Recently, Steph decided for the both of us that we have to reduce our meat intake. Her new plan is to start slow by replacing 2 to 3 meals during the week with a vegetarian option. This has obviously not gone down well with me but I have decided to make the ultimate sacrifice and go along with it. This is largely due to the fact the last time we argued about something petty, it was over “who washed the dishes more often?”. I was the clear winner in that argument. Yes, I did do the dishes more often and yes it did feel good being right…. but it came at a cost. Therefore, as any well educated person would do, I have learnt from my past victories and opted to stay silent!
To re-align myself with Steph’s new weekly menu, I have decided to share with you my vegan friendly fried bread sticks. Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay, I know what you’re thinking. It is suppose to be healthy as well as vegetarian… but I am taking baby steps. This dish is something I have always wanted to learn since people have always told me it looks easy but in actual fact is quite difficult. I personally love it when I hear these words because it just makes it so much more rewarding when you do perfect it!
For anyone who has never tried a fried bread stick, it is something you must give a go at least once. It is similar to a plain doughnut but lighter, chewier and has a crispy skin. Many Asian people have them as a savoury accompaniment or snack with their congee or cup of coffee in the morning. I like them as a sweet, smothered with Nutella or strawberry jam.
If you search the internet on how to make these bread sticks, you will find that many recipes will ask you to to prepare the dough a day in advance! This is because the dough needs time to proof. This is essential for the bread sticks to become light and fluffy. However, I personally believe that it is way too long to wait, especially if you are craving them.
So for the past 3 weeks, Mum and I have been experimenting with different methods and ingredients to shorten the time needed. We began with an original recipe which mum used a lot and gradually improved on it. I believe we have succeeded in coming up with a recipe that requires far less time! Instead of letting the dough proof overnight, we have managed to get it down to a minimum of 3 hours and an ideal time of 4 hours. I would have liked to get it down even further but the bread sticks were losing a lot of volume and size.
Admittedly, the development of this recipe has been quite a frustrating journey. There are so many traps with this recipe that I had to write them down to make sure you guys are well aware of all the pitfalls and increase your chances of success!
- The best results were from using baker’s flour that had only wheat flour, thiamine and folic acid as the ingredients. The brands I used were Gem of the West (Costco) and Defiance (Woolworths / Coles). Bread flour also works but does not expand as well as baker’s flour.
- The dough must be really sticky and hard to knead. I have noticed that bread flours require more liquid to acquire the same consistency as baker’s flour. If you are using bread flour, add a further 10 – 15 ml if the dough is not sticking to the bowl and your hands!
- Try not to over dust the dough with flour. I understand that it is hard to work with a wet dough but it is necessary. I leave the dough in the bowl and knead it by using my 3 middle fingers and pushing the sides into the centre.
- The dough should be left to proof for 3 hours in total as a minimum and 4 hours as the ideal.
- Try not to over work the dough with the rolling pin. Compressing the dough affects the expansion of the dough when deep frying.
- The bread stick requires very little water to combine the two halves together. Do not drench the two halves of the dough in water otherwise they are more likely to become unstuck when frying.
- Try not to push more than 0.5 cm on the dough with the back of your knife or bamboo skewer to combine the two halves together. This actually has a big impact on the expansion of the dough in the oil.
- Try not to stretch the dough more than 2 – 3 cm each side. If you do then you will notice that the ends expand while the middle stays thin and dense.
- I noticed that when the oil is too hot, the bread sticks do not expand. I believe that when the outer skin of the bread stick cooks too quickly, it becomes firm and loses it ability to stretch. Once this happens, it no longer matters how much gas the dough produces, it will not gain any volume. Hence, do not fry your bread sticks at anything higher than 175 C / 347 F or lower than 170 C / 338 F.
So as you can see, there are a lot of hurdles to look out for! But don’t be discouraged if it does not go perfectly the first time. It is not as easy as it seems. Just keep at it and you will be rewarded with amazing fried bread sticks. Enjoy!
Fried Bread Sticks - Dau Chao Quay - Youtiao
Recipe: Mum & Scruff
Course: Accompaniment / snack / breakfast
- 175 ml of warm water
- 1 tsp of instant dried yeast
- 1 tsp of sugar
- 250 gm of baker’s flour
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 1 tbsp / 15 ml of canola oil
- Extra baker’s flour for rolling
- Canola oil for deep frying (enough for a depth of 3 cm)
- In a measuring cup, add the warm water, dried yeast and sugar. Set aside for at least 5 mins.
- In a mixing bowl, add the flour, salt and oil.
- Add the yeast mixture to the mixing bowl and combine thoroughly (Note 1).
- Knead the dough for roughly 10 mins inside the mixing bowl by pulling the edges into the center with your middle 3 fingers (Note 2).
- Cover the bowl with cling wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Uncover the dough and knead the dough inside the bowl for 5 minutes.
- Cover with cling wrap and let it sit for a further 3 hours at room temperature.
- After 3 hours or whenever you are ready to start frying, heat up the oil to 170 C – 175 C. There should be at least a depth of 3 cm of oil in the pan.
- Dust some flour on your work surface.
- Take the dough out of the bowl and mold the dough into a log. Split the dough in half with a knife so that it is more manageable.
- Flatten the dough with a rolling pin till it is roughly 0.8 – 1 cm thick. Use your knife to shape the dough into a rectangle (Note 3).
- Loosen the dough off the work surface to make sure it is not stuck. Add a little flour underneath the shaped dough before cutting.
- Cut segments of roughly 2.5 to 3 cm out with a knife.
- With the back of a knife or a bamboo skewer, dip it in a glass of water and gently lay it down in the middle of one of the segments. The water will act as the glue to attach the two segments together.
- Layer another segment on top and with the back of the knife or bamboo skewer press down where water was placed. Press in approximately 0.5 cm.
- Check the oil is at roughly 170 C – 175 C.
- Dip your thumb and index finger into some flour and grab the two ends of the bread stick and stretch the dough. I recommend stretching about 4 – 5 cm on each side.
- Slip the dough into the oil and rotate bread stick so that each side has roughly 4 -5 seconds of being completely submersed in the hot oil (Note 4).
- After roughly 30 seconds, allow the bread stick to fry on one side until golden and then do the same to the side (Note 5).
- Take out and let it drain on a cooling rack (Note 6).
- Serve ASAP!
- The dough should be very sticky. It should be sticking to your fingers and the bowl while you are kneading. If not, then add more water. I suggest 10 ml at a time.
- If you are finding it very difficult to knead due to the moisture in the dough, then use a little amount of flour. Avoid adding too much and drying out the dough.
- Try to not roll the dough too much with the rolling pin. I believe that compressing the dough too much effects the ability for the bread stick to become light and fluffy.
- Try to avoid piercing the bread stick with your chopstick while rotating the bread stick.
- Only add another bread stick to the oil once the first one has stopped expanding rapidly.
- Try to leave a gap of about 3 cm between each bread stick while cooling. This is to ensure that the steam does not transfer to other bread sticks and soften the crispy skin.