Would a funnel cake by any other name taste as sweet? It certainly would if it were a rosette. Rosettes are what funnel cakes grow up to be after the’ve been to finishing school.
But how? and why?
Like pancakes, fruitcakes, and flatbread, there’s no one single origin or one single country to which rosettes or funnel cakes can be linked. Frying thin, sweet batter on decorative irons appears in history in Sweden, Norway, and Finland, but also Turkey, Malaysia, and Iran. Versions even appear in Mexican culture long before any of these treats reached American shores.
As Alton Brown would say, “I’m no nutritional anthropologist,” but can’t you see an enterprising housewife pouring some leftover batter into a simmering pot of oil to cook it quickly before the fire went out? Like hushpuppies, she probably fed the leftovers to the household animals, or to the children to keep them quiet before bedtime.
Once she and the family got addicted to the sweet-fried goodness, I can see her searching for a way to put her stamp, her identity into this concoction. Add in a twist of metal to make a special design, and our lady soon becomes known for her unique take on this common, everyday food.
At least, that’s the way I see it in my mind’s eye. How about you?
Rosettes may seem intimidating or complicated, but they’re very easy to make. And once you get the hang of dipping and frying, you can turn them out by the dozens. Let’s check it out.
To make rosettes, you’ll need a rosette iron. The iron consists of a handle and removable decorative molds. For this model, the molds screw on and off so that you can change them as often as you like. More on this later.
For mixing the batter, you’ll want a bowl that will fit the iron right down to the very bottom. You’ll be able to get more rosettes this way with much less waste.
In this bowl, whisk:
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
One of the keys to light and crisp rosettes? Sifting! While I do fluff up my flour before measuring, I don’t often sift it. In this case, though, you want your ingredients to stay light so they’ll incorporate easily. Less mixing = more tender, so do take the extra time to sift in 1 cup flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Whisk well until no lumps remain. Cover and set aside in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, but no more than 60 minutes.
When you’re ready to fry, having your stage set will be a tremendous help.
On a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet, set up your batter bowl, your irons, and a pair of tongs or a wooden chopstick to help flip over the cooking rosettes.
Beside this tray, set up a heavy, deep pot of oil and heat it to 365°F. Be sure to leave plenty of extra space, as the oil will rise during the cooking process.
Here’s a hint: If you covered your bowl with plastic wrap or a shower cap, be sure to remove that from the tray. Hot iron + cold plastic = one big mess.
On a separate lined tray, place a few large gridded racks for draining and cooling the rosettes. Mine is on a table outside of the photo, but you’ll see it later.
Choose your design, screw it onto the handle firmly, and set it in the hot oil for 1 minute.
Hold the hot iron over the oil to allow the excess oil to drain off.
Quickly move the hot iron to the batter bowl. Submerge the iron into the batter so that it comes half to 3/4 of the way up the iron.
Take special care to see that the batter doesn’t flow over the top of the iron. Hold the iron in the batter for a 10 count.
Bring the batter-laden iron back to the oil and submerge it once again. The oil will roil and bubble.
Don’t be surprised if your first few rosettes are no-settes. It takes a little practice to get the hang of the right dip time, fry time, etc. Just like pancakes and waffles, you can snack on the rejects as you make more.
Once you have it down pat and everything is clicking along, you’ll notice your rosettes will fry for a bit and then begin to separate from the iron. Eventually the rosette will slip off of the iron and float freely in the oil.
Be sure to flip them after one side is golden brown to allow the second side to brown up.
A word to the wise. If you do decide to change irons during your frying, be sure to protect your hands. The iron is rocket hot!
After frying, transfer each rosette to the draining rack. Check out the two rosettes at the bottom of the photo. The rosette on the left is perfect, but there are a couple of things wrong with the rosette on the right. Take a look and see if you can figure it out.
Got it? First, and most obvious, it’s a tad overcooked. Rosettes should be a light golden brown all over.
The second problem, which isn’t as obvious, is that the rosette is wrong side up on the draining rack. If you don’t place the hollow side down, extra oil will collect in the channels and turn your rosettes from light to leaden.
As much as I love the delicate snowflake look of the rosettes, some days you just aren’t going to have a rosette iron on hand. Check out this cool new product, the Pancake Pen. You just fill it with your batter, then squirt it into the hot oil and Bazinga! Funnel cakes!!!
The recipe for the batter is basically the same, but with a little baking powder as well. Check out the tips section of the recipe for specifics.
As the name implies, the Pancake Pen also makes great pancakes, either rounds or fancy designs. I’ve tried to cut down on the gadgets I’ve been buying, but this one is definitely a keeper. Pancakes, cupcake batter, even sauces will be a breeze (squeeze) with this.
To finish off your fried fantasy, top with plenty of confectioners’ sugar or non-melting sugar. For funnel cakes, there’s no such thing as too much sugar on top.
The delicacy of the rosettes calls for a more modest amount of topping, to enhance the curves and swirls of the patterns rather than cover them. I think our collective ancestral creative housewife would be thrilled to see her traditions carried on and universally enjoyed.
Please make, rate, and review our recipe for Simple Rosettes.
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