Navajo Fry Bread Is the Easiest Way to Get Your Baking Fix During Quarantine

Navajo fry bread will supply you with all the comforting carbs you need without needing to run to the store for yeast.

If you’re planning on making a golden-crusted, cloud-like loaf of sourdough to rhythmically knead your way to a meditative state, we have just one thing to say to you: Good luck lol.

At the end of March, sales of baking yeast were up 467 percent compared to the same week last year, according to Nielsen data. This abrupt hunger for little packets of microorganisms has overwhelmed the supply chain, causing country-wide shortages. Now, this shelf in the baking aisle is almost as post-apocalyptic-looking as the supermarket’s toilet paper section. (Speaking of which, here's how to safely handle groceries during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

But all is not lost if you’re looking to hunker down with a boatload of carbs—Navajo fry bread is here to comfort you through the COVID-19 pandemic, sans yeast. Formed into plate-sized discs, Navajo fry bread is traditionally made from flour, baking powder, salt, and warm water—though milk or powdered milk may also be used. The dough is then fried in lard or shortening, resulting in a naan-like concoction that’s crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside.

With a pat of butter, drizzle of chocolate, or dusting of powdered sugar, the Navajo fry bread transforms into an indulgent dessert. When piled with ground beef, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream, the bread discs serve as an ultra-fluffy vessel for fan-favorite taco fixings.

As warm and soothing as Navajo fry bread sounds during these uneasy times, the fare’s original purpose was simply survival. In the 1860s, the U.S. government forced the Navajo, or Diné, people off their ancestral land in present-day Arizona and made them walk 250 to 450 miles to a reservation in Bosque Redondo, New Mexico, a treacherous journey known as “The Long Walk.” There, the surviving Navajo people had to subsist on government rations, including white flour and lard—fundamental ingredients that were combined to create the Navajo fry bread known today.

More than 150 years later, Navajo fry bread is a staple at powwows (events held by Native Americans to meet and celebrate their culture), family gatherings, and even state fairs across the western U.S. So as you break out the frying pan and fix this soul-soothing bread, don’t forget the story of suffering that led to its delicious creation in the first place.

Navajo Fry Bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup powdered milk
  • 1 cup hot water
  • Oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Slowly add hot water a little at a time, mixing with fingers until it forms a ball that pulls away from sides of the bowl.
  2. Add more flour or water as needed to form a dough that is not too sticky. Cover and let dough rest for 10 minutes on the counter.
  3. Pour 1/2-1 inch oil in a large skillet. Set a thermometer on the edge of skillet and heat to 375°F.
  4. Meanwhile, pinch off golf ball-sized pieces of dough. Flatten the balls and gently stretch out the edges while turning to form 5-6-inch wide, 1/4-inch thick discs. (You could also roll them out on a lightly floured board, but pulling the dough is more fun.)
  5. Make a small hole in middle of each disk, so dough doesn't balloon up when fried. Lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet or piece of parchment paper so they don't stick together.
  6. One at a time, gently lay dough disks in the hot oil pressing down with tongs so the oil goes over the top of the dough. Fry until golden brown around edges, then turn over and cook until the color matches.
  7. Place on paper towels to drain. Repeat until all the dough disks are cooked.

This recipe was republished with permission from A Spicy Perspective. A similar Navajo Fry Bread recipe, along with other traditional Native American recipes, can be found on the National Center for Native American Aging’s website.

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