real life test kitchen: speengies!

I know what you’re thinking — what the heck is a speengie? Well, if you grew up where I did (Monterey, CA) you may be familiar with these gorgeous, pillowy fried discs of happiness from county fairs and farmer’s markets. Similar to elephant ears and funnel cakes, speengies are an Americanized version of sfingi, Italian, ricotta-based donuts coated in honey. But speengies are a little different — just simply fried yeasted dough (I use pizza dough) sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and piled high with juicy, sweet strawberries. I made these recently after not having one in almost 10 years, and the first bite was like Proust’s Madeleine — a flood of childhood memories rushed over me: slumber parties, sticky fingers, and summer. They are so simply wonderful (and a great vegan dessert if you use the right dough) that I just had to share. –Megan B. Click for the speengies recipe!

Speengies with fresh strawberries
(serves 4-8)
1 lb pizza dough (I like to use Trader Joe’s premade dough), divided into 8 rounds
1 lb strawberries hulled and cut into 1/4 inch chunks
1 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon for the berries
3 tablespoons cinnamon
Corn, peanut, grapeseed, or safflower oil for frying
Large heavy pot for frying
Candy thermometer
Fill the pot with oil (only fill 1/2 up for safety’s sake) and preheat to 350. While the oil is heating, toss the berries with the tablespoon of sugar and set aside. Mix the remaining sugar and cinnamon together in a large bowl. When the oil is ready, stretch out the rounds and drop them gently into the oil. Fry no more than 3 at a time to prevent crowding. Flip after about 3 minutes and fry for another 3 or until golden brown. Remove with a strainer and toss liberally with the cinnamon sugar. Mound generously with berries and consume immediately with the unrestrained joy of a child!

From our partners
Red

This is a scone! And I’ve been eating them since childhood, too (thanks, Grandma). Rhodes rolls (in the freezer section) are perfect to thaw and fry like this.

It makes me wonder if every culture has a fried bread tradition? Anyone interested in compiling a tasting party to compare the variations?

I’ve never heard of these, but now I WANT ONE….no, I want EIGHT! ;)

Can’t wait to try them!

Mom B.

These look so yummy — I want some, too!

I have only heard of them as sfingi! I never ate the filled ones, just cinnamon sugar ones. They have them at a lot of Italian fests, at least the ones in the midwest (Chgo, Milwaukee) that have enough Southern Italians, it seems like.

Sarah

Meggie, is this your old neighbor’s recipe? God, I forgot how much I missed these covered in custard and chocolate syrup. And who the heck fries a scone? I’ve only had them baked.

I was just chatting about favorite deserts and I thought of speengies, with custard. YUM! I grew up in Monterey, too, and have only ever had them at the fairgrounds there. I googled them to find a recipe to share with a baker friend and found your site. Thanks for the memory!

Angie

I was just having a discussion with my husband about these, and he had never heard of them before he met me. The first time he had them he laughed at me and said they are called Beignet’s! My family always had speengies, every Christmas Eve with our pizza, and whenever we had a snow day we had them with hot chocolate when we came in from sledding! I was just telling my kids about them this evening and my stupid husband won’t let them grow up calling them speengies!

Ours were also made with Rhodes bread, we just used the loafs and cut them into smaller pieces and we just fried them up threw them in a brown paper lunch sack and coated them with sugar. Man, now I can’t wait for winter!!!

Jillian

How funny…I was googling speengy for the spelling and came across this. I grew up/live in Monterey and grew up with speengies and all sorts of other Italian goodies!! They sure are delicious…my mom used to sprinkle just a little sugar on them after they came out of the fryer. SO good!

Marina

I grew up eating Spingies (how i learned to spell them). I’m from a big Italian American family from the Bay Area and these were a staple around the holidays. But we had a very different recipe. The dough was made differently, and it was in this amazing giant pot. We’d fry them all up and cover them in sugar, or powdered sugar. Everyone smelled like oil the rest of the week. Haha. Our recipe was different though because my family is from Detroit originally, so it was changed up a bit.

Anyway, although they are similar to funnel cakes and beignets, the ones I grew up eating had a very distinct taste and shape compared to the other two kinds. I haven’t had one of these in so long. Probably 4 years ago.

Teresa M.

When I moved to the Monterey Peninsula in 1983, one of the first things I got to try downtown was a SPEENGIE !!! It was unbelievably awesome and homemade on sight – in a deli or small family run eatery, and the SPEENGIE showed up at the Famer’s Market on Alvarado Street in when it first began. We specifically went to the Farmer’s Market to have a SPEENGIE !!!! My family misses them so much, we still look for them at the Farmer’s Market. … and the other day, friends and I were literally reiniscing about those missed speengies… My son would have cherries or custard and whip cream on his…. YUM !!!

THANK YOU for the recipe, my chef will be using it TODAY.

Flora M

We always called them Speengie, but they are also known as Fritole – ours don’t have a “filling’ as such but can include thinly sliced apples or raisins. The rule though is you are never, NEVER, to take a Speengie until the entire bowl of batter has been cooked. If you take one before that time, the rest of the batch goes bad and you have to start all over. They are wonderful, quick, and a nice addition to a table with coffee, wine, friends and maybe a deck of cards.