Sunday, 20 October 2013

Breakfast with MexiGeek: the ugliest sopaipillas ever

So my mom sent me a small city's worth of Mexican groceries. Seriously, I could feed a suburb of Ensenada for twenty-four hours.

Among this collection was a packet of sopaipilla mix. As in add hot water to make a dough, roll it out, fry it, y provecho.

I did NOT grow up eating sopaipillas. In fact, I first heard of them when we moved to Colorado and went to this god-awful "Mexican" restaurant called Casa Bonita.

There were queues around the block to get in, but that doesn't because of the food. The restaurant was also a D-List amusement park with cliff-diving displays, a taking volcano, and other tacky crap like that.

And they have you free sopaipillas with honey as long as you kept pumping quarters into the arcade games.

So if you don't know, sopaipillas are basically a variation of flour tortilla dough fried until it goes puffy. You can dust them with cinnamon and sugar or tear a hole in them and fill it with honey. Or dip them in your Mexican chocolate.

I would have been happy to add these to the list of Things That Aren't Really Mexican, along with nachos and fajitas. Then I read in one of Diana Kennedy's books that she had found them in a small town in Chihuahua. So they're really Mexican after all.

I just added warm water to the mix to make the dough, but I did some research and found that sopaipillas contain about half the fat of flour tortillas, so this is my estimate of a recipe:

250 g flour
40 g vegetable shortening
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup (75 mL) warm water

I'm guessing what you'd do is sift the flour and salt together, then work the (softened) shortening into the flour, like the start of making pastry. This, by the way, is one of those times when traditionally you'd use pork lard. I've found evidence that shortening makes a good substitute, but I haven't come across a recipe that uses butter, so I wouldn't recommend trying that. 

Because of the lower ratio of fat to flour, don't expect this to get a breadcrumb texture. And when I opened my pre-mixed packet, it still seemed like the consistency and texture of normal flour. 

Add your warm water in a little at a time, trying to incorporate the water fully before adding more. This is to make sure the dough isn't sticky. You probably won't need the entire 75 mLs. If your dough does go sticky, add more white flour a dessertspoon at a time until it isn't sticky any more. 

Now knead this dough like you're on The Great British Bake-Off. Because this is a wheat flour dough it has glutens, so you can even do that thing where you slap it down on the work top. 

Then let it rest for five minutes. 

Now roll it out to about 1/8 inch thick. I was so impressed by the elasticity (remember, corn tortillas have no gluten, so they're not stretchy at all), that I flipped and stretched it like pizza dough!

Rolled out. I think this is thin enough
I was advised to cut it into 3 inch squares, but for some reason I chose to make "mini-sopaipillas". Keeping with the pizza theme, I used a pizza cutter.

I was not going for a Michelin-Star finish here
Now, the key to this is to get the oil hot. I heated about a half-inch of sunflower oil in a high-sided wide-bottomed pan until the oil was shimmering and nearly smoking. 

Then I carefully lay the irregular squares of dough into the oil. They puffed almost instantly. I flipped them once they seemed brown on the under-side, and removed them once they were brown on both sides.

The instructions on the packet specified they should be brown. I never noticed that they were brown when I had them at Casa Bonita, because the lighting was so "subdued". This was probably so no one could get a look at their disgusting food which almost certainly came out of packets of Old El Paso hastily mixed together by disenchanted teenage gringos who would rather be somewhere else. 

There was enough to make two batches of mini sopaipillas. The first batch, to be honest, got a little too brown. By which I mean slightly burnt. 

We'll just call them "caramelized"
The second batch turned out much better. 

I think this is what they're supposed to look like. Sort of.

And to be fair, both batches went down a treat. Mrs MexiGeek and both little kiddy MexiGeeks loved them. (Baby MexiGeek had a savoury one filled with cream cheese.)

I tried them with honey, agave nectar (runnier than honey so it leaked out. Not recommended), and Luchito Honey, which was awesome. I also had some peaches on the side and they complimented the Luchito Honey nicely. 

I don't have any pictures of this plated up, because my then my hands were too sticky to touch my phone. 

Although this was never top of my list of things to cook, I was actually so impressed that I will consider making them again, from scratch. Which will give me a chance to test my estimated recipe. 

Lastly, to show you what I mean about Casa Bonita, watch this video. And remember: this place is real.