No this is not another Armenian riddle. These little fried strips of dough that are dusted with powdered sugar apparently make frequent celebratory appearances under different names on Norwegian, Russian, Italian, and Austrian dessert tables. I recently embarked on a mission to test my family recipes for hvorost, which I had not made in years. Boy, did I get a surprise! Not only did my first batch fail, but the little angels are not as simple to make as I remembered. Well, they are, BUT, it helps to know a few tricks of the trade such as: my most successful batch was made with Gold Medal All Purpose Flour; remember to roll out the dough until VERY thin, which may mean rolling out several batches; let the dough rest and “think” for a half hour; and finally, be sure the temperature of your oil is HOT, at least 360 – 380 degrees.
In recent history we’ve been conditioned to avoid fried foods. However, if done properly, these cookies are anything but greasy. They are light and crispy, and what seems like a mountain of dessert, quickly reverts to a pile of dust as nimble fingers grab for the gold.
In my family, hvorost was seen at Christmas time as well as on namedays and birthdays. One Russian chef on YouTube claims you must “mix the dough with love.” Well, that must have been my biggest mistake the first time around since I was in a hurry and had no time for “da schmaltz.”In the future, I say, leave lots of room for “da schmaltz”, at least as you are lovingly blending the flour into the liquids centered in the well you’ve made. Remember Snow White as she sang at the wishing well while bringing up the bucket of water or anything else that plunges you into a state like Neverland. Most of all, enjoy the end-product….it’s worth all the experimentation and grief I initially encountered!
Recipe: Beat 4 yolks, two whole eggs, 6 T. sugar, 1/2 cup heavy cream (or sour cream) 2-3 T. Brandy or vodka, a dash of salt, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla. Into a large bowl, sift in 3 cups flour and make a well in the center. (Norwegians, add 1 tsp. cardamom to this step!) Pour the egg mixture into the well. With your hands carefully and lovingly work the flour into (There are countless versions of hvorost and fatiggman on YouTube where you can see how to blend in the flour by hand and how to knead the dough.) the eggs, until a pasta-like dough is formed. Gather into a ball, knead for a few minutes. Then cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Split the dough into 3 pieces, keeping the other pieces covered as you roll out one of them. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is as thin as a lasagne noodle. Now heat about 2-3 inches of oil (Mazola or Crisco) in a deep-sided frying pan until it reaches 360 degrees (a thermometer helps).
Cut the dough into 1- 1 1/2″ strips and then into smaller lengths, about 4-5 inches long. slit each strip in the middle and pull one end of the pastry through the slit before plunging it into the hot oil Fry on one side until golden; flip and brown the other side. Remove the pastries as they are ready onto a baking sheet lined with paper towels (to absorb any excess oil). Once you have fried all the dough, assemble the pastries on a beautiful platter and dust each layer heavily with powdered sugar as you pile up your mountain of loveliness. Great for a large gathering. Enjoy!