Road Snacks For White Line Fever

Guanti—an Italian holiday treat
Yield: 8 Dozen

Road Snacks For White Line Fever

Ingredients

  • It’s helpful to have two people working on this recipe. One person can be rolling and cutting the dough and making bows, while the other fries the guanti as they’re ready.
  • 10 egg yolks
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 Tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp whisky or brandy
  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups neutral oil for deep-frying
  • Icing sugar or birch syrup, for serving (in my friend’s family, they used to make fig syrup, which tastes somewhere between birch syrup and molasses)

Instructions

  1. Beat egg yolks and whole eggs until lemon-coloured and creamy. Whisk in icing sugar, salt, baking soda and brandy, until free of lumps.
  2. With a wooden spoon, stir in flour to make a soft dough. The dough will be quite sticky.
  3. With floured hands, transfer the dough to a countertop sprinkled with flour. Knead with a little flour at a time, until the dough forms a soft, elastic ball. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Line a baking sheet with floured parchment paper. Line another baking sheet (or sheets) with paper towel for the finished guanti.
  5. Cut ball of dough in half. Roll out on a floured counter to a thickness of 1/8-inch. Using a pastry cutter, cut into 1/2-inch strips, 6 inches long. Form a simple bow by making a loop in the middle of the strip and pressing the pastry together at the base of the loop. Transfer guanti to the floured parchment paper, as they’re ready.
  6. Heat two cups of oil in a deep pot over medium heat to 375℉. If you don’t have a thermometer, test for readiness by breaking off a small piece of dough and sliding it into the oil with a spoon. If bubbles form rapidly around the dough and it rises to the surface and turns golden in about 30 seconds, it’s ready.
  7. Using a slotted spoon, slide 6 or 7 guanti at a time into the hot oil. They will puff up almost immediately and start to turn golden. Turn each bow so that it colours on both sides, about 1 minute, in total, for each bow.
  8. Transfer the finished batch onto paper towel and allow it to cool while you cook the next batch. (You’ll end up with many squares of paper towel spread out around the kitchen—the recipe makes about 8 dozen guanti.)
  9. Store in cookie tins or cardboard boxes lined with parchment paper, not plastic—the guanti tend to lose their crispness if stored in plastic containers.
  10. To serve, either sprinkle with icing sugar just before serving, or dip in a bowl of birch syrup.

On November 26, my sister and I pulled into the Husky gas station at Hope, just off the Trans-Canada Highway. We’d been on the road about five hours. I nipped into the shop to check out the snacks while she filled up the tank with gas. The snacks were tip-top—a bag of wild rice, flax and sea salt chips, another of roasted chickpeas with sea salt, and organic almond-butter cups coated in 60 per cent cacao chocolate.

At the counter I told the cashier we were driving “all the way to Canada!” He laughed. “All the way to Canada, that’s great!”

In fact, we were driving all the way to Collingwood, Ontario, from Parksville, B.C., in the early days of winter. My sister is moving. Her trusty, newly bought 2016 Subaru Forester was loaded with two guitars, two banjos, a fiddle and a mandolin. In the non-musical category were suitcases, computers, all her clothes for the next few months, a road emergency kit, a tool kit and items of comfort for the journey.

Permit me to elaborate on those items of comfort, should you, too, decide to undertake a road trip across the country in the early days of winter: one bottle of Sheringham Seaside Gin, one spritzer of vermouth, a jar of pickled onions and one of olives, and a lemon. Martinis (after nine hours of white-knuckling through snow squalls, ice and wind, every day, from Kamloops to Thunder Bay) saved us.

Smoked salmon saved us too. Supper in Swift Current (where we bailed because the storm was so bad there were semis jackknifed across the highway and cars in the ditch) was smoked salmon from Port Alberni, and cream cheese on crackers. A dozen Morning Glory muffins baked by my brother-in-law’s Auntie Di provided breakfast as we pulled out of Kamloops, Strathmore, Swift Current, Winnipeg and Thunder Bay. (In Sault Ste. Marie we splurged on a breakfast club.)

We had a thermos, a water jug and a kettle. The kettle was key, for morning tea and Aeropress coffee, for a thermos of hot dandelion drink during the day. Always bring a kettle. We had apples, and fresh carrots—also key—for the crunch that is not Miss Vickie’s.

In every gas-station shop I cruised the shelves for snacks. We sampled beef jerky by McSweeney’s, by Jack Links, by Great Canadian Meat. (Two thumbs up for McSweeny’s Original and Jack Links Smoked Hickory.) As we moved east, the snack brands changed to varieties I didn’t know existed. Pop Daddy Pretzels. Bills Dill Pickle Roasted Sunflower Seeds. OMG! Vanilla Fudge Clusters. Nutty Club Spearmint Drops.

In Vermillion Bay, you could get a tiny, personalized bottle of Old Glory 100 Proof moonshine. You could also, at one time, have your fortune told by Bobby, a battered mannequin in a fishing hat hovering over a crystal ball, but he was not in working order.

In Falcon Lake, in Moose Jaw, in Pays Plat, the gas-station shop was a grocery store. In Pays Plat, it was also a community centre—people were visiting, chatting, buying Sago brand cigarettes made with tobacco grown and distributed by the Indigenous-owned Grand River Enterprises.

We listened to music, we sang, we stared at the road. We passed trucks, trucks passed us. In Wawa, Ontario, we rejected online advice and drove down Highway 17 S, marked as “Closed” on the 511 Ontario website. The cashier in the Wawa liquor store told us her Purolator delivery guy had made it through that morning. It was open; there was a glitch on the 511 website. But driving those 100 or so kilometres to The Soo, on a highway empty of traffic, was a Twilight Zone experience.

On the seventh day, my sister-in-law met us with martinis at her door, in Collingwood. That night we slept and slept. The next day my childhood friend hauled me into her kitchen to make her sister-in-law’s recipe for guanti—an Italian holiday treat she adores. It was so fun to be cooking with my friend again. Though I confess to missing the pepperoni sticks. And my sister.

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