Often in the U.S. when I make the deep-fried dough called atwemo or “twisted cakes,” people say it reminds them of Pennsylvania Dutch “funnel cakes” and they want to sprinkle them with powdered sugar. That is definitely a North American idea. West Africans are traditionally more moderate in their sugar consumption. These crispy treats are a combination cracker/cookie. A hard savory version is called Chin-chin in Nigeria.
I was first taught to make these by my friend and neighbor
As in Ghana, atwemo is a standard holiday/birthday/special occasion treat at our house. However, in Ghana it is also a popular snack food packaged in clear plastic and sold in supermarkets, at kiosks, and marketed by street vendors. They are not always “twisted,” but can be simply cut into small cubes or diamond shapes.
Along with plantain chips/strips, “twisted cakes” is one of the most requested recipes at my cooking demonstrations. This is also a fun recipe for assembly-line production with almost any age group. I have made them with nursery and kindergarten students through to adults, including nursing home residents. They cook very quickly, the frying kills any lingering germs from children’s fingers, and, with a deep-fryer, they can be made any place with an electrical outlet. However, when preparing these with children it is important to have a designated adult to do the frying away from the preparation area, and to oversee rolling the dough out so it is thin enough. Cutting the dough into diamonds using plastic or dull table knives, and the twisting process are fun, and even very young helpers can carry plates of twisted dough to the fryer, or loosen the cut diamonds from the board so they can be twisted. The dough can easily be rolled into balls, frozen, and fried in smaller batches as needed. This is a richer, more tender version than many sold on the streets in Ghana.
Make ahead: Atwemo freeze beautifully.
Atwemo work equally well as a snack or a dessert, alone or served with ice cream or a fruit salad. Even children who are more likely to say “yuck” to new foods seem to say “yum” from their first taste.
You can make smaller daintier atwemo by cutting the strips smaller in Step 5, about inch by 1 inch works well.
Troubleshooting: (If the oil is not hot enough the atwemo will fall to the bottom of the pan and stay there; if it is too hot they will bounce up immediately and brown before they are cooked all the way through.)
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