I should be kept far away from deep frying machines.
Don’t get me wrong – I love a crunchy, golden, batter-encrusted item as much as the next arterial disease-scorning glutton. The problem is, I never know when to stop. I’ll start off with a perfectly reasonable goal, like 15 or 20 deep fried Mars bars. But by the end of the evening, everything that is fit for human consumption and hasn’t been tied down has gotten thrown in the boiling oil and things are just getting out of hand.
Lest that look of horror on your face prevent you from reading further, let me inform you that I didn’t consume all those crispy, glistening, gooey-with-hot-caramel-and-melted-chocolate deep fried candies on my own. Foodrambler and I made the deep fried Mars bars for Burns Night at Rambling Restaurant, a Scottish culinary extravaganza starring our homemade haggis (so not as disgusting as you might think…eventually). In case you’re wondering, deep fried Mars bars are a genuine Scottish delicacy according to Wikipedia. To enhance the Scottishness of the dish, foodrambler had the inspired idea to batter the chocolate logs in another Scottish delicacy: the violently (and controversially) orange-colored soft drink known as Irn-Bru.
I thought that was a genius idea, until I tasted Irn-Bru. It boasts the gloriously saccaharine taste of Red Bull, the vaguely citrusy overtones of dishwashing detergent/washing up liquid and the unpleasantly chemical reminder of cough medicine or assorted cleaning product. However, it’s the 3rd best-selling soft drink in the UK behind Coke and Pepsi, so someone somewhere is drinking it and it just may be Sarah, our third woman in the kitchen on Burns Night. Apparently, the exact recipe for this magic brew is known only by the chairman of the company and one other person, and they are not allowed to fly on the same plane. Hilarious.
We decided to give it a fair chance in a Deep Fried Mars Bar Batter Taste Test. In the name of culinary exploration, the Irn-Bru would face off against a beer batter (Carlsberg, if you’re curious) and a traditional milk batter. We found a classic batter recipe (details below) and tried several variations with each of the liquids.
This bubbly mess is what you get when you add Irn-Bru to a bowl of flour, cornstarch, and baking soda. Warning: this activity will lead to you scraping a floury gluey mess off all your countertops for the next week.
After tasting way too many little bits of deep fried candy, we settled on the classic milk batter as the best. The artficial aftertaste of the Irn-Bru came through too much in the batter and the beer tasted slightly sour and too thin, but the milk batter was thick, rich and indulgent. The beer batter could be great for savory items, and I’d be interested in trying other liquids, but for a sweet dessert dish the milk batter was perfect.
Of course we had to try deep frying some battered haggis balls too. That sounds like a really bad insult.
After playing around with the various batters, the deep fried haggis balls and the haggis-stuffed deep fried English muffin, not to mention three other preparations of haggis, the scent of batter grease was making us feel seriously ill. We put away the deep fryer until the actual Burns Night, which is when we broke out the big guns to deep fry half a Mars Bar for each of our 20-odd guests to be served with a hefty dollop of cranachan. Cranachan is a light and highly alcoholic Scottish dessert involving whipped cream, honey, raspberries, toasted oatmeal, and a serious splash of whiskey.
And here’s why I should stay away from deep fat fryers. Once the oil is boiling, bowls of batter are within reach, and there are edible items within the vicinity, I can’t stop myself from tossing things in. We started with a second round of Mars bars, because they were there. Then I peered through the fridge and found a block of cheddar cheese. Cut into pinky finger-sized slices and dipped in batter, these tongue-scorching oozy and cheesy mouthfuls were a beautiful bit of batter-encased delight. Good idea.
Deep frying a spoonful of creamy cranachan? Bad idea. Actually, I think the deep-fried cream has potential to be delicious (like tempura-fried ice cream…mmm) but the whisky-soaked cranachan traces in the greasy batter remnants was just nauseating.
Pouring the remaining batter straight into the increasingly gross oil in an attempt at funnel cake? Even worse idea. Straight up fried dough is amazing, but not when the oil has already been used to fry several dozen chocolate and caramel bars, a block of cheddar cheese, a Scotch-infused spoonful of cream, and several small household pets. Kidding about the pets though – the cat really didn’t like being dipped in batter and couldn’t fit in the deep fryer anyway.
Kidding. I don’t have a cat….anymore.
In case you want to have your own deep frying adventures, here’s a very easy recipe for batter:
Deep Fried Mars Bar (And Anything Else Fryable Within Reach) Batter
What You Need:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornstarch or cornflour
pinch of baking soda or bicarbonate of soda
milk (or beer or Irn-Bru or liquid of choice)
What You Do:
It’s pretty simple. Mix the powdered ingredients. Whisk in the liquid until it approaches the consistency of a light pancake batter. Dip delicious or random or curious items into the batter and carefully place into the boiling oil. Let cool, place in mouth, repeat.
Just make sure you know when to stop.