I should warn you up front that this blog is not about bears. Rather, it’s about something entirely different. Logged in an obscure nineteenth century autobiography of a cowboy was the mention of “bear sign.” This popular treat was an open-range, western-style version of our modern-day donut.
According to The Old West Baking Book, our cowboy and his friends would make excuses to ride twenty miles in the hard saddle to enjoy the popular pastry. Apparently, bear signs came in a variety of different flavors and forms. Most, however, were assembled without the hole.
Bear signs were also called “oily cakes” and “dough nuts.”
Below is a supposed fail-safe, delicious western recipe for Bear Sign that I found in The Old West Baking Book compiled by Lon Walters.
Frying Time: 3-5 minutes per side Frying Temperature: 375
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups all-purpose flour
In the first bowl, mix buttermilk, eggs, sugar, and melted butter until well-blended. In a second bowl, combine the baking powder, salt, cinnamon and flour. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the first bowl, stirring them together. This mix should be stiff enough to hold a spoon upright. If not, mix in more flour. Knead together lightly for a minute or so, then turn out on a floured board or countertop.
Using a rolling pin, empty bottle, or heel of your hand to roll out to about one finger-width height (a quarter inch). Cut circles out with a small glass and set aside for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour one inch of oil in large skillett and heat. It’s hot enough when a bread cube browns in about 1 minute. Slide the circles into the hot oil and brown on one side. Turn over and brown on the other. Set out to drain on a plate covered with paper towels (or a brown bag).
Cover with powdered sugar and eat warm. YUM!