sopaipillas (deep-fried bread)

Sopaipillas are native to New Mexico, originating in Old Town, Albuquerque, more than 300 years ago. These hollow puffs are generally served as a bread with honey drizzled inside. They are delicious sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar as a dessert or snack and make wonderful “pocket bread” for stuffing with refried beans, chile con carne, and sauced for a main-dish sandwich.

Leftover sopaipillas can be frozen in an airtight package for up to 3 months. Reheat in a foil packet at 350˚F for 15 minutes. Just before serving, open the foil to allow the sopaipillas to dry out on the outside. These puffs will be better for stuffing than for serving as a bread or dessert.

Yield: 4 dozen
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon lard or butter
1 package active dry yeast, optional
¼ cup warm water (105–115˚F)
(This gives a pleasant yeasty aroma and a more elastic texture.)
1¼ cups (approximately) scalded milk, cooled to room temperature
Cooking oil for deep-frying

Combine dry ingredients and work in shortening, blending very well until the mixture resembles corn meal.

Dissolve the yeast in warm water and add this mixture to the milk, stirring well. (If not using yeast, use 1½ cups milk and omit the ¼ cup water.)
Add liquid ingredients and work into the dough. Place on board.
Knead dough thoroughly for about 5 minutes until smooth, firm, and elastic, adding no flour or the least amount possible. (If dough is rubbery and very thick when first kneaded, sprinkle with a little warm water.) Invert the bowl over the kneaded dough and let rest for 10 minutes or until the dough will yield a hole when poked. Heat a 3- to 4-inch depth of oil to 400˚F in a deep fryer.

Working with ¼ of the dough at a time, keeping the balance well-covered with plastic wrap, roll to a ¼-inch thickness or slightly thinner, then cut into triangles or squares; do not reroll any of the dough. Fry the sopaipillas, a few at a time, in the hot fat. They should puff and become hollow soon after they are immersed in the oil. If they don’t puff up, keep holding the top of the sopaipilla dough under the surface of the oil with tongs or a spoon until they do puff. Fry until light golden, and drain. Serve warm.

An internationally recognized authority on the regional cooking of the American Southwest, Jane Butel has published 18 cookbooks, including several bestsellers. She operates a full-participation weekend and week-long vacation cooking school; an online school; a mail-order spice, cookbook, and Southwestern product business; and conducts culinary tours and team-building classes. Through her writing, teaching, and television projects, Butel seasons the country’s melting pot with the Southwest’s rich culinary, cultural, and historical heritage. Learn more at janebutel.com.