I've watched my grandmother make buñuelos for too many years for me not to be able to make them from scratch. For years, I've made buñuelos with store bought raw tortilla dough. As I've mentioned in my No-Recipe Buñuelos, they're one of my childhood (and adulthood) holiday favorites. It just wouldn't be New Year's Eve without frying up batch after batch for our family and friends to enjoy with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate. When I was a child I would search through the mass amounts of buñuelos for the perfect one, and that perfect one always included large bumps created by air pockets that develop and puff up when frying. Only recently has it occurred to me why my grandmother prepared buñuelos in the manner that she did. She made her dough early in the evening, which allowed her to have extra time to visit with her guests, but this elapsed time allowed her dough to rest and become incredibly pliable, creating huge air pockets when fried. She would roll out her dough into tortilla-like rounds and then stretch them by hand before placing them in the hot grease. These are sometimes referred to as 'buñuelos de rodilla' because the dough can be stretched over your knee, 'rodilla'. Stretching the dough until it is almost transparent will create an incredibly crispy buñuelo that will puff up beautifully. The final tip that I've learned from my grandmother is to grind my own cinnamon for my cