PATI'S MEXICAN TABLE

December 21, 2011 11:50 AM
Buñuelos: High Maintenance, But So Worth It!
POSTED IN: Recipes , Desserts
TAGS: anise , Buñuelos , bunuelos , butter , christmas , dessert , dough , holiday , mexican , orange , syrup
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When I was about 10 years old, my parents developed a habit of traveling during the December holidays without my sisters and I. Don't ask me why they thought it was a good idea.

It was an awful, terrible, horrible idea. 

The sweet highlight was that our babysitter Sari, whom we call Nana Tochito and who came from the mountainous regions of Oaxaca, prepared a full blown Christmas style meal to spoil and help us celebrate the holidays. No, we didn't have the tree like our friends in school. But, thanks to my Nana we couldn't care less. We exchanged gifts, ate lots of gelt, had the traditional big roasted turkey, drank ponche, and what we loved the most, ate buñuelos.

Mostly found around Christmas and New Year's, buñuelos speak of nothing but celebration. And truly, what one has to celebrate is being lucky enough to find buñuelos at markets, fairs and street stands or having the time, patience and a reliable recipe to make them at home. 

Buñuelos may be one of the most high maintenance treats one can make: but to cut to the chase, they are completely worth it. 

Now with that said, you can skip to the end where I give you my most reliable recipe or read a bit more about why I - and everyone in Mexico- love them so, including their demanding and time consuming nature... 

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They are immense with a stunning deep caramel color. Light, thin, crisp yet sturdy. It is a mystery why they don't break piled high in the stalls or baskets where they wait to be sold, defying gravity and their own weight. 

They are irresistible, especially drenched in sweet piloncillo syrup and eaten bite by bite in their entirety or broken into large pieces. Once in your mouth, they feel crunchy and delicate, with a combination of mellow yet distinct flavors. So one large buñuelo is usually just the way to get started...


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Though the most popular version of the buñuelo is this large, extended and thin one so common in Oaxaca - others being tubed, twisted or with pinwheel looking shapes- there are many spins as to what goes in its dough. 

I like to make it with flour, butter -rather than lard or vegetable shortening-, eggs, fresh squeezed orange juice, a bit of sugar and a pinch of salt. 

Some old recipes call for Tequesquite- saltpeter- water or water made from simmering tomatillo husks to help ferment the dough and help it have volume, and make it fluffier and crisper as it fries. Since both ingredients sound hard to come by, you may shy away from making them. But don't! These days most cooks don't use either, as one can get the same effect from using baking powder and good dough kneading.


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If you look closely behind the oranges, you will also find anise liquor, and in my photo Sambuca. If you can't find it, you can use orange liquor. You can skip the liquor altogether, but it does give it a nice ethereal quality.

So no, this is not just a plain flour dough...


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After the ingredients are mixed, the demanding part of making buñuelos begins. The dough needs to be kneaded for a long, long, time.

It starts looking like the photo above, but it really needs to end up looking like the photo below. Smooth, homogeneous and elastic.
 

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Because we live in the 21st and not the 19th century, you can choose to knead it by hand for a half hour or just drop all the ingredients in the mixer, and let the mixer do its thing for 10 minutes.


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Then, after that whole lot of massaging in the mixer, the dough calls for a bit of rest.

It really does. If you don't let it unwind in a greased bowl for at least 20 to 30 minutes, preferably covered with a clean cloth, the dough will not be malleable and easy to work with.

It will be sticky, capricious and unmanageable.


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But after the rest, it is delightful to work with it. Look at it above, it is fluffy and soft.

Divide the dough into 12 to 15 balls. You can keep them covered if you want as you work through them.


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One by one, with a floured surface and a floured rolling pin, roll the balls out into about 4" to 6" disks. It may seem as if when you are rolling them, the dough wants to get back together into a ball. Just gently and softly, roll out, flip and roll out again. Take your time and add more flour if needed.


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Then you give it a second go. Starting with the first disks you rolled out, flour the surface and try to make them as thin as possible. As thin as paper is the best.


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Here, below I am showing you how thin, can you see my face behind the thin buñuelo?

