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Navajo frybread cooks in an iron frying pan. (Buddy Mays / Corbis)

Frybread Recipe

A recipe from Foods of the Americas: Native Recipes and Traditions

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Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups warm water
Extra flour for processing
(Yield: 8 to 12 small portions or 6 to 8 larger portions)

Directions:

To make the dough thoroughly blend the flour with the baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl or on a suitable, clean working surface. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the warm water in the center of the well. Work the flour mixture into the water with a wooden spoon, or use your hands. Gently knead the dough into a ball and form it into a roll about 3 inches in diameter. Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel to prevent drying and let the dough relax for a minimum of 10 minutes. This dough is best used within a few hours, although it may be used the next day if covered tightly with plastic wrap, refrigerated, then allowed to warm to room temperature.

To form the bread, place the dough on a cutting board. Cut the dough with a dough cutter or knife into desired thickness. This process of cutting helps keep your portion sizes consistent. Naturally, you will want to cut small pieces for appetizers (or, alternatively, if you are making sandwiches, cut them bigger). Once you have determined the size, begin cutting in the center of the roll and continue the halving process until all of the portions have been sliced. Cover the pieces of dough with a dry, clean towel while you process each piece to prevent drying. Place some flour in a shallow pan to work with when rolling out the dough. Lightly dust each piece of dough and then place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. With a rolling pin, roll each piece to about 1/4-inch thickness. Place each finished piece in the flour, turn and lightly coat each piece, gently shaking to remove the excess flour. Stack the rolled pieces on a plate as you complete the process. Cover with a dry towel until ready to cook.

To cook fry bread, place any suitable frying oil in a deep, heavy pan. The oil should be a minimum of 1 inch deep. Place pieces of bread in the oil. Do not overcrowd the pan. Cook 2 to 3 minutes per side. This bread generally does not brown and should be dry on the exterior and moist in the center. Try cooking one piece first, let it cool, and taste for doneness. This will give you a better gauge of how to proceed with the balance of the bread, ensuring good results. Place the finished breads on a paper towel to absorb excess oil. Serve this bread immediately after cooking.

To make grill bread, place the bread on a clean medium hot grill. When bubbles form and the dough has risen slightly, turn the bread over to finish cooking. The bread is done when the surface appears smooth and is dry to the touch. Cooking time will vary but plan on approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side. This bread cooks quickly and is best when moist in the center, with a pliant crust. Some browning occurs, but generally speaking, this is a blond bread.

From Foods of the Americas: Native Recipes and Traditions, by Fernando and Marlene Divina and the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. © 2004 Smithsonian Institution and Fernando and Marlene Divina.

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