The first time I tasted Navajo Fried Bread I was hooked. We had just driven down from the Grand Canyon and, feeling a little famished, stopped at a road side vendor selling only their specialty, Fried Bread.
As I discovered, fried bread was used by the Native American Indians during their captivity by the whites. Their rations would consist of flour, lard and salt supplemented only by what they could scavenge off the land they in which they were settled. Since then there have been many variations.
Years after that memorable visit, I came upon a basic recipe that replicated most the taste and flavor I enjoyed so much, but to my recollection, wasn’t quite there. To get my recipe exactly where I wanted it to be, I tweaked and fiddled until I landed on what I think is the best.
1. You’re going to need a good 9” iron skillet, some tongs with at least 12” handles (small tongs may not prevent your hands from being splashed by the hot oil) and a large plate lined with a paper towel.
2 Cups Vegetable oil
3 Cups Flour
¾ Cups Warm water
3 Tbsp. Shortening
2 Tsp. Baking powder
2 Tsp. Sugar
2 Tsp. Powdered milk
½ Tsp. Salt
Combine all of the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and then add the shortening. Knead with your hands until the flour crumbs. Add the warm water and knead for about 3-4 minutes. Once the kneading is completed, cover the bowl with a damp towel and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
4. Add the vegetable oil to the skillet and heat to about 350 degrees.
When shaping the bread it is important to remember that the shape and size do not have to be identical or perfect. Using your hands to flatten and shape the bread will add additional authenticity.
5. Roll out the dough in a log shape on a lightly floured surface and depending on the size of the bread you’ll want, cut into 4 – 6 equal pieces. Flatten each piece to ¼ “ thickness and 5” – 7” in diameter. Next, cut a small ¼” hole in the center of each piece of bread. This will prevent the bread from ballooning up when it hits the hot oil.
Have the plate with the paper towel nearby. Test the oil for temperature, the bread should start cooking immediately so when completed, most of the oil will remain.
6. With the tongs, place one or two pieces of bread in the hot oil at a time and cook for 5 – 10 seconds per side to prevent burning. When golden brown remove and place on paper towel and repeat until all the bread is cooked.
Suggestions: Fried bread is best when served hot. Topping the bread with powdered sugar and/or cinnamon makes a delicious treat. Serve plain with stews and soups or use to make your favorite sandwich, the choice is yours.