Mandazi- East African Sweet Bread

Mandazi is a sweet East African bread that puts donuts to shame, and it’s a dish that you can find in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania (it also goes by the name mahamri).

Mandazi dough is traditionally leavened with yeast, kneaded with cardamom, and flavored with coconut powder. Once the dough has risen, it’s rolled out and cut into triangle shapes, and then deep-fried in boiling oil until each piece is golden brown and crisp.

There are so many ways to eat mandazi. You can eat it freshly fried, and rip it open to let out the steam in the hollow middle. Or you can save it for a snack, and dunk it into some afternoon chai tea (an East African favorite). It’s also popular for breakfast, and it’s an ideal vessel for anything that’s cooked in sauce – like vyazi ya kanga (potatoes simmered in tomato sauce) or mbazi (pigeon peas in coconut).

My own family brought their mandazi from recipe from Uganda to Toronto; and we make it religiously every week. Back in the day, it was a time-consuming effort. Modern technology has made it much simpler, and now breadmixers do most of the work. We make it ahead of time, keep the dough in the fridge, and bring it out to roll and freshly fry it. Here’s the recipe, enjoy!

Ingredients

4 cups flour

½ cup coconut powder

1 cup of milk

½ cup sugar

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

½ teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon yeast

1 tablespoon cardamom

Instructions

Preparing the dough

  1. Mix flour and dry yeast in a bowl.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients.
  3. If using a breadmixer, let the dough mix for at least 20 minutes.
  4. If using your hands, knead the dough well for about 20 minutes as well.
  5. The dough should be soft and just an itsy bit sticky (add more milk if necessary).
  6. Divide the dough and shape into balls. Each ball should be about the size of your palm.
  7. Cover with a cloth and let it sit and rise for about an hour; or store the dough in a plastic container/cling film and refrigerate or freeze to use later.

Cooking the dough

  1. Take a ball of dough, and sprinkle lightly with flour. This is to make sure the dough doesn’t stick to a surface when you’re rolling it out.
  2. Using a rolling pin, roll out the piece of dough into a flat circular shape. Roll it until the dough is about a millimeter thick.
  3. Slice the dough into 4 pieces, similarly to the way pizza is sliced.
  4. Now it’s time to fry the dough. Pour oil into a frying pan (the pan should be fairly deep) and set it to medium-high heat.
  5. Once the oil is hot, put the slices of dough into the oil. Let it simmer on each side for about a minute or so, turning the dough a total of three times.
  6. Once it’s golden brown and puffed up, take it out of the oil and serve.

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