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Savory Funnel Cake, Anyone?

Rachel Tepper

Savory Funnel Cake, Anyone?

Photo credit: Aggio

When done right, fried, powdered sugar–doused funnel cake is definitely not overrated

But it’s also not a snack known to be particularly innovative or classy: It still sports a sheen of peanut oil. That sugar comes straight out of a giant, industrial-sized box. The paper plate at the boardwalk stall is soggy.

Well, meet haute savory funnel cake. (And don’t worry. It’s just as good. If not better.) 

"Top Chef" star chef Bryan Voltaggio, who today runs the kitchens of D.C. and Baltimore–area restaurants (Volt, Aggio, and Range to name a few), takes funnel cake to the far end of the fanciness spectrum with the help of Parmesan, sea salt, and smoky piment d’Espelette.

Voltaggio serves his creation as an elegant amuse-bouche at Aggio, an upscale Italian eatery in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland. They’re light and airy, thanks in part to the mild rice bran oil in which he fries them. A crispy, fried exterior betrays the lush, gooey cheese within.

Think: The deep-fried cousin of the gougère.

Having tested the recipe below, we can attest that they’re just as much a treat as the sweet variety—and that your guests will gobble them up just as quickly.

Savory Funnel Cake
by Bryan Voltaggio
Serves 6

1/2 gallon rice bran oil
4 tsp. fine sea salt
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups flour
3 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
4 eggs
Piment d’Espelette to garnish

Special equipment: piping bag

Heat oil to 350 degrees.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high, combine 2 cups water with sugar, salt, and butter, and bring to a simmer. Add flour and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, for 5-8 minutes or until the mixture comes together and forms into ball of dough.

Transfer dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle and add Parmesan. Mix on medium speed until the bottom of the bowl is cool to the touch, about 3-5 minutes. Reduce speed to low and incorporate eggs, one at a time, until a smooth paste forms. Transfer finished batter to a piping bag.

Snip the tip of the piping bag so that it’s no larger than a pencil eraser. Pipe batter into desired shapes—like circular swirls, “U” shapes, or tater-tot-sized pillows—directly into the oil. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown on both sides.

Remove fried dough from oil and drain on paper towels for 30 seconds, dusting immediately with piment d’Espelette. Serve with more grated Parmesan on top.