Easy Homemade Elephant Ear Cookies – Crispy and Chewy Fry Bread Treats

May 10, 2023
Elephant Ear Cookies
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Looking for a fun and simple cookie recipe to make with kids? These easy homemade elephant ear cookies are a blast to customize with sweet toppings like cinnamon sugar, caramel or chocolate sauce. Kids of all ages love helping shape and decorate these fried dough delights.

With just a few pantry staples, you can whip up a batch of elephant ears for a tasty snack, dessert or anytime treat. Their crispy outside and chewy inside is irresistible. Keep reading to learn the easy recipe, shaping tips and creative ways to dress up elephant ear cookies.

What are Elephant Ear Cookies?

Elephant ear cookies get their funny name from their shape resembling an elephant’s ear. They are a sweet fried yeast dough made by deep frying dough balls into thin, flat disks.

Elephant ears have a crispy, crunchy outer layer, while the inside stays nice and chewy. Their flavor is similar to a sugary, buttery donut without a hole in the center.

Elephant ear dough is very versatile. You can fry, bake or griddle it. Once cooked, the possibilities are endless for toppings. These cookies have a texture and taste that kids and adults both love.

Why Bake Homemade Elephant Ears?

Here are some perks of making elephant ear cookies at home:

  • Fun bonding activity – Let kids help mix, shape and decorate the cookies
  • Customize toppings – Create new flavor combos like cinnamon roll or s’mores
  • Control ingredients – Use healthier oils and less sugar if desired
  • Save money – Way cheaper than buying at fairs or theme parks
  • Satisfy cravings fast – Ready in under 30 minutes
  • Make bite-sized – Mini elephant ears are perfect party treats

Follow the simple step-by-step instructions below to enjoy fresh, warm elephant ears whenever the craving strikes.

Ingredients Needed

For the Dough:

  • 3⁄4 cup warm milk (about 110°F)
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour

For Serving (pick your favorites):

  • Cinnamon sugar
  • Powdered sugar
  • Caramel or chocolate sauce
  • Honey butter
  • Fruit jam, Nutella or peanut butter
  • Sprinkles or crushed nuts

Supplies

  • Mixing bowls
  • Rolling pin
  • Skillet or fryer
  • Spatulas and tongs
  • Paper towels
  • Decorating supplies

Step-by-Step Guide

1. Activate the Yeast

  • In a small bowl, stir the warm milk and yeast together until combined. Allow to sit for 5 minutes until frothy on top. This shows the yeast is activated.

2. Mix the Dough

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg, oil and salt.
  • Add the yeast mixture and 1 cup of the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until a thick batter forms.
  • Add remaining flour 1⁄2 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  • When the dough pulls away from the bowl, turn out onto a lightly floured surface.

3. Knead the Dough

  • Knead the dough for 2-3 minutes until smooth and elastic. Add sprinkles of flour if it sticks.
  • Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning to coat all sides.
  • Cover with plastic wrap or towel and let rise 30-60 minutes until doubled in size.

4. Punch Down Dough

  • After rising, gently punch down dough to release air bubbles.

5. Roll Out the Dough

  • On a lightly floured surface, roll or stretch dough into a 1⁄4 inch thick rectangle.
  • Cut dough into 3 inch rounds using a cookie cutter or upside down glass.
  • Re-roll scraps to cut more cookies. You should get 16-20.

6. Fry the Elephant Ears

  • Pour oil to a depth of 1 inch in a skillet or fryer. Heat to 350°F.
  • Carefully add 2-3 cookies at a time. Fry 30 seconds per side until golden.
  • Transfer to paper towels to drain.

7. Customize with Toppings

  • While elephant ears are warm, decorate with desired toppings. Get creative!
  • Serve immediately and enjoy these hot, fresh treats!

Tips for Shaping Perfect Elephant Ears

  • Roll dough very thin, about 1⁄4 inch, so it fries up nice and crispy. Thicker dough will be underdone in the middle.
  • Use a 3 inch round cookie cutter for uniform shapes. A wine glass or bowl also works for cutting circles.
  • Frying smaller 2 inch cookies makes the cutest mini elephant ears for parties. Adjust frying time to about 20-25 seconds per side.
  • Stretch and pull the dough circles into oval elephant ear shapes before frying for fun. Just be gentle so they don’t tear.
  • If you don’t have a cookie cutter, simply pinch off golf ball sized pieces of dough and gently pat into rounds right before frying.

Creative Topping Combinations for Elephant Ears

The fun part about elephant ears is customizing them with your favorite flavors. Here are some ideas:

  • Cinnamon Sugar – The classic! Roll hot cookies in cinnamon-sugar mixture.
  • Caramel Pecan – Drizzle with caramel and pecans on top.
  • S’mores – Brush with chocolate, top with toasted marshmallows.
  • Apple Pie – Sprinkle with cinnamon, add apple pie filling and whipped cream.
  • Bananas Foster – Top with sliced bananas, rum caramel sauce and walnuts.
  • Cookies n Cream – Dip in melted chocolate, roll in crushed Oreos.
  • Sopapilla Style – Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and fresh lime juice.
  • Confetti – Coat with your favorite rainbow sprinkles while warm.

Let your imagination run wild! The possibilities are endless for custom elephant ears.

Storage and Reheating

Elephant ears are best served fresh and warm right after frying. However, you can keep leftover cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 days.

To reheat, place on a baking sheet in a 300°F oven for 5 minutes until warmed through. They won’t get as crispy, but still taste great!

You can also freeze baked elephant ears up to 2 months. Reheat frozen cookies straight from freezer at 300°F for 8-10 minutes.

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