These crisp and crunchy Orejas de Carnaval Gallegas are the delight of the whole family. Easy fried dough recipe infused with Spanish flavors and coated with a thin and powdery layer of confectioner’s sugar.
Fried dough is known everywhere in America. It is one of these nostalgic treats that brings you back to happy kid memories at the local fair and football games.
In Canada, they also have their popular version called “Queues de Castor” (Beaver tails), and they serve it topped with many decadent spreads, fruits, and nuts.
In Spain, we don’t have beaver tails, we have “orejas” (ears) and they are traditional during Carnival in Galicia.
Carnival is a celebration associated with lent. It is actually the last crazy feast before lent. Pork is widely produced and consumed in Spain, so during carnival season many pork dishes and treats are prepared and enjoyed.
As you might imagine now, our fried dough ears do not actually resemble “elephant ears” but pork ears! They could have called them “Orejas de cerdo”, but I am guessing “Pig ears” is not sexy enough for a warm, brittle fried dough covered in soft powdered sugar.
The Spanish Secret
The recipe is really simple, made with just a few basic ingredients such as flour, butter, and eggs.
The Spanish special touch comes from two very aromatic and distinguished ingredients: anise and lemon.
The sweet and distinct licorice flavor makes a unique and special partner with the sharp and pleasant touch of citrus.
Many times, when it comes to food, the difference relies on the singular and peculiar ingredients that are added and combined. These distinctive touches can say a lot about the culture and the people who prepare it.
Note how the uniqueness of the American fried dough relies on the creamy and rich butter spread on top of the warm dough, while Spanish fried dough incorporates Mediterranean fresh flavors such as citrus and anise.
Which one do you prefer? Have you ever tried Orejas de Carnaval?
To see the whole and detailed video recipe, check out the YouTube video.
OREJAS DE CARNAVAL (Spanish Fried Dough)
o 1L Egg
o 200g Flour (+ some extra for rolling out the dough)
o 50g Butter, melted
o 15g (1 ½ Tbsp) Anise Liqueur (I used Romana Sambuca)
o Zest of half a lemon
o Pinch of salt
o Oil for frying (mild olive oil or vegetable oil)
o Powdered sugar to dust on top
1. Add the egg to a medium mixing bowl and beat it lightly.
2. Add the melted butter, anise liqueur, and lemon zest and mix until combined.
3. Add half of the flour and the salt and mix until combined. Keep adding the rest of the flour slowly and mix with a spatula. If it gets hard to mix with a spatula switch and knead with your hands.
4. Keep adding flour and kneading until the dough doesn’t stick to the walls of the bowl, but it stills feels very soft. The whole process shouldn't take more than 5 minutes.
5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let the dough rest for at least 20-30 minutes.
6. Take small portions of the dough (20-30g) and roll them into balls. Place them on a floured surface.
7. Before rolling the dough, prepare the frying pan. Add abundant oil (3-4 cups) to a big frying pan and turn the heat to medium.
8. With the help of a rolling pin, roll out each ball until it’s very thin and long, and place it on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
9. Make sure the oil is hot to start frying, it should be around 350F. Place one piece of dough into the hot oil and with the help of one fork, push the dough to one side of the pan from the center so it’s shaped like an ear or “oreja”. Fry the dough until crispy and golden brown on both sides, about 1 minute on each side.
10. Take the fried oreja out of the pan and place it on a cooling rack or on a plate with some paper towels to absorb the excess of oil.
11. Keep frying the rest of the dough. You can add 2-3 pieces at a time to speed up the process.
12. Once they are all fried and still warm dust some powdered sugar on top using a sieve, and enjoy!
o Dough resting time: It is important to let the dough rest for at least 20-30 minutes. This helps the dough relax and will allow you to better roll it and stretch it to the long oval shape.
If your dough is too elastic and when you roll it it comes back to the original shape, do not fight it, and do not keep working it. Make a ball, cover it, and let it rest.
o Oil temperature is important to get the perfect crisp and consistent results. In a medium/big frying pan (10-12 inches) I recommend frying 2 to 3 orejas at a time and keep the heat on medium at 350F.
o Reuse your oil: Let the oil cool down and filter it through a mesh strainer. You can reuse the oil to cook and fry other food.
o Flavors: Add some cinnamon or cardamom to the powdered sugar to give another layer of flavor!
o Fried dough: Freeze or keep in the fridge any leftover orejas. Bake them at 350F for 10-20 minutes until they are warm and crisp.
o Raw dough: You can keep it in the fridge if you are not using it all for 2-3 days, or freeze for up to 6 months.
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