‘E’ Is for ‘Elephant’



What is the one food that, given the opportunity to eat right now, would you choose? The immediate, no-holds-barred answer that came from the place where diets don't live was elephant ears.

For those of you that have never consumed this treat, an elephant ear is typically a fried, flattened piece of yeast dough, not really like a doughnut, but rather similar to the fry bread that the American Indians of the West used to eat.

The French have a cookie like version of the elephant ear that uses puff pastry that is called a Palmiers, but I much prefer the fried or baked dough version.

While these deliciously greasy pieces of fried dough or sugary cookie (depending on where you come from) are typically sold at bakeries, fairs and flea markets, they can — if you have a good recipe — be whipped up right in your kitchen with stuff you probably have on hand right this very second.

Of course, the reason that they aren't typically made at home is that they have to be eaten right away, and eating an entire batch of elephant ears, while not impossible, is probably not something you want to do very often. I say take a weekend day or holiday where the kids or family or friends are watching a sports game or movie, and whip up a batch. I guarantee that the line will form, and there won't be a crumb left when you're done.

Elephant ears also make great end-of-the-school-year treats. Kids are less discerning eating them the next day, and the home-room parents will be impressed.

Note: They have a similar confection in Canada called Beaver Tails, so I have included a north-of-the-border recipe.

Yeast Elephant Ears


1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsps. soft butter
11/2 tsps. cinnamon
11/2 Tbsps., plus 1/2 cup, sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup milk, scalded and cooled
1/2-1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
4 Tbsps. melted butter

In a large bowl, combine the yeast in the lukewarm water. Mix and let sit for 2 minutes, and then add the flour, and 11/2 tablespoons sugar and salt.

Mix until just combined, and then cut in the 1/2 cup butter like you would for a pie crust.

Add the egg yolk and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but not more than 12; all it really needs to be is firm enough to handle.

Preheat oven to 400°.

Turn the dough on to lightly floured board, punch down, cover and allow to rest another 10 minutes. Roll the dough into rectangle (about 10×18 inches) and spread 2 tablespoons of soft butter over the top.

Mix the 1/2 cup sugar with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the butter.

Using the long side roll the dough like a jelly roll rolling and sealing the edge at the end. Cut into 1 inch slices.

Mix 2 cups sugar and remaining 11/2 teaspoons cinnamon on a large square of wax paper. Place slices one at a time, so you can see the swirl on top, onto the sugar mixture, and then roll them out into about 5 inches around.

Sprinkle top with nuts, if using, and gently press them into the dough.

Place them sugar-side down on ungreased cookie sheets.

Brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Bake immediately for about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool a few minutes on a wire rack and serve.

Makes 18 ears.

Baked Elephant Ears

(Dairy or Pareve)

1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 cup flour
2 Tbsps. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup milk or nondairy substitute
3 Tbsps. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 425°.

Grease a cookie sheet with shortening.

Combine the 3 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon together. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix to combine.

Stir in the milk and 3 tablespoons of the melted butter, and mix until a dough forms. Sprinkle a work surface lightly with flour and place the dough on to it. Knead the dough 8 to 10 times, then roll or pat it into a 9×5-inch rectangle.

Brush the top of the dough with the remaining melted butter, then sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Roll dough up tightly, beginning at narrow end. Pinch edges of dough when you've finished rolling it up.

Cut the dough into 5 equal pieces (use a really sharp knife). Place the piece on the cookie sheet and pat into a 5-inch to 6-inch circle. Sprinkle top with more sugar.

Bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Immediately remove from cookie sheet with a spatula. Cool for 2 or 3 minutes on a wire rack and serve.

Makes 5 elephant ears.

Kid-Friendly Elephant East

(Dairy or Pareve)

1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 cup flour
3 Tbsps. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup milk or nondairy substitute
3 Tbsps. brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix by hand. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the butter and milk. Mix until you have a smooth dough.

Lightly dust countertop or board with flour. Pat dough into rectangle. Brush the surface of dough with remaining butter. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in the bowl; sprinkle on rectangle. Roll up the rectangle tightly; pinch along the seam to seal.

