Puff-puff is a delicious Nigerian dessert, snack and small chops. It is a favourite to many Nigerians, both those that live locally in the West-African nation and those in the diaspora. It is one of the simplest things to make, of which the basic traditional recipe calls for 4 ingredients: flour, sugar, yeast and water. Every Nigerian has an aunt, mum or granma that makes a banging puff-puff and probably has their own special recipe. Something extra they’ve added to the 4 ingredients than the basic recipe calls for. Some popular additions are nutmeg and cinnamon. I have also tasted some delicious chocolate versions. Puff-puff is very versatile, an addition of just one or two ingredients can vow to almost anyone. This recipe will show you how to make the classic recipe with a modern twist using popular Nigerian ingredients.
Zobo / Hibiscus leafs
My “addition” of choice is hibiscus. Aslo popularly known as zobo in Nigerian. It is typically used in making an ice-cold drink as a refreshent to eat snacks like puff-puff. I’ve taken a sort of side dish and made it the main character. the process is the same used in making the classic Nigerian zobo. Hibiscus flower + water + sugar. Althogh fruits such as pineapple, oranges and lime act as a great flavouring for the drink. In the case of this syrup, simple is better. To appreciate the natural vibrancy and taste of the hibiscus flower. However, a dash of lemon or lime is not a bad idea. The Nigerian puff-puff with the hibiscus syrup is a combination of two classics that results in something exceptional.
Small chops & shaping the puffed balls.
As I previouldy stated, puff-puff is a delicious “small chop”. Smalls chop is a popular category of meals eaten by Nigerians. It’s a combination of finger foods, both sweet & savoury, accompanied by a chilled beverage. Similar to the Italian aperitivo. Traditionally the foods served as small chops were typical street foods. For example, chin-chin, hot buns, meat-pie, plantain chips etc. A combination of sweet and savoury treats. Puff-puff is one of the few on the sweet side. Although these days savoury versions of puff have started making appearances on Nigerian plates.
As the name implies, Nigerian puff-puff is simply puffed up pastry balls. A sweet batter proofed with yeast and deep-fried. Forming the round-shaped can be a bit tricky. Traditionally the cooks do it with their hands and so do I. As is how my mum taught me. However, scooping batter with your hands into hot oil can be frightening to most people. Honestly, it’s not as scary as it seems. Nonetheless, there are other ways to scoop the batter. It can be done with a tablespoon or an ice cream scoop. Getting the shape right on your first trial might not be promised. What I can promise, is the taste of deliciousness in your mouth.
Nigerian puff-puff with hibiscus syrup
For the Puff-puff balls:
- 3 cups flour
- ½ cup powdered milk
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp Cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)
- 1 tsp instant dry yeast
- 2 cups Luke warm water
- 1 L Vegetable oil (for frying)
For the Hibiscus syrup:
- 3 cups water
- ¼ cup hibiscus flowers
- 1 cup sugar
Make the puff-puff:
- In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flour, powdered milk, cinnamon or nutmeg and sugar).
- Pour in the lukewarm water and mix together into a smooth thick batter.
- Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow to rise for 1 hour.
- Place a deep pan/pot over medium-high heat. Add oil and preheat to about 180 degrees celsius.
- Scoop small amounts of the batter into the hot oil one at a time until the surface of the oil is full. You can scoop with a tablespoon, an ice-cream scoop to form round shapes or with your hands lifted carefully above the oil.
- Fry on both sides ocassionally turning the puff-puff balls arounf for 3 minutes or until golden brown. You can use a spatula and a skewer for better control when turning the balls around.
- Using a perforated spoon, remove the puff-puff balls from the hot oil. Place the balls into a metal strainer with paper towels underneath to soak up excess oil.
- Repeat the last 3 steps until all the batter is fried into puff-puff.
- Stack the puff-puff balls on a plate. You can serve hot as it is or proceed to make the syrup.
Make the hibiscus syrup
- Put the water and dried hibiscus flowers in a pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Cook for 5 minutes or until the water is vibrantly red, then remove the hibiscus flowers
- Add the sugar and cook until it forms large bubbles and the texture is thick and syrupy.
- Remove from heat and pour the hot syrup over the stacked puff-puff balls. Enjoy.