“Puffs” or pan fried bread is my grandmother’s specialty… a simple fry bread with yeast that she would make the night before to have for breakfast the next day. Her easy fried dough recipe is legendary in our family and best served with a pat of butter and your favorite jam.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that every time we visited Myne and Grandad (my Dad’s parents) up in White Stone, Virginia, my grandmother would make her famous “Puffs” for breakfast. Essentially a fry bread with yeast (instead of baking powder) it’s the kind of recipe that family traditions are made from.
The Lore Behind Myne’s Puffs (Pan Fried Bread)
Myne’s easy fried dough recipe was always “made up” the night before, so the Puffs could rise and be ready to fry for breakfast. The next morning — without fail — my grandmother would remove the towel from the bowl of dough and with an alarmed look, pronounce that “the puffs didn’t rise.” Panicked at the prospect of no Puffs for breakfast, we would rush to the kitchen — only to find that Myne was making it up – the dough had risen. Her prank was repeatedly (and flawlessly) executed every time she made a batch.
How To Make The Easy Fried Dough Recipe
- In a large bowl, combine lukewarm water and yeast and swish until the yeast is dissolved. (Note: my grandmother and my mother, who actually made this batch used their hands to swish the water and yeast together — instead of a spoon — old school style.)
- Add the shortening and break it apart with your fingers.
- Stir in the sugar and salt, swishing and stirring until dissolved.
- Add the flour a little at a time, stirring and kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic.
- Form it into a ball, then place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with a clean towel to rise at least two hours or overnight.
How To Make Fried Dough
- To make the fried dough, fill a heavy cast iron skillet with deep sides or dutch oven with about 2″ of vegetable oil or Crisco. I know, it’s not the healthiest ingredient, but come on it’s fried bread. You didn’t think it would be good for you. I make no apologies – Crisco was big back in the day and in this recipe it makes crisp light puffs..
- Heat over medium high heat until the temperature is about 350°-375°.
- Make a “tester” with a small pinch of dough. Stretch it out and carefully place it in the hot oil. If the oil bubbles lightly around the dough, it needs to heat more. If it starts to bubble furiously, it’s hot enough.
- Pull off a golf ball sized piece of dough, flatten it and pull the sides until the dough is about 1/4 to 1/3″ thick and 3″ in diameter (Note: it will never be a perfect circle, so don’t even try) .
- Gently place the dough in the hot oil – releasing it away from you to avoid splatters and burns.
- Cook for a few minutes until the underside is golden and brown.
- Use tongs or a long-handled fork to gently turn the pan fried bread and fry for an additional minute or so until crispy and golden.
- Transfer to a paper towel lined baking sheet.
- Keep warm in a hot oven while you make the rest — or serve them as soon as they come out of the fryer (the best way).
- We like them with a pat of butter and homemade jam.
Incidentally, my Mom made this batch of pan fried bread in my grandmother, Myne’s kitchen in Virginia last week. That’s her cast iron pan, above. The photos below show the plate of puffs as we normally serve them… hot from the fryer. The jam on the left is Mom’s homemade guava jam and the one on the right is my Aunt Lynne’s apricot jam… recipe to come.
What Do Puffs Taste Like?
This pan fried bread is crunchy on the outside with a puffed, hot, yeasty dough inside. They’re not sweet on their own, which is why we liberally smear them with butter and jam… though others may prefer powdered sugar or maple syrup (my grandmother wouldn’t approve of those substitutions so if you do it, just keep it to yourself.)
Speaking of Myne, I visited her with my parents just last week. During our visit, she invited me to go through her kitchen and see if there was anything I could use for the blog. We found her old recipe box filled with hand written favorites on index cards. Some recipes credited relatives and neighbors (i.e. Aunt Betty’s recipe…) and there was more than one rendition of jelled salad (jell-o molds) in her files. When we found the puffs recipe, I knew we had to make them.
Create your own special memories and make Myne’s Puffs for your family.
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Grandmother's Puffs - A Southern Fry Bread with Yeast
- 2 cups lukewarm water about 110° on an instant read thermometer
- 1 rounded tablespoon vegetable shortening (Myne uses Crisco) about the size of an egg
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 package Instant Yeast
- 4 1/2 - 5 cups all purpose flour
To Make The Puff Dough
- Add the yeast to a large bowl and stir in the water. Let the yeast dissolve and bloom for a few minutes.
- Add the shortening and swish and break it apart in the water with your fingers.
- Stir in the sugar and salt until dissolved.
- Add flour a little at a time, kneading with your hands until the dough is smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball.
- Lightly grease or oil a large bowl with vegetable shortening and place the dough in the bowl. Flip the dough once or twice so it gets a light coating of grease (this prevents it from forming a "skin". Cover the dough with a clean dish towel and place in a draft free area to rise. (I usually stick it in a cold oven).
- Let the dough rise for 2 hours or overnight.
To Fry The Puffs:
- Place a wide, deep cast iron skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat and add about 2 inches of vegetable oil or Crisco. Heat the oil to about 350°-375°.
- Pinch off a dime-sized piece of dough and stretch it, so that it's very thin (about 1/4"). Carefully place the dough into the hot grease. This is your tester-- and it will determine if your oil is hot enough. If the oil rapidly bubbles around the dough it should be the right temperature. Cook the tester for about 1-2 minutes until golden on the bottom, then flip it and cook an additional minute. The bread should be crisp and golden. You can eat this piece to determine if the oil should be hotter or if it's just right.
- To make the puffs: Line a sheet pan with several layers of paper towels and set near the pan of oil. Pinch off a golf ball sized piece of dough and flatten it to a disc in your hands. Hold the edges of the dough and work it in a circle to stretch and enlarge the circle until it's about 3" to 4" in diameter. Carefully place the puffs into the oil (away from you to prevent splashes and burns). Fry for 1 to 2 minutes until golden, flip over and continue to cook for another minute or so until the puffs are crispy and golden.
- Depending on the size of your pan, you can make 3-4 at a time. Transfer the fried puffs to the paper towel lined sheet pan and continue to fry the puffs in batches and keep them warm in a low oven until you're ready to serve -- or if you're like my family... just keep making them as they're being snatched off the tray.
- You can also keep them in a warm oven and serve all at once, but they're really best served immediately.
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