There are many methods to get them as thin as paper. I opt for rolling them in two rounds. Many cooks in Mexico used to stretch them out with clean cloths on their knees; hence the name buñuelos "de rodilla." But some cooks stretch them out in upside down bowls covered in cloth.


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Manuel and his sister Rosa, who have been part of my cooking team for almost 4 years now stretch them out by hand on the second round. For the last event at the Mexican Cultural Institute this year, I asked Manual to show us all. He is a master at it!


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We made 120 buñuelos the night before the class. Though the Director of the Institute thought we were nuts making them for so many people, we couldn't think of an event themed Holiday Foods without them. Just like there had to be a Piñata -the ones we found had dinosaurs on them!- there had to be buñuelos.


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After the buñuelos are stretched or rolled out as thin as they can be, they need to "air" and dry anywhere from a half hour to a couple of hours. You can't leave them over night or the will dry too much and crumble when you hold them. They are demanding, see?

Finally, they go quickly deep fried in a generous batch of festive hot oil.

The moment you lay each buñuelo in the oil, they float and bubble. If the oil is very hot, as it should, there will be happy active bubbles all over the place crisping the fritter without it absorbing the oil.


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And as charming as those buñuelos are, they need charming company too.

The tastiest syrup is made with piloncillo simmered with a bit of water and cinnamon until it is nice and thick.


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I think it is gorgeous looking.


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Here we go... pouring it on top.


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And it really calls for a lot more...


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So much for 5 minute meals and 3 ingredient recipes. Some foods are worth the hassle. Especially around the holidays, when we have that extra bit of time, and we want to spoil the people we love.

I think this is the most time consuming post I have written in my blog so far, just as time consuming as making the buñuelos. But, if you ask me, it was worth it!


BUÑUELOS
Makes about 12 to 15 buñuelos and about 1 1/2 cups syrup

INGREDIENTS
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon anise or orange liquor
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, vegetable shortening or lard, plus more for buttering the bowl

1 pound piloncillo, chopped or shredded (about 2 cups packed) or dark brown sugar
1 cup water
1 true or Ceylon cinnamon stick
Vegetable oil, for frying

TO PREPARE
To make the piloncillo syrup, in a medium sauce pan add the piloncillo, and pour the boiling water over along with the cinnamon. If the piloncillo is not chopped or shredded, let it come undone for a few minutes under the hot water.  Bring to a simmer and cook over medium heat until it achieves a syrupy consistency, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Remove the cinnamon, if it broke into pieces, strain the syrup into a container.

To make the buñuelos, in the bowl of a mixer set with the hook attachment, add the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make room in the middle and add the egg, anis liquor and orange juice. Begin beating, at low speed, for a1 minutes. Add the butter and continue beating for another 10 to 12 minutes. The dough should be very smooth and elastic.

Butter a large mixing bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Let the dough rest for anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. Divide the dough into 12 to 15 balls, of about 1½ inches, and place them in a baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel.

Sprinkle your countertop and a rolling pin with flour. One by one, roll each ball into rounds of about 4 to 6 inches wide. Place each circle on top of a table or countertop. Beginning with the ones you rolled out first, continue rolling them, making sure that before each one the countertop is dusted with flour as well as the rolling pin. Roll each one as thin as you can go, without them tearing. Traditionally, cooks stretch them out with their hands as if it were pizza dough, and sometimes using bowls covered with towels and gently stretching them out. I find it is easier to continue with the rolling pin!

Place each finished piece on the table or countertop and move on with the rest. Let all of the pieces "air" and dry for at least 30 minutes. They should be as thin as paper (or construction paper!), and feel dry to the touch.

In a deep and large 12- inch skillet heat enough oil to ½ inch over medium-high heat. Once the oil is very hot but not smoking, fry one buñuelo at a time. They will start bubbling up. Fry for about 20 seconds per side, until browned, then slip to the other side with a pair of tongs until it has browned and crisped on the other side. Transfer to a plate or baking sheet covered with paper towels.

When ready to serve, you may sprinkle them with sugar and ground cinnamon or powdered sugar, or drizzle with honey or the piloncillo syrup included in this recipe.

Comments

They look fantastic. I will try and coax a certain someone into making these. She's a kitchen wiz - hopefully she will accept the challenge.

