At my faux-Fourth of July party, I wanted the day to have a sweet ending—which of course meant funnel cakes and pocket pies.
Remember these nifty pie molds from Williams-Sonoma? I finally got to give them a test run. My worker bees rolled out some homemade pie crust (try Betty Crocker's Pie Pastry recipe, or use a store-bought dough if you prefer). Using star- and apple-shaped molds we cut, filled and crimped fruit pocket pies to be given as favors to the guests. My reaction? The star shape is a bit too small for my taste, but the apple mold gives you a nice palm-sized pie. The star is by far more adorable, though, especially when full of bright red cherry filling.
Give your molds a quick spray or rub with a bit of oil to prevent sticking. Aim for a thinner, sweeter crust—anything too floury or thick will overpower the filling. Once cut, filled and crimped the pies get an egg wash and a sprinkling of sugar, then it's into the oven for 15-20 minutes.
The pocket pies were meant for the road, but first I had to tickle the taste buds of my guests with something hot and sweet. That meant deep fried funnel cakes. I followed a recipe by Tracey Seaman, found online at Every Day Rachael Ray, and modified it slightly to get the texture I wanted.
4 cups vegetable oil
4 cups flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3/4 cups milk
3 large eggs
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Pie filling (homemade or store-bought), preserves or jam
1. In a deep medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it registers 350° to 375° on a deep-fat thermometer. If you don't have a thermometer, just get it good n' hot and test it with a blob or two of batter once you've mixed it up.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center and add the milk and eggs; whisk until smooth.
3. Transfer the batter to a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag, remove the excess air and seal the top. With scissors, snip off a corner to make a 1/4-inch-wide hole. Carefully squeeze about 1 cup batter (one-eighth of the mixture) back and forth into the oil, making a free-form lacy web. Cook until golden on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Using tongs, turn the cake over and cook until golden on the other side, about 1 minute more. Transfer the funnel cake to a cooling rack over paper towels to drain briefly. Repeat with the remaining batter.
4. Dust the funnel cakes liberally with confectioners' sugar and top with a dollop of filling, preserves or jam. Serve hot.
My first attempt at this involved an actual funnel, but I found squeezing from a plastic bag provides the pressure you need to keep a steady stream of batter flowing. Don't worry if you have a few pieces break off from the pack and float outside the web—they taste just as delicious, and powdered sugar covers a multitude of sins.