In the Russian Mennonite tradition, this is the classic summer “go-with” for ice-cold watermelon.
Rollkuchen, an airy fried bread, puffs up while being deep fried. Different Mennonite families make it different ways, some preferring it to be thin, flaky, and crispy, while others like their fry bread thick and soft, according to Judy Wiebe, one of the authors of the Canadian cookbook Mennonite Girls Can Cook. “How well I recall childhood picnics with [cold watermelon] and big tubs of rollkuchen. It was impossible to eat just one.”
Many Mennonites in Canada come from Russian Mennonite backgrounds where rollkuchen and watermelon automatically are thought of together. These days Mennonites often serve the duo with a sweet, sugar-beet-based syrup, sold only in Canada, called Roger’s Golden Syrup. (Outside of Canada, the closest substitute is said to be corn syrup.) Many also salt their watermelon to bring out its full sweetness.
Makes 48 pieces (the recipe easily can be cut in half to make 24 pieces)
5 cups flour (and possibly up to 1 cup more flour)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream (or sour cream)
1 cup milk
Vegetable oil or canola oil for deep frying
Combine 5 cups flour, baking powder, and salt.
Beat eggs, heavy cream, and milk together. Add to the dry ingredients and mix well.
If needed, add more flour until a soft dough forms.
Chill dough 1-2 hours for easier handling.
Divide dough in half; on a floured surface, roll out the dough until thin. (Or roll it a bit thicker for a softer, plumper pastry. The first time you make it, why not try it both ways to see which way you prefer your fry bread?)
Cut strips of dough into 2-inch by 4-inch pieces. Make 2 parallel slits, longwise, in the center if each strip. (This ensures the center of the bread is cooked.)
Repeat with the other half of the chilled dough.
Heat the cooking oil until hot. Gently stretch the pieces before dropping them into the oil.
Deep fry the pieces in hot oil over medium heat until golden on one side. Flip and fry until the other side turns brown.
Remove onto a paper towel or brown paper to cool.
Adapted from Mennonite Girls Can Cook by a group of ten Mennonite women, published by Herald Press, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada; additional information provided by Herman J. Wiebe (who’s not related to the cookbook’s Judy Wiebe) an officer of Mennonite Heritage Village, Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Mennonite Heritage Village holds an annual watermelon festival (usually the third Sunday in July) where fry bread is served along with the watermelon.
Recipe tested by Ellen Ficklen; email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org