Puff Puff

Spiced Fried Dough Balls

Inspired by Iya-Ibadan

These little balls of fried dough are made with yeast and lightly spiced. They are popular throughout West Africa and have several different names. Ghanaians call them togbei while Nigerians and Cameroonians call them either chin chin or puff puff. No matter what they are called, everyone loves the taste, especially at parties.

I’ve added slightly more spice and omitted the egg and milk some recipes use as this makes them very rich. This version is dairy-free and suitable for vegans. I’ve also added palm wine for extra flavour, but if you prefer not to use alcohol just use more water.

Ingredients

  • 1 sachet fast-rise dried yeast
  • 150 ml warm water
  • 200 g self-raising flour
  • 50 g plain flour
  • 75 g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg, grated
  • 3 tablespoons palm wine or vermouth (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons icing sugar (optional)
  • 1 litre vegetable oil for frying

Method

Mix the yeast with 50 ml of the warm water and leave the mixture until it starts to foam.

Sift the flours into a large bowl and stir in the sugar, baking powder, salt and spices. Make a well in the middle and pour in the remaining 100 ml of warm water, the yeast mixture you’ve already made and the palm wine or vermouth. Bring it together with your hand to make a dough, adding more water if it seems too stiff. It should be soft enough to knead. Knead for a minute or two until the dough becomes more smooth and elastic. Put it back in the bowl, cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place to rise for at least an hour or until doubled in size. This puffing up is how the puff puff get their name.

Heat the oil to 75–80°C or until a pinch of the dough floats when dropped into it. Then, using your thumb and forefinger, pull off walnut-sized pieces of dough and roll them into balls. Carefully drop the dough balls into the hot oil and cook for about 1–2 minutes on both sides, until the outside is golden and the middle is no longer sticky when you put a fork in it. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain them on kitchen roll or a clean tea towel. I sprinkle them with a little bit of icing sugar before serving. They are best served piping hot.