Michael | December 21, 2011 4:17 PM

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this recipe in my in-box. My sister-in-law and I were just discussing how nice it would be to try and make bunuelos for Noche Buena. We almost decided to fry a flour tortilla instead of making the dough. Now that I have this recipe I can't wait to share it with her and try it out.

Extremely excited!

Adela Soberanes

Adela Soberanes | December 21, 2011 8:18 PM

Thank you for the step by step recipe. I've never heard of using piloncillo but I like them with sugar cinnamon.

Required Mariana Zavala | December 21, 2011 8:52 PM

Wow! This recipe looks absolutely mouth-watering!

Melanie | December 22, 2011 1:21 AM

Hola Pati!
Me encantan tus recetas por que son mexicanas mexicanas, no americanisadas como muchos chefs en la televisión. Deberías escribir un libro de recetas (en inglés o español) yo sería la primera en comprarlo y tambien se los recomendaría o regalaría a todas mis amigas. Me gusta mucho como describes la historia detrás del platillo (mi abuela también preparaba ricos buñuelos cuando viajamos a Guadalajara) y las instrucciones son claras. Felicidades por tu página, eres una excelente chef! Feliz Navidad!

Georgina Salazar | December 22, 2011 7:52 AM

So glad I could help Adela!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Adela Soberanes | December 22, 2011 10:01 AM

Hola Pati!!
Se ven deliciosos!! Me encantan tus recetas y las historias que las acompañan.
Gracias por compartir tus experiencias!!
Te queremos mucho...besos
Amyris

Amyris | December 22, 2011 9:07 PM

We like to pour the piloncillo syrup in a pan, heat it up, and then crumble a bunuelo in it. We make sure it's drenched and then stuff it into a bolillo. It's like a bunuelo torta! Accompanied with a tall glass of cold milk is the best!

Veronica | December 23, 2011 8:57 AM

Hola Pati!! Gracias por compartir otra rica receta!!
Una pregunta.... en el rancho de mi marido, despues de estirar el buñuelo en vez de poner lo a secar, los ponen en el comal como tortillas. Es solo por poco tiempo y despues los frien. Se puede hacer eso con esta receta? Gracias!

Maria | December 28, 2011 3:15 PM

Woo hoo!!! Glad to see a recipe for these. My mother used to make these every year for New Year's Day, I have to remind her
to start making them again. I will have to make these from scratch for the first time. Fun!!

Eli | December 30, 2011 2:04 AM

Hope you enjoy the recipe Eli!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Eli | January 2, 2012 4:05 PM

Hola Maria,
Si! Esa es tambien buena tecnica: el chiste es orear y secar un poco los buñuelos antes de freirlos, paraque queden bien doraditos y no brinque mucho el aceite. Buena idea¡

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Maria | January 5, 2012 10:46 PM

Hola Pati

Cuantos recuerdos lindos de mi mami se binieron a mi mente al leer como hacer
los buñelos. Yo le ayudaba a mi mami cada Año Nuevo. Era nuestra
tradicion. Hace un año y medio que se nos fue :-(
Y nunca apunte su receta. Pero al leer tu receta creo que era muy similar.
Aunque creo que ella hacia agua con las hojas de tomatillo.
Y tambien los hacia en su rodilla. Sabrias tu como hacer el
Agua con las hojas de tomatillo? Gracias Pati por esta receta.
No te imaginas comome siento al saber que puedo seguir con
Nuestra tradicion. Sinceramante, Stefanie

Stefanie | January 13, 2012 3:58 AM

Hola Pati:
Desde que vi tu programa en WETA de Washington DC, me gusto muchisimo por la simplicidad, el detalle y seguramente el sabor tan delicioso que tendran los platos que preparas.
Este episodio de los Bunuelos es muy similar al que hacemos en nuestro pais Ecuador y tambien es costumbre hacerlos en la epoca navidena, y tambien usamos la panela para hacer una miel que es tan sabrosa porque le anadimos, canela y unas gotas de limon.
La pregunta que tengo es, como tu residencia es en Washington DC, donde consigues los productos que son tan tipicos de Mejico y talvez pueda conseguir algunos que se apliquen a platos tipicos ecuatorianos. Por favor se me puedes dejar saber, te agradesco de antemano y espero seguir mirando todos los episodios de la Mesa Mejicana.
Hasta pronto y que tengas un prospero 2012.
Enrique Valverde de Columbia Maryland.

