To those of you who don’t know Puff Puff, your life is about to be changed. Ok, I may be exaggerating a little but have you had Puff Puff though? This was one of my favorite snacks as a child and it still is. I never liked cooking when I was growing up (I know it is ironic) but I was a professional taste tester and would hang around in the kitchen when these were cooking to give my expert advice, for every batch. Now when I make these, I expect a good portion to disappear in the making process.
Puff puff (also known as beignets) are deep fried golden balls of sweet dough. So simple yet so good! They are popular in Cameroon and in other Central and West African countries, sometimes by different names. When I was a child, apart from snacking on them, it was common for us to have it for breakfast with a porridge called pap, with a hot pepper sauce or with stewed beans. Which ever way you have it, it is definitely a crowd-pleaser. It is a go to side to make for African parties, mostly because it is one of those African dishes where all the ingredients are not only accessible but already in my home. And also they are vegan! I get asked how to make them quite often so here they are.
Back home no one ever uses a recipe, they just kind of know how much of each ingredient to put and they check for the consistency. At first it was hard getting an exact recipe from any family member of mine for these but after some tries I figured out what works best so don’t worry you don’t have to do any guessing or gauging.
- Using your hands: To fry Puff Puff, traditionally people use their hands to scoop up portions of dough then drop it into the hot oil. To do this, twist your wrist around and use the side of your index finger to scoop dough into the palm of your hand. Holding the dough in your palm, squeeze balls of dough out of the end of your hand (by your pinky finger) into the oil. You want to get close enough to drop balls into the oil without splashing oil around but not too close so you don’t burn yourself. Use one hand for scooping the dough and leave one clean for everything else. Of course make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before starting.
- Using spoons: If what I explained above doesn’t make any sense or you would rather not get your hands dirty, you can use two spoons. Use one spoon to scoop dough then use the other spoon to push the dough into the oil. They aren’t always shaped right this way but they still taste good.
- Drop a ball of dough to test the heat of your oil before filling up the pan. You don’t want your puff to brown too fast. If it is too hot, it will get dark fast but be raw in the inside. If it is not hot enough, it will sink to the bottom of the pan, soak up a lot of oil and be really greasy. You want to see bubbles form around the Puff Puff and you don’t want to see smoke/fumes rising from the pan.
- Store in a cool area. I like to store mine in the fridge in a container.
- To reheat Puff Puff, it is best to do so in an oven/toaster oven. Like most bread based foods they get hard and almost impossible to chew if you heat them up in the microwave.
This recipe yields about 20 to 25 puff puffs.
- 3 cups flour
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 1/4 teaspoon yeast
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Oil for deep frying
In a large bowl, mix together the water and yeast until the yeast is completely dissolved. Mix in the sugar and salt then mix in the flour until it is fully combined. Continue mixing for about 3 minutes (same idea as kneading a dough). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm place to rise for an hour or until the dough doubles in size.
Set aside a strainer or a bowl lined with paper towels. Pour oil into a pan, enough for deep frying, and heat it at medium to low heat. Do not let the oil overheat, you shouldn’t see fumes rising from the oil. Test out the heat of the oil by putting in a little portion of dough. If the oil is hot enough, you will see bubbles forming around the dough as it begins to fry. You want to start putting in portions of dough when you see bubbling around the piece you put in.
When the oil is hot enough, drop portions of dough into the pan either with your hand or spoons like explained in the tips. Make sure you are not dropping balls of dough on top of each other. Fill up the pan. Let them fry until they are golden then turn the balls over so the other side can fry. When the Puff Puff is ready, take them out with thongs or a spoon and place them in the strainer/bowl. Repeat with more balls of dough until everything is ready. Enjoy warm.