Chin chin is a beloved West African pastry that can serve as a snack or a sweet, depending on how it is made. Chin chin holds a special place in the hearts and
stomachs of West Africans, as I have seen by the amount of searches and discussion it generates. There are about as many recipes for chin chin as there
are ethnic groups in Nigeria - a lot! The ingredients and variations are endless.
Some of you like the hard, crunchy type, others swear by a softer, lighter
recipe. You might season your chin chin with oranges and cinnamon, or with nutmeg, or just enjoy the plain buttery flavour. Common ground is that this is
a pastry of flour, eggs, milk, butter, salt and sugar. It might have baking soda, but if you like the hard and crunchy type you should leave that out. It is deep fried
in oil, a step that seems to be non-negotiable.
Shaping is also a personalized preference. The no-frills shape is
simply to cut the dough into 1/2 inch squares and fry it. The fancier and authentic method is poking a hole in the dough and pulling one end through, to
form a knot. This is easy and fast once you get the hang of it.
2 1 ⁄ 2 cups white flour
2 ⁄ 3 cup sugar
1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon salt
1 ⁄ 4 teaspoon baking powder, if desired
5 Tablespoons butter, cold
2 Tablespoons milk
4 cups vegetable or peanut oil, for frying
In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder if you are using.
Cut the cold butter into small pieces and add to dry ingredients. Cut butter in with a pastry blender until it is blended in well.
In a small bowl, mix together eggs and milk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour egg and milk mixture in.
Mix with a fork and then knead with your hands, turning the mixture out onto a counter and kneading until it forms a solid dough. The dough will
be very stiff.
Roll out dough to 1 ⁄ 4 inch thick, using a small amount of flour if you need to keep it from sticking.
Cut out your chin chin using one of the following methods:
Cut dough into strips about 1 ⁄ 2 wide, and then again crosswise into 1 ⁄ 2
strips, to make small 1 ⁄ 2 inch squares, ready for frying.
or, cut dough into 2 inch squares. Cut each square diagonally to form a triangle. With your finger, poke a small hole in the center of the triangle
and pull one of the corners through the hole gently. The last picture below is the knot flipped over on its other side.
If you are having trouble with this method, try chilling your dough for about half an hour, until it
becomes more firm. You can do this after the triangles are cut, just transfer them to a cookie sheet and refrigerate.
Heat oil in a large heavy (preferably cast iron) pot until it reaches a temp of 350°F. You can do this while cutting the chin chin shapes.
Fry chin chin in batches until golden brown. The small squares will only take about 5 minutes, the triangles slightly longer, and will need to be turned
Makes about 5 cups small squares, or 25 or so chin chin knots.