Enrique Valverde | January 19, 2012 1:26 PM

Hola Stefanie, Solo necesitas hervir hojas de tomate verde, enjuagadas, en agua! Al tanteo. Luego usas los tomates para otra cosa como Salsa Verde http://patismexicantable.com/2009/04/cooked-salsa-verde.html.

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Stefanie | January 27, 2012 10:28 AM

Muchas gracias por ver el show Enrique! Hay muchos lugares que venden comida latina, como Panam Grocery en 14th NW, Shoppers y también supermercados como Giant.

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Enrique Valverde | January 27, 2012 10:42 AM

Hola Pati,

I see in your description of the original method: the use of saltpeter water. Do you have a recipe that includes that method?

Muchas Gracias

Brandy

Brandy | January 29, 2012 9:27 PM

Hola Brandy! Just, instead of using the baking powder, dilute 1/2-1 teaspoon of tequesquite in 1/2 cup of water and follow the recipe as is.

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Brandy | January 30, 2012 12:29 PM

Hi Patti,

I watch your cooking show on KCET in Thousand Oaks, CA.
Your recipes are very easy to understand and follow. My mother use to make Bunuelos every New Year's eve, she would stretch them paper thin over her knee. She would dust them with cinnamon and sugar after frying them. They were delicious. I never got the recipe from her, so I was very happy to see that you included the Bunuelos recipe on your web site. I will make them for my children and grandchildren.
I have made several of your recipes with great success.
Thank you for the traditional Mexican recipes which I grew up enjoying, but never learned to make.
The best of 2012.
Anne Montemayor

Anne Montemayor | January 31, 2012 9:52 PM

Thank you so much Anne! I am so happy I could help you revive a family tradition!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Anne Montemayor | February 1, 2012 11:24 AM

Hola Pati,
I am so grateful you have these recipes! I recently lost my mother and my older sister- and have found myself without anyone to call for how to cook things. I never wrote recipes down and was feeling really lost. I saw your show by chance and can't believe you even have a capirotada recipe! You don't know what finding real recipes from Mexico-like I remember them- means to me. Muchisimas Gracias,
Mimi

Mimi | February 8, 2012 10:58 PM

I am so sorry about your mother and sister Mimi! If you need recipes for anything, please let me know! It is my pleasure to help any way I can!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Mimi | February 9, 2012 4:32 PM

Thank you. One of the dishes my Mom would always make me was Camarones con Nopales- the camarones were actually little patties of dried shrimp coated with egg batter and fried, Then put in a reddish soup with diced cactus. Do you have a recipe for ths?

Mimi | February 18, 2012 4:47 PM

I used to see these all the time where I used to live. Here in Omaha,Ne there is a large Hispanic population, especially by where I used to live. It was really awesome because you'd almost think you were in Mexico with all the traditional sorta stores. It was so cool, you would have guys walk around the neighborhoods selling snacks, one of which were these. Now I always bought the duros (soo yummy!) but I had wondered what the other treat they sold were. I think next time I go to the mexican supermarket (yes, I am blessed enough to have one here in Omaha) I'll buy some, their bakery makes them fresh everyday.

Oh how I miss my old neighborhood, cheap and good food! Although I don't miss the crime... which is why I moved across town LOL!

Pati - is there a season 2 or some dvds coming soon? My pbs station has quit showing your program (except today when they did a special about ladies) and I miss your happiness =D

FaylinaMeir | March 10, 2012 11:56 PM

Hola FaylinaMeir, Thank you so much for your comment and I hope you enjoy the Buñuelos once you try them! Yes, I am actually in the production of season 2 and hoping to have a DVD with both seasons after the second season airs. :)

