Keri’s opinion: “I like them!”
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
Big pinch of sugar
Little pinch of salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3-4 tablespoons hot water
Cinnamon sugar and confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Flavorless oil, such as canola or sunflower, for deep frying
Working in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon or a large rubber spatula, beat the butter, sugar and salt until smooth and creamy. Add the egg and beat – the mixture will look curdled, but that’s ok. Mix the flour and baking powder together and pour them into the bowl, then stir until most of the flour is moistened. The dough will look like coarse, clumpy meal. Add 3 tablespoons hot water and continue to stir until the dough comes together. If you’ve still got dry portions, sprinkle over a little more water. Keep stirring – you’ll have a moist dough that might be a bit shaggy.
Reach into the bowl and knead the dough just until it smooths out and comes together. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour. (The dough can be kept in the refrigerator overnight if it’s more convenient.)
Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Cut the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, on a well-floured surface, and keeping both sides of the dough floured, roll the dough into a very thin rectangle – try to make it about 12 x 8 inches, but don’t worry if it’s not the right size or if it’s lopsided; scherben can be any size, and shape. If you keep the work surface well floured and turn the dough so it’s not sticking and so you’re rolling on both sides, you’ll find that it is very easy to roll and that you can roll it paper thin. Mark off 1-inch strips with a ruler and cut the strips with a pastry wheel or pizza cutter – using a zigzag pastry wheel makes pretty cookies. Cut the strips crosswise in half, then, using a small knife, cut a lengthwise slit about 1 1/2 inches long in each strip. Place the strips on the lined baking sheet and cover them with another piece of plastic wrap. Roll and cut the other half of the dough and lay those cookies over the first batch. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (If it’s more convenient, these can stay in the fridge for a day.)
GETTING READY TO FRY: Line a baking sheet with a triple thickness of paper towels and put it close to the stove. Fill one sugar duster or strainer with cinnamon sugar and another with confectioners’ sugar. Pour at least 4 inches of oil into a deep saucepan (or use an electric deep-fryer) and heat the oil to 350 degrees F, as measured on a deep-fat-frying thermometer.
Drop 4 to 6 strips into the pan (don’t crowd the pan) and fry until the undersides are golden, then turn and fry the other sides; each batch will take 2 to 3 minutes. Lift the cookies out of the oil on a perforated skimmer, allowing excess oil to drip back into the pan, then turn the cookies out onto the baking sheet to drain. Put in another batch to fry, and while they are frying, turn the cookies that are draining so the other sides can drain. Then, while the cookies are still hot and slightly damp from the oil, dust both sides with cinnamon sugar. Continue until all the dough is fried.
Just before serving, dust the scherben with confectioners’ sugar.