable oil to deep-fry
Wake up the yeast in the warm water/sugar mixture for five to ten minutes.  Mix in the other liquids, and the well-beaten eggs. Mix the rest of the ingredients, except the raisins, until you have a thick batter.

Beat with a paddle mixer for five to seven minutes, you want to build up the gluten. Then add the raisins.

Portzelky batter

Cover and let rise for two hours at room temperature.

Risen portzelky batter

Heat up a pot of oil to 350°F.

hot oil

Scoop up a large soup spoon's worth of dough into the hot oil. You don't want too big a chunk of dough, or you won't get a properly crispy exterior to go with the cooked tasty interior.

Remember two things: 1) How much oil you heat up determines how many portzelky you can cook at a time. You don't want the dough to cool down the oil, so make sure the dough chunks are floating separately. 2) Remember, if you're acting scared that you're goinng to burn yourself, you're going to drop the dough from a high height and you're going to burn yourself. Be bold and lower the dough into the hot oil from near the oil.

Frying portzelky

Turn the dough in the oil as it browns.


You want a nice golden brown, crispy exterior.

Finished portzelky

Remove when golden brown. Serve with a bit of golden syrup, or a dusting of icing sugar.

These crispy, yeast-dough fritters are a tasty way to bring in the New Year. Happy New Year.

06 December 2011

Chocolate-lover's angel food cake

Chocolate angelfood cake

Happy Holidays. We're well into holiday mode here in the Dude household. We just had our holiday party, complete with eggnog and dumplings.

A common dessert we serve this time of year, and a perennial favourite of Mrs. Dude is the chocolate-lover's angel food cake from Rose Levy Berenbaum's Cake Bible. So here it is. Mrs. Dude's favourite cake, a fluffy light mix leavened entirely by fluffy egg whites:

¼ cup + 1 tbsp unsweetened, Dutch-processed cocoa
¼ cup boiling water
2 tsp vanilla
1 ¾ cup sugar
1 cup sifted cake flour
¼ tsp salt
16 large egg whites
2 tsp cream of tartar
Pre-heat your oven to 350°F.

Mix the boiling water and cocoa. Whisk until smooth and paste-ish. Whisk in the vanilla and set aside.

Meanwhile, mix ¾ cup of sugar, flour and salt together.

Finally, in a large mixing bowl, mix the egg whites at low speed.

Egg whites

When they're unwhipped, they're all splashy and splorshy.

Egg whites

As they build body, turn up the speed on the mixer.

Egg whites

As they yield soft peaks, whisk in the cream of tartar. Soft peaks are ones that may drop a bit when you remove the beater. The cream of tartar drops the pH of the egg whites, stabilizing the peaks.

Gradually add the remaining sugar to the egg whites, while beating.

Egg whites

Continue beating until the egg whites have increased to a ridiculous volume, and created stiff peaks. Stiff peaks don't move even a tiny bit as you pull your beaters out of the eggs.

Remove about 1 cup of egg white, and mix well with the cocoa mixture.

Egg whites

Chocolate egg whites

Then, gently fold in the flour into the remaining egg whites, ¼ cup at a time. I like to use a flat whisk. The book recommends using a "balloon whisk", but even the mighty power of the Googles doesn't return a result for that. A flat whisk works well.

Egg whites

Now, mix the cocoa/egg white mixture into the batter, very gently.

Cake batter

Mrs. Dude likes a bit of swirl to the cake. The trick is to stop when you think it has the right amount of swirl.

Cake batter

Cake batter

Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Stab the batter with a knife a bunch of times to remove holes in the batter. Plus, you know, cake-stabbing.

Cake batter

Place pan in the oven. Bake for 40ish minutes, or until you stab it with a toothpick and the toothpick comes out clean (often as much as 50 minutes when I bake it).

Cake cooling

Remove the ridiculously large cake from the oven, and invert in a way that it can be supported on the top of the tube, without crushing the cake.

Cake cooling

I've constructed pretty ridiculous structures to get this to work. The one I show here is a ¼ cup measuring cup inverted on top of an upside-down KitchenAid bowl. I've seen wine bottles recommended, but they don't fit my tube pans. Good luck.

Cool the cake completely, then cut it out of the pan, running the knife around the outside of the pan, and the outside of the tube.

Cake removal

Invert onto a plate, gently shake, and... tada!

Chocolate angelfood cake

Serve with whipping cream and fruit.

Chocolate angelfood cake