Pati Jinich replied to comment from FaylinaMeir | March 14, 2012 4:06 PM

Hola Pati!
I have been promising my husband for years that I will make his dream come true and learn to make Bunuelos for him. His fondest memories are of his Grandma Lupita making them when he and all is sibling were young.
More than anything I hope someday you will make them on your show so I can tape it and watch you make them. I'm a 'Visual' person and learn so much better by watching someone create a great recipe.
If you and your show were on three times a day, I would set my recorder so I would not miss even one! I love to watch you Pati - you are the sweetest person. I love your stories that you tell as you prepare your meals.
Please, Please ask your producers to let you make Bunuelos on your show! I would be thee happiest 'Red Headed Irishican' lady in the world! (I am Irish - husband is Mexican!)They call us "Lucy and Ricky Ricardo!!!"
You are the Best Pati!!
Most Sincerly,
Maeve GArcia

Maeve Garcia | July 20, 2012 12:59 AM

Hola Maeve, Thank you so much for your lovely email! I will definitely look into making the bunuelos for the next season we shoot. I hope you and your husband enjoy the bunuelos!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Maeve Garcia | August 1, 2012 10:20 PM

Pati, Que ricos recuerdos, mi abuelita vendia bunelos en la calle en Apatzingan Michoacan,yo voy a tratar de hacerlos!

Elva | October 13, 2012 10:26 PM

Elva, Que suerte! Espero que te gusten.

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Elva | November 5, 2012 1:14 PM

Hola Pati:

En unos de tus programas que yo estaba viendo con mi hijo de 8 anos de edad, tu hicistes un cake llamado "juju's birthday cake" a mi hijo le encanto y quiere que lo hagamos juntos. El problema es que no pude anotar todos los ingredientes, ni se exactamente como se hace. He buscado la receta en la internet pero no aparece. Me la puedes mandar por favor. Te lo agradezco.

Muchas gracias por las deliciosas recetas que compartes con nosotras las latinas que estamos en este pais. Sigue adelante con el programa!!!!! Tiene un toque muy especial.

Karla | November 17, 2012 4:16 PM

Muchas gracias, Karla. Juju's Birthday Cake: http://patismexicantable.com/2012/09/jujus-birthday-cake.html

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Karla | November 29, 2012 1:40 PM

Que maravilla encontrarte en la red y ver que tus recetas son muy similares a los autenticos sabores de Mexico de antes, tengo muy presente estos bunuelos porque aun los venden en Queretaro y mas ahora que se celebra el dia de la Concepcion (Dic 8) y el tipico paseo que haciamos con mi Mami era ir a la iglesia y saliendo ya sabiamos que ibamos a comer "bunuelos con piloncillo"(te confieso que mis hermanos y yo ibamos mas por los buenuelos que por otra cosa y de la manera en que veia como los hacian era que estiraban la masa en unas ollas de barro por la parte redonda de abajo (espero me entiendas) y la miel de piloncillo la tienen siempre caliente y le agregan guayabas, cascara de naranja y a veces tejocotes, toman el bunuelo y lo sumerjen en la miel de piloncillo a remojarlo...deliciosos!! y de tomar atole de masa. Son recuerdos de mi ninez inolvidables :"). Gracias por recordarmelos! Bendiciones.

Adriana | December 1, 2012 4:01 AM

Pati...
Toda la razon del mundo... el sabado me anime a hacer tu receta de los buñuelos.... que delicia.. y que dificiles!!
Llevo 5 años viviendo fuera de mexico... cuando me mude por primera vez a USA sinceramente no podia ni herbir el agua... cuando me mude a europa fue peor... lo mas dificil era encontrar un restaurante mexicano... o ingredientes por q todo lo que se me antojaba era considerado "exotico".. como quiera me anime a hacer hasta pan de muerto, pasando por tortillas hechas a mano, chilaquiles, enchiladas suizas, enchiladas de mole poblano, pozole, tostadas(plato favorito de mis amigos europeos) enfrijoladas, panuchos, cochinita pibil, crepas con cuiltacoches.... flanes, pasteles de 3 leches.....
ahora creo q si ya llegue al extremo.. hacer buñuelos!!.. lo que uno hace para mantener sus tradiciones, compartirlas con las personas que ahora uno vive...

Gracias por la receta!!.. sin ella me hubiera solo quedado con el antojo!! :)

Renata | December 5, 2012 2:15 PM

Muchas gracias, Renata!!!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Renata | December 10, 2012 5:09 PM