Making Fry Bread

As promised in the post about the Mahkato Wacipi, I’m discussing the Fry Bread that is a staple at many First Nation gatherings.

The recipe I use comes from a small cookbook I picked up at the Wacipi several years ago, and it offers a bit of back story for the recipe. Fry Bread is one of those recipes that evolved out of the American Indian experience interacting with the U.S. Government. White flour as we know it today was not a part of the original diets of most First Nation tribes.

Flour came into their diets with the distribution of food stuffs and commodities to tribal members living in poverty in the wake of numerous conflicts across the country. Fry Bread became a staple food, using the groceries made available.

I’ve seen several other recipes for Fry Bread, some claimed by different regions and tribes, but they all start with flour and dried milk powder.

This is the recipe I used to make Fry Bread as an after-school snack for my older children when they were teens, and I’ve also used it for small group demonstrations. I’m not an expert on indigenous foods, but this one is pretty tasty and well worth the effort.

Fry Bread

Heat oil for frying. You could use a deep-fat fryer at 375 degrees. I use my enamel-lined, cast-iron Dutch oven filled about half-way with canola oil, heated to about 375. You could use a candy thermometer to check the temp.

Measure out three cups of self-rising flour (or three cups white flour, 1 T. baking powder, 1 t salt, mixed together). Add one cup whole milk (or equivalent in dried milk powder and water). Mix together. Dough will be stiff. Knead briefly and let rest for at least five minutes, while oil is heating.

Turn out dough. Cut into 16 pieces. (I just cut dough into quarters, then in quarters again.) Roll each piece into a ball.

When ready to fry, pick up a dough ball and flatten it into a circle about a quarter to a half-inch thick. Drop into hot fat and fry until golden brown on both sides. Remove to a rack or towel to drain.

Best eaten hot. We like to sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar, to serve with honey. For a savory take, divide the dough into eight pieces instead of 16 before frying. Top these bigger pieces of bread with seasoned ground beef, lettuce and tomatoes to make what’s known as an “Indian Taco.”

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