Cut the roll into four even pieces; place on baking sheet cut side down. Flatten each piece with your hand.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, and immediately place the elephant ear on a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes and then serve.

Makes 4 elephant ears.

Biscuit Elephant Ears

(Dairy or Pareve)

1 can refrigerator biscuits
1 cup cooking oil
1/4 cup cinnamon-sugar
paper lunch bag

Place the cinnamon-sugar in a paper lunch bag.

Heat cooking oil in large frying pan. The oil is hot enough when a drop of water sizzles.

Separate dough into individual biscuit "ears." Stretch each biscuit until they just about have holes in them. They do not have to be perfect.

Gently drop each "ear" into the hot oil. As soon as one side becomes golden, flip them and let second side get golden. Do not walk away — they burn quickly!

Place "ears" on paper towels to soak up excess oil. Then shake "ears" in paper bag of cinnamon-sugar.

Makes as many biscuits as in can. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.

Fried Beaver Tails


1/2 cup warm water
5 tsps. dry yeast
pinch of sugar
1 cup warm milk
1/3 cup sugar
11/2 tsps. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
41/4-5 cups flour
oil for frying
2 cups sugar for coating
cinnamon (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the yeast, warm water and pinch of sugar. Let stand for a couple of minutes to allow the yeast to swell and dissolve.

Stir in the remaining sugar, milk, vanilla, eggs, oil, salt and most of flour. Mix to make a soft dough. Knead for 5 to 8 minutes (by hand or with a dough hook), adding flour as needed to form a firm, smooth, elastic dough.

Place into a greased bowl. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm spot about 30 to 40 minutes. Gently deflate the dough. Place the 2 cups of sugar (you can add cinnamon if you like) in a bowl and set it aside.

Heat about 4 inches of oil in heavy deep pan or deep fryer.

Test if it's hot enough by tossing in a tiny bit of dough, and see if it sizzles and swells immediately. If it does, the oil temperature is where it should be.

Stretch the ovals into a "tail," stretching and thinning them out. Cook them 1 or 2 at a time, depending on your pan size (do not crowd them, as they need room to swell). Once they start to brown, flip them until they are a deep golden brown.

Remove them from the oil at this point and drain on paper towels.

Toss the beaver tails in the sugar or sugar-cinnamon mixture, shaking off excess. Serve immediately.

Makes 11/2 to 2 dozen tails (depending on the size).

Puff-Pastry Elephant Ears


1 package puff-pastry sheets (2 sheets)
1 egg
1 Tbsp. water
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsps. cinnamon

Thaw the pastry sheets in refrigerator overnight.

Preheat oven to 400°.

In a bowl, combine the egg and water; set aside. In another bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon.

Unfold 1 pastry sheet on lightly floured surface. Brush the top with the egg mixture. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the sugar mixture on top.

Starting at the short sides, simultaneously fold the edges of the pastry toward center, leaving 1/4-inch space in center.

Brush the top with the egg mixture, then sprinkle the top with 1 tablespoon of the sugar mixture. Fold one side over the other, making a 4-layer rectangle. Repeat with remaining pastry sheet.

Cut each rectangle into 12 (3/4-inch) slices. Place cut-side down 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Brush the tops with the egg mixture.

Bake for 12 minutes, or until pastries turn golden. Remove from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.

Makes 24 pastries.

Tips: For chocolate-drizzled pastries, drizzle cooled pastries with melted chocolate. Place 1 square (1 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate in a heavy-duty, zipper-style plastic sandwich bag. Close bag tightly. Microwave on high for 45 seconds, or until chocolate is melted. Fold down top of bag tightly and snip a tiny piece off one corner (about 1/8-inch). Holding top of bag, drizzle chocolate through the opening.

For walnut pastries, sprinkle 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts over the sugar mixture on each pastry sheet before folding.

Eileen Goltz is a freelance food writer and the author of Perfectly Pareve. Email her at: [email protected] verizon.net. Her blog address is: Cuisinebyeileen.wordpress.com.



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