Bring the carnival home with this classic fair dessert. Fried dough is crisp and golden brown on the outside and soft and cakey on the inside. Covered in a shower of confectioners’ sugar and sprinkle of cinnamon, it’s the perfect fun dessert for a casual get-together.
Cook’s Note: When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.) For homemade sweetened whipped cream, put 1 pint cream, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a well chilled bowl or in a bowl over ice. Beat with an electric hand mixer on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes.
Special equipment: a deep-frying or candy thermometer; a 1- or 2-cup funnel with a ½-inch opening at bottom
Add enough oil to a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot to come 2 inches up the sides of the pot. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it registers 360°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Line a baking sheet with a metal cooling rack or a few layers of paper towels.
Meanwhile, whisk together the milk, vanilla and eggs in a large measuring cup.
Sift together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl using a mesh strainer (to break up any lumps in the brown sugar). Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture just until smooth and combined.
When the oil is up to temperature, use your finger to cover the hole in the bottom of a 1- to 2-cup funnel (with at least a ½-inch hole) and fill it to the top with about ¾ cup of the batter. Position the funnel over the pot of hot oil and remove your finger to release the batter. Let the batter flow into the oil in thick squiggles, moving the funnel within a contained circular shape about 8 inches in diameter. Fry on the first side until golden brown, 1 ½ to 2 minutes, then use a spider or tongs to carefully flip to the second side and fry for an additional 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Remove to the wire rack or paper towels and let drain and cool slightly. Repeat with the remaining batter.
For the topping: Dust the funnel cakes generously with the confectioners’ sugar, sprinkle with cinnamon and dollop with whipped cream before serving warm.