We all have food memories that we may have fabricated, right? They are blurry, gray, distant and vague; they are memories of us eating something not necessarily good or bad, but an imprint of them has remained in the brain nonetheless. Years down the line we try to look back to those memories and there is but a hint of them left – nothing to actually hold on to. Let us refer to those as phantom food memories.
I don’t remember eating ponchiki (pon-chee-key) often as a child. My mom might have made them for my sister and I once or twice but it wasn’t a regular thing – cuz, you know, deep-fried dough isn’t really good for kids. I don’t even remember what they tasted like to me as a child, but I do remember being excited about eating them. And so, since I’ve been meaning to try making doughnuts at home for a long time now, I figured I’d ask my mom about this phantom recipe as a start. To my pleasant surprise, she practically knew it by heart and it turned out to be super easy, too. No fancy equipment, yeast, or proofing time required! Eating the final product, unfortunately, did not force those memories to float to the surface. But eh, who cares – they were freakin’ delicious!
(Yield: about 12 ponchiki)
250 g (1 c plus 1 tbsp) farmer’s cheese
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp lemon juice
1 1/4 c all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
Vegetable oil for frying
Powdered sugar for dusting
Procedure: Combine cheese, sugar, eggs, vanilla and zest in a mixing bowl. Then squirt lemon juice into baking soda, let it fizzle for a few seconds, and add to mixture. Stir mixture until fully combined. Stir in 1 c flour – don’t overmix. The mixture should be slightly sticky and soft; if at this point the mixture is too thin, add another 1/4 c flour, or more if necessary to achieve desired consistency. Then pour oil into pot or saute pan – the oil should be about 3 inches deep. Place over high heat. Heat oil until it starts to gently ripple – about 10 min.
While the oil heats up, form the ponchiki. Place about a third of the dough on a generously floured surface. Sprinkle top with more flour and form into a log.
Cut the log into 3 or 4 pieces.
Shape into golf ball-sized pieces (as you would with meatballs). If dough is too sticky, sprinkle some more flour on it.
When oil is hot enough, turn heat down to low. Add 3 or 4 ponchiki into the oil at a time – they should sizzle and rise to the top immediately. Cook each batch for about 5 min, turning occasionally to ensure even cooking. The ponchiki will puff up as they cook.
Using a slotted spoon or other straining utensil, remove ponchiki from hot oil and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining ponchiki.
Dust with powdered sugar. Serve warm, alongside preserves or this homemade strawberry sauce.
What are your phantom food memories?