Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Funny Little Things Called Funnel-Cakes

Catagory: Breads
Difficulty:  Medium Easy (but tricky)
Not Healthy

I can smell them now... My mom making them, standing in her robe with a funnel over a sizzling pot of melted shortening. It was Sunday morning, and it was time for: ' Funnel-Cakes' You know, you've seen them. They're sold as fast food now. But that is far from their origin--and their tradition in my family. But we didn't call them 'Funnel Cakes'...

Funnel-cakes are German--originally called 'Dretchterkuke' and were brought over from Bavaria by the Amish to in Pennsylvania. But that's not my heritage! My mother's family has one line of ancestors named "Constant" that originally was French. These French-Americans (wisely) settled near the Amish sometime in the early 1800's when they migrated to Pennsylvania to set up their farms. Apparently they were very friendly with the Amish and learned how to make Funnel Cakes from them. And since they all spoke English by then, my ancestors re-named "Dretchterkuke" NOT 'Funnel Cakes' but 'Plowlines'. And my mother's family has been passing down the recipe for them ever since--about six, almost seven generations.

'Plowlines' were so named because that's what they look like. Some farmers still plow their acreage in spiral rows (look up Crop Circles?), especially in Europe. Funnel cakes or "Plowlines", are basically pancake batter, put through a funnel into hot grease, in a SPIRAL shape.

Note: You will need a large soup pot for this OR a large (10-12- inch) frying pan with high sides. You will also need a funnel with a 1/2 inch hole. Oh, and a good pancake syrup...

Plowlines or Funnelcakes:

33-34 oz. any kind of cooking oil plus 1 C melted Crisco (for flavor)
4 large or 3 x-tra large eggs
2C flour
1 1/2 t salt
about 1 1/2 C milk--enough milk to make a pan-cake like batter.

Directions: Make batter by first beating eggs in a medium mixing bowl. Gradually add flour and salt, alternating with milk. Start with a cup of milk then add more milk until you gradually have a thick but easily poured batter--like pancake batter (see picture above). Generously ladle the batter into a funnel, holding a finger over the hole at the bottom. Then, with the grease is hot, hold the funnel over the middle of the pan, removing the finger that is serving as a "stopper" and start moving the funnel around, creating a batter spiral (see pic below). It is best to work from the center of the spiral out. At this point the thing will sizzle and spit and turn golden on one side very quickly. If it cooks in seconds and if it hurts to hold your hand over the pot, the oil is too hot. If the "plowline" takes longer than a minute or two for one side to get brown, the oil is too cool. You might get a too-oily turn up the heat ! After the thing is brown on both sides, take two forks or a set of tongs, grab the whole plowline at once, and turn it over. After cooking the other side until golden, grab it again. Holding it carefully above the pan, let it drip a minute before placing it on a plate (see picture below).The plowline should be served and devoured immediately while still warm. With syrup or powdered sugar. Then go out and work in the fields all day, or for a couple of hours in the gym to use up the calories. They have a lot of fat, but they also have tons of protein! Go Forth and Build Muscle!

IF YOU GOOF UP the spiral shape, don't stress. They fall apart easily. Plowlines just become "Funnelcakes" when they no longer are in a spiral, that's all. They're still good in any shape they happen to wriggle into. Who cares if they end up looking like fried amoebas! Have fun!.


  1. Awesome! Thanks Jen!! It was so much fun to make these together as kids. One thing I remember is that if I moved the funnel quickly I got thinner crispier bands, and if I moved it slowly I got thicker chewier ones. Also, to bind all the spiral bands together, I would crisscross it with an X pattern.

  2. YES! You are so right, Jum. I like the thick bands best myself. Also, the criss-cross is a great idea!

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