The Simple Pleasure of a County Fair Funnel Cake
As I noted earlier this week, I've been making my rounds at the Dubuque County Fair for the first time. Where basking in all the allure and fun of a county fair in a brand new city and state can be intimidating for someone, for me, it's been nothing but a treat. Figuratively and literally!
I went to the fair on Thursday with a taste for a funnel cake. I couldn't tell you the last time I got one. Maybe it was a minor league ballpark; I'm not certain. All I knew was the funnel cakes at the Dubuque County Fair had been talked up by my listeners and even my neighbor.
I can now speak for myself: the funnel cakes served by the Dubuque County Optimists are must-haves when you hit the fairgrounds, be it today or this weekend. The Optimists do it right. You have your choice of powdered sugar or cinnamon as a topping (I opted for powdered sugar, as you can see above) for your uniquely curvaceous mound of dough.
Let it be a warning, however, that these sweet treats are best indulged by two people. I still haven't eaten since last night!
I was curious about the history of the funnel cake, so I spent some time this morning reading up on it. It appears the concept of the funnel cakes goes all the way back to early medieval times. The Persians and Arabs were the first to pioneer fried dough as a confectionary treat.
After that, it was only a matter of time before dishes centered around rising yeast made their way to Europe.
The Pennsylvania Dutch immigrants brought the yeast dish, which was known as "Drechderkuche," to America. In 1879, Americans developed the baking powder version of the fried dough. Sometime during that period, the "funnel cake," as we know it today, was born.
While there are various ways to serve a funnel cake, Americans typically treat them like pancakes (as the batter is very reminiscent). It's not uncommon to find cinnamon, maple syrup, whipped cream, berries, or Cool Whip as a topping. Had I put maple syrup and whipped cream on top of the Optimists' cake, I would've needed to loosen my belt and probably resort to a water-only diet for the next 24 hours.
Moral of the story: stop by the Dubuque County Optimists' shack at the Dubuque County Fair for a funnel cake. No fair is complete without them, and the Optimists themselves are a wonderful bunch of energetic people to boot!