So I have this interest in fast whole foods, or foods that are quick to make but also made of whole ingredients and traditional processed foods (cured meats, cheese, pickles, flour, etc.) and I love trying out new recipes for quick breads. You might guess that driving past all those Indian taco stands before and after the burn gave me a hankering to try my hand at some fry bread.
While I was not about to gorge myself on some Indian taco and risk gastrointestinal distress in the desert, I did get a chance to try different fry breads in Arizona and New Mexico Indian reservations so I've got the gist of what it's supposed to be like. Fry bread is a bland, spongy bread with a bubbly, mottled brown and white appearance, or just brown all over depending on how deep fried it is, that makes an excellent utensil or mop sponge for eating savory soups and stews, which are something else I love to make. Fry bread in it's most common retail form is not exactly a traditional Native American dish, since it was developed after US interference with native cultures, but it has it's roots in earlier forms of Native American cuisine.
I found this website
which has an extensive selection of fry-bread recipes arranged by tribal origin. I chose the Blackfeet version because it is leavened with baking soda and uses powdered milk instead of liquid milk, important for playa cooking. After mixing all the ingredients together, I was left with a slightly sticky, soft dough, that developed a glutinous consistency surprisingly quickly. The powdered milk is a leavening accelerant, so after only 40 minutes you're left with a ball of dough that can be held and hand stretched very thin for frying. It's kind of magical how quickly this dough develops. Best handled with a coating of four on your hands because this stuff sticks to all surfaces.
Then I fried the bread in lard and vegetable oil and ate it with some bacon-onion soup. Here's a pic of the finished bread. I can't wait to try making this in 2012.