While trying to decide which specialty funnel cake to order at Disneyland yesterday, I eventually came around to realize what fried dough treat I really wanted.
An elephant ear.
Growing up going to state fairs, I always allied with Team Elephant Ear, not Team Funnel Cake. Sure, they're both made from batter dumped into scalding fry oil, but the preparation and the toppings made all the difference to me.
Now when I talk about "elephant ears," I am not talking about the French "palmier" pastry that sometime carries that name. I am talking about those wide, flat, fried-dough treats that look, well, like an elephant's ear — but golden brown, slathered in melted butter and dusted with cinnamon sugar.
Unfortunately, I can't remember an "elephant ear" being sold in a major theme park. (If you know of one, please tell us in the comments!) However, several parks — including Epcot, once upon a time — have sold a smaller, more-oblong-shaped version of the same concept under the trademarked name BeaverTails.
While I love BeaverTails, I miss tearing into a fresh-from-the-fryer elephant ear, which always seemed to be big enough to satisfy my entire family. The flat, round(ish) pastry was just right for sharing — and sharing is the perfect way to scarf down a big hunk of fried dough, which becomes, uh, less than ideal when not steaming hot.
That's my biggest issue with many of the fried dough treats sold at theme parks these days, actually. When you load a funnel cake or BeaverTail with whipped cream, fruit toppings, candy, or especially ice cream, you cool the fried dough below its ideal temperature way before you possibly could finish eating it, even with help from your crew.
A big ole elephant ear can't stand up to all those crazy, Instagram-worthy toppings, which is why, I suspect, elephant ears lost out to funnel cakes on theme parks' snack and dessert menus. But even if a park did sell a loaded elephant ear, I would go for the classic version anyway. I love the flavor of cinnamon and don't really want a bunch of competing flavors in my treat.
That's also why I prefer a simple dusting of powdered sugar on my funnel cake. Done right, that dusting melts swiftly into a hot glaze, but a blizzard of sugar just kills the funnel cake's crispiness. If I want enough sugar to suffocate a normal-sized person, I will get an order of beignets, instead.
On the same note, I enjoy flavored churros and doughnuts when the flavor comes from the dough itself, but slathering a basic doughnut or churros with a bunch of competing flavor toppings just doesn't do anything for me anymore. Give me the great flavor that comes from flawless execution of a simple concept over the excess of abundance, please. I want my snacks to be food, not just photo ops.
Consider that thought the opening of the Great Fried Dough Debate. Have your say in the comments... but first, let's vote.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.