It was my first baseball game…some good few years back. Big-J’s school was selling family tickets for the evening and we bought for us. Somerset Patriots versus Sugar Land Skeeters it was. I had never taken an interest in this game and didn’t know a thing about it. All my earnest request that I be spared of the match, only fell upon deaf ears. It was meant to be a family time and Big-J insisted and made sure none of us was left out.
I still remember the evening. I wore one of my most casual tees and paired it with a favorite tattered capri pants. I took along a book to entertain myself, while every other soul was more keen to cheer their teams. I walked in the stadium and sat down without much expectation. Was baseball as intensely engrossing as the games I grew up following? I didn’t think so. Did I consider baseball as good as cricket, tennis, badminton or soccer? No, not at all.
And here I was seated to watch a match that I didn’t have a clue about. I knew no rules…well, only apart from the quick education J gave me…that the batters were going to desperately try hit the ball with a bat that looked more like a wooden golf club to me, albeit with a thick rounded head, that’s called the bat “barrel”. And that to score a “run”, a batter runs circularly. Did I care? Not really.
I hadn’t been to a live match before. The stadium was packed and almost full. It was as if I walked in a large fair or a festival gathering. There was BBQ in the rooftop picnic area. Smart TV match presentation. Spread across were at least a hundred food stalls, fun games and promotional booths. Catering was available too. And moon bounce for kids. And though this was a local match, there was constant cheering, clapping, singing, music, dancing and frolic throughout. What a spirit everywhere! That one thing I most like about America is the common optimism in people and their contagious free, fun-loving spirit. And although I was probably the only one with eyes fixated on a book and away from the baseball players, the festive environment kind of lifted me up and I was beginning to love it there….whilst Big-J and her Dad were too absorbed watching the game.
The game went on rather unexpectedly long. We had had already moped clean a share of onion rings with fry sauce and sandwiches. Mr. Dad, I and J had some wee dram beer, wine and juice respectively to wash them down too. An hour and half later, we wanted to eat again. The magic of watching a game? I’d say for J and Dad it was matching the thrill that their eyes saw, with the thrill their taste buds got by nibbling! And for me, the foods always facilitate comfort reading 😉
So off went Mr. Man and J and brought back a plate of wriggly fried mass of something that smelled good and was covered with sprinkled sugar. “This?”, I asked. “It’s a funnel cake”, said the Dad. “Or call it an American Jilipi (Jalebi)!” We all reluctantly tore away a piece and ate to judge. It was slightly sweet, yummy and addictive. J loved it too much. I have rarely seen her eating with such speed. Friends who know her, know that eating is usually a boring routine for her (no matter what and how many options you provide!) and quite a ritual at home during meal times. Although J had polished off most, I relished my tiny share of the treat as much too. It made my evening that day…did more good to me than the game or my book.
I eventually started noticing (and eating!) funnel cakes at every fest then on. Spring festivals, carnivals, circus, amusement parks, Halloween celebrations, at tournaments, fall festivals, Holiday parties, beach sides, seasonal parades, and many street celebrations. The funnel cakes were made fresh and sold at stalls everywhere. Most times with a magic sparing sprinkle of fine sugar. And often times with generous dollops of delicious fruit sauces on it. J loves it most with a couple scoops of her favorite vanilla ice cream though. Lil-J prefers it plain. I like it anyways!
Though Dutch by origin, funnel cakes are a tradition in North American festivals, fairs, vacations and sporting events today. I can still remember a chilly mid-December evening at Sesame Place, Pennsylvania. It got cold…quite cold by end of the day. We stood in a queue to buy funnel cakes for us from a stall that exuded the warm familiar cake-y fragrance through the crisp air in abundance. 20-minutes later, we all had a plateful of the warm, smell-good, fresh fried funnel cakes. Big-J, the littlest one and the Dad had theirs plain. I had some applesauce on mine. As we ate, the warmth of the fried cake batter, as if embracing our souls, took away quite the cold we felt that night.
Today, I still stand ignorant of baseball rules. But I don’t mind accompanying family or a friend and fan of baseball…only, if they sell funnel cakes there and more! Those days, I didn’t know how to do them in my kitchen. I tried experimenting and it failed with a thud. Later, I tweaked the recipe I use for my cherry fritters and poured thin streams of the batter over hot oil in circular patterns and fried. It tasted delicious to say the least…quite like the ones we’ve had from the stalls, but teeny bit healthier, since I use whole wheat flour and no butter. Do try this recipe and dig in. You wouldn’t ever complain, big-J promises!
What you Need⇒
Makes 3 small-to-medium cakes
- 2 US cups (16 oz or 130 gm) whole wheat flour (atta)
- 1 large egg
- 2 US cups (16 fl.oz. or 240 ml) Milk
- 1/2 US cup (100 gm) sugar
- 2 tsp ground cloves (lavang powder)
- 1/2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 heaped tsp baking powder
- Confectioner’s sugar to finish (also read serving suggestions at the end of cooking instructions)
- A funnel cake pitcher or piping bag or condiment/ketchup/water bottle or water pitcher
- Small, deep frying pan or kadai
- Sufficient light olive oil to deep fry
- In a clean, dry bowl, mix the flour and baking powder with a dry spoon.
- In another mixing bowl, add contents of an egg. Whisk. Add sugar and 1 cup milk. With a spoon, mix them all together well, so the sugar is well incorporated.
- Add half of the flour mix and fold them all together. Add the last cup of milk. Mix. Now add all the remaining flour mixture into the mixing bowl and whisk them well so there aren’t any lumps.
- Add the vanilla extract and ground cloves to the batter and fold them in till the mixture is smooth. Do not over mix.
- Heat enough oil (for deep frying) in the frying pan/kadai over medium heat.
- Fill 1/3rd of the cake batter in the funnel pitcher or piping bag (or the condiment/water bottle) and keep ready.
- When the oil is hot, carefully drop streams of batter from the funnel pitcher/piping bag/bottle, and move it over the oil to make designs. Typically, the batter is dropped in circular motions, to make spiral “jalebi” like designs, though funnel cakes are rather larger in size. Use your thumb as a stopper to plug the pitcher/bottle mouth, when you’d like to stop the batter flow.
- Let the funnel cake fry for about 2-4 minutes, until it is slightly brownish in color and gets puffed up a little. Using turner and tongs, carefully flip the funnel cake to cook the other side for another 1-3 minutes, till done. Carefully take out the funnel cake and place on an adsorbent kitchen towel to drain excess oil. Use remaining batter to make 2 more funnel cakes in similar manner.
- Sprinkle some sifted confectioner’s sugar on the funnel cake.
- For a rather traditional fair and carnival style funnel cakes, top it with some Chunky Applesauce or a delicious Berry Compote. (You could use flavored applesauce, or any other single fruit sauce like strawberry or blueberry sauces.)
- You could also serve it with some fresh fruits, whipped cream, chocolate sauce or a couple scoops of your favorite ice-cream.
- In place of plain sugar sprinkle, you could mix some apple crumble with sugar and cinnamon and use it as a topping too.
- Maple syrup, a drizzle of honey or breakfast syrups also do wonders to this funnel cake.