Fried dough rises to the top with these banana fritters | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Fried dough rises to the top with these banana fritters

Fried dough is humble

Fried dough is delicious and chameleon-like, transforming into irresistible treats that are sweet, savory, crispy, crunchy or spongy. Fried dough is humble. It makes amazing foods, from akra to beignets, croquettes to tortillas, even wontons. Everywhere, fried dough rises to the top. I have been in love with fried dough for 45 years. My banana fritters are inspired by African cuisine and my first love.

My mother never fried food, not even chicken. For some black folks, no fried chicken is unimaginable. I was 9 when my mother introduced me to vegetarianism. She sprang the dietary changes on me like a knife ejecting from a switchblade. She announced meatless Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Whole grains and honey replaced processed, devitalized grains and refined sugar. Whole grains and the meatless meals were OK, but no sugar was a battle. I was a cranky, crying little girl. No candy. No Kool-Aid. Big problem! 

My mother made an exception just once to the new rules — yeast-raised donuts. Once the word spread — freshly fried donuts — there was a line at our kitchen door. I will forever be grateful for fried dough. They brought Curtis Jones to the kitchen door. Curtis was our 15-year-old paperboy. I watched him eat, fantasizing about kissing the sugar that clung to his lips. No napkin needed.


  • 3-4 large very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup organic whole milk
  • 4 large organic eggs, beaten
  • 6 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tbsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • 2 quarts canola oil
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • ½ cup cinnamon sugar


In a mixing bowl, combine bananas, milk, eggs, butter, vanilla, nutmeg and sugar. Set aside. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk all dry ingredients together. Add dry ingredients to wet. Stir until blended. Batter should be smooth and thick. Let sit 30 minutes. Heat oil in cast-iron pot, until it is 365 degrees F. Carefully drop the batter in using a tablespoon. Cook about 45 seconds. Do not overcrowd. Remove from oil and drain. Dust with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar while hot.

Olafemi Mandley is a cook, caterer, educator and storyteller. She teaches African foods classes at Phipps Conservatory and is available for catering and storytelling.

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