Navajo Pumpkin Fry Bread Doughnuts with Prickly Pear Dipping Sauce

Monday, September 10, 2012

A couple of years ago we went to Sedona for a week's vacation. It's a beautiful place -- majestic rock formations, perfectly formed cacti dotting the surprisingly forested landscape. There's a sense of magic in the air, a spiritual vortex if you will of something unwordly, something strong and very present. In short: it's a very cool place to go.

As for the food....

I walked away from our trip being obsessed with three things: cacus fries, prickly pear cactus fruit, and navajo bread.

Our entire trip restaurant after restaurant and at our resort I ordered everything I could with this cactus fruit. The color is a beautiful deep, rich magenta. The taste is surprisingly sweet and slightly fragrant. And when simply peeled and cooked down, the resulting syrup can be made into anything from dipping sauces to glazes for meats to bases for delicious cocktails. Yes, the Prickly Pear Mojito was kind of an obsession. More on that later...

Cactus fruit has a rich color ranging from magenta to a deep fuscia.
The seeds are terribly tough so when eaten, need to be spit out or removed before serving.  
This past weekend to usher in the first football game of the season and impending fall, I felt like something fried and fall-ish. Our trip instantly popped into my head and I thought "navajo bread." After some research I found a recipe for pumpkin navajo bread which sounded just perfect. I happened to have some ripe cactus fruit laying around, so decided to make a dipping sauce to go along with my bread. I took the navajo bread and instead of making long disks, I cut them like beignets to make puffy doughnuts -- easier to dip into the sauce. Then rolled them in some cinnamon sugar. The result was perfection.

These are best served straight from the fryer while still hot, so make them to order. You can make the sauce in advance. Enjoy these perfect doughnuts this fall!

Navajo Pumpkin Fry Bread Doughnuts with Prickly Pear Dipping Sauce
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup warm milk
3/4 cup pumpkin puree (unseasoned, plain)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla powder (can use 1 tsp vanilla extract as well)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon + 1 tsp cinnamon, divided
1/4 tsp ground allspice
vegetable or canola oil for frying
1/2 cup granulated sugar
prickly pear dipping sauce (recipe follows)

Combine the 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1 tsp of cinnamon in a bowl. This is your cinnamon sugar mixture to roll the doughnuts in after they fry. Set it aside near your fryer. Add a serving platter or plate next to the bowl to receive the finished doughnuts.

Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Add the egg and milk and gently stir to combine. At this point, you can add the vanilla to make basic regular fry bread. For pumpkin version, continue on...

The dough will be extremely soft and very sticky.

Add the pumpkin puree, sugar, vanilla, and spices and fold in to combine. A fork works best actually.

Turn half of the dough out onto a large, well-floured working surface. The dough will be extremely soft and sticky, so use a lot of flour sprikled both on the bottom and then again on the top. Gently smooth out and roll an even rectangular shape that's about 1/2" thick. You'll have basically one large rectangle. Take a pizza cutter and cut 1" thick strips the long way, then again the short way to create little squares.

Place a baking sheet lined with paper towels next to where you plan to fry.

Place oil in a large dutch oven. You want about 2 inches of oil in there for a proper fry. Heat the oil untiil hot but not smoking. You know it's ready when you place a small piece of the dough and it starts to bubble and puff up. If it sinks, the oil's too cold; if it burns it's too hot.

Add the squares 2-3 at a time to the oil and fry, turning them over a few times. You'll see the squares will puff up as they cook. Fry until golden on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and onto the paper towel lined baking sheet for a few seconds, then promptly place in the cinnamon sugar mixture to coat while still hot.

It helps if you have one person doing the frying and another person doing the cinnamon-sugar part.

Keep frying the dough in batches until you've made the amount you desire.

Repeat process with the remaining half of the dough.

Half of this recipe makes around 12 doughnuts; the entire recipe makes around 24.

Serve hot with the cactus fruit dipping sauce.

Prickly Pear Dipping Sauce
4-5 ripe prickly pear/cactus fruits
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup hot water

Take the fruits and make sure all needles are taken off. If you buy them from the store, they probably are. Make a slit along the side of one fruit and then peel back the skin. Remove it completely exposing the fruit. Repeat with rest of fruits. Cut into large chunks and add the fruit into a saucepan. Add the sugar, cinnamon stick and water, then bring to a boil. Let simmer for 20 minutes until fruit is very soft and lets out juices. Let cool 5 minutes, then remove cinnamon stick and transfer fruit mixture to a blender or food processor. Process for a minute to make an even blend. Take a strainer and straing the mixer to catch all of the very tough seeds. This is your cactus fruit syrup.

At this point, you can serve the syrup as is for a dipping sauce or use it as a base to create a bbq sauce, glaze, or even a sweetener for cocktails.


Anonymous said...

NOM NOM!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, this looks like a keeper. I think I'll give it a try this weekend. If all is well, I'll make for the family on Christmas. Thanks so much :)