This is long time coming. I knew there would come a day when I would do this, I was just waiting for the more tips to fall into my lap and to finally test those theories. Puff Puff, where do I start from. This very simple lump of fried dough can reduce a very experienced cook to novice levels in seconds. We have many complex dishes in Nigerian cooking that we pull off effortlessy, and puff puff comes along and you wonder what the heck. When people come up on Facebook, drop comments or send me emails lamenting about Puff Puff, I just tell them don’t worry, it is not you, Puff Puff is notorious, it has off days and on days. If Puff Puff had a sex, it would be a woman for sure, and I am not being sexist. Lol. Anyways, I hope with this post, you can triumph over Puff Puff and kick ass at it.
This guide is a collection of tips that I picked up from 4 amazing women – Kemi, Chinelo, Joke, Big Oladunni, plus bits from me that I have discovered myself over time.
1. I can’t stress this enough, please, please, please use instant yeast or fast acting yeast. The yeast for making bread would just take forever. You want to give your puff puff extra flavour, you can use beer or palm wine. Some say use stout too, a brand like Guiness but make sure you are serving grown ups, or it would have a bitter taste to it.
2. Now, this is veeeeeeeery interesting. This is coming from Kemi Kale. She literally lit a fire under the yeast’s ass, the result was incredible. More incredible to me because I had tried this is an oven before, and didn’t get the result that she did. Both of us concluded that the smaller enclosed space, giving off more intense heat must be responsible. What is this tip you say, Halogen oven.
Kemi turned the Halogen oven to high for 2 minutes, and turned it off to mix the batter. Seeing that it had gotten cold, she turned it back on to high for 3 minutes, switched it off and then placed the bowl in it. So, I will say total time 4 – 5 minutes to heat up. Fast acting Yeast takes roughly 40 – 45 minutes to properly rise for puff Puff dough, the image you can see below, took less than 20 minutes. It was amazing. Not just the time. Take a good look at that picture and see the very large air pockets. Another tip is don’t leave the dough to rise for too long, otherwise it will have very large air pockets and soak in oil when it fries. If by some chance you forget, sprinkle in a little flour to firm it up.
You may be reading this and think, why now Dunni, I don’t have a halogen oven. Don’t worry, I don’t have one too but I have figured that a simple pot large enough to take the bowl containing the dough can replicate the halogen oven. All you need is a small enclosed space to trap heat. Just place a some water in the pot, not too much and bring it to a boil. Once the water cools down just slightly so that the plastic bowl will not melt, place the bowl in the pot and cover the pot. Trap the steam and the heat, just walk away. In under 20minutes, your dough should have risen beautifully.
You can try to do this with your oven, good luck to you, it didn’t work for me, the space is too large, besides, you may over heat your oven, thereby killing the yeast. If it works for you, please let me know. Bakers will probably read this with a sharp intake of breath and think Dunniiiiiii you are going to kill the yeast, well as you can see from the image above, quite the contrary. You don’t need a hot environment, just a really warm small enclosure, emphasis on small, to get the yeast going. No more sitting and twiddling your thumbs, waiting for the dough to rise.
3. Dough risen, heat up the oil that you will need, and let it get hot in a pot or deep saucepan. Don’t use a frying pan. You need gravity to assist in the frying, and a frying pan is too shallow and won’t give you that volume that you need. Now, this tip is going to throw away everything you know about not overworking the dough. You are told oh, don’t overwork the gluten particles of the flour yadi yadi yada. To get that amazing crinkled and stretchy, doughy, almost elastic puff puff that street food sellers make, you have to abandon that theory. With bread dough, you flatten out the air and carefully leave to rise again or form into loaf pans. With puff puff, use your hands, a wooden or plastic spoon in a whisking motion as vigorous as you can. It is a noisy process. If you have ever made Ojojo (water yam fritters, recipe click HERE) before, you will know exactly what I mean. Beat, beat, beat, beat the dough, till you can feel it stretch and elasticise, before frying. The dough should also flatten to half its risen size.
This tip came from our fab dressmaker Chinelo Bally. Visit her website for some amazing fashion and dressmaking tips (www.chinelobally.com). I tell you, the day I saw her do this and tasted it, I knew this was a key golden tip. Kemi used this tip to make this puff puff and the picture in a few steps below prove that it works. Chinelo also advised that before you fry, add a little pinch or two of fast acting yeast, to further puff up the dough while it fries. I haven’t tried this yet, but I believe Kemi’s tip from Number 2 above will trump the need to do this.
4. The next tip is about frying. To ensure that the oil is hot, fry one puff puff first. The dough should sink in the hot oil and float back to the surface in under 5 – 10 seconds. Any longer, the oil is not hot enough. Leave the lone puff puff in the oil to brown, and then fry just one more again. Once you achieve that 5 – 10 second float, it is time to fry a big batch, but waaaaaaaait a minute. Taste the puff puff for sweetness. Yeast feeds on sugar, and you will find many times that it reduces the strength of the sugar you used to mix the dough. If the first two bits you fried are not as sweet to your liking, just add extra sugar. If you wish, fry one more to check for the sweetness level that you desire.
5. Sugar set to the level you like, whisk for a couple more seconds, then drop the dough in the hot oil and fry a big batch. Frying can be quite annoying, especially when the puff puff is really round, it will keep tipping over, browning one side too much. You know how to prevent this, remember the street food sellers, come on, recall that memory. Okay, let me help you. They fry in large batches to fill the circumference of the pot. Volume keeps the puff puff in place. It displaces the oil something something (I barely managed to pass Physics, so pardon me), so when you flip over, it stays flipped. Let me show you a picture of what the beating and beating of the dough will give you.
Tah Dah….. see that signature crinkling when you press it down slightly? It will also crackle a little, just a little. Barely audible but you will notice it. My face was beaming when I saw this. It was too early on Sunday morning to call Chinelo, but you bet I was tempted to call her and scream GIRL!!!!!! IT WORKED.
Tear into it, and you will feel a little give, a little elasticity.
Examine the inside of the puff puff, and you can see that it is not oily, but bready. See all the holes it has? Put it into your mouth and savour the chewy delicious goodness. People, that is a perfect Puff Puff. Just as the street sellers and experienced caterers who serve it as small chops at 9ja parties.
Sieve out the entire batch from the oil and fry more. One more thing I want you to take note off. See how the skin is glistening and not matte? Sorry, I am using makeup lingua but any woman who knows her makeup will know exactly what I am talking about.
6. Now that you are frying another batch, it is important to give you one helpful tip from Big Oladunni. Heat. Too much heat will ruin your puff puff. What my mother did was this. As soon as you start to notice that the puff puff is browning too fast, take out the source of heat. If you are using a gas cooker, simply switch it off. If you are using an electric cooker, take the pot off the heating element, and let residual heat fry the puff puff. Many times I have fried an entire batch of puff puff with the heat source off. You will know it is time to re-introduce the heat source when you notice that the dough is either taking too long to float back up, or it is taking much longer than the last fried batch to brown. As soon as you notice this, quickly put it back on the heat, otherwise the dough will soak in too much oil, which is disgusting.
If you still somehow become a victim off too much heat and your puff puff is raw in the middle. Not to worry. Don’t make the mistake of returning it back to the hot oil, this will do nothing but brown the outside too much while the inside cooks. Simple solution to this courtesy Joke Ajibola. Microwave people, microwave. Pop it into the microwave for about a minute or under and voila, insides cooked. Simple.
7. So, you have fried and fried many batches, and smiles abound all over the house, everybody is full to bursting and you are wondering what to do with the leftover dough.
Just place in the fridge and leave it there overnight. The cold air in the fridge will stop the yeast from acting further, leaving it suspended in like some alternative reality a la Tom Cruise movies. Loooooool. If you leave it anywhere else but a cold environment, the yeast will just go on acting on the sugar, transforming it to alcohol and your puff puff dough will smell like a drunken night out, and will taste foul. Save yourself the disappointment and refridgerate it. When you need it again, bring it out and let it come back to room temperature on its own. This is what I have always done. If I had to fry all the puff puff dough I have ever made at once, I will be fat by now. Loooool. But in light of kemi’s new tip, I think I will advise that you repeat Tip 2 above to wake up the yeast again. Chinelo’s tip might be helpful here i.e. sprinkle in a little yeast, just a little before you fry.
I believe with all these tips, you will recreate the perfect Puff Puff the next time you attempt it. My recipe for the Puff Puff dough can be found HERE. I Will be looking forward to reading your triumphant feedback. As for getting that perfect shape, Kemi uses two spoons, I use my hands, and drop it in the hot oil using my thumb and index finger, or my thumb, index and middle finger. I really couldn’t care that much about the shape to be honest. I like the chewy tentactle like bits protuding out. Looool
………………………..Viva la Puff Puff
Try out my tips for yourself and the family this weekend. Prepare for the best puff puff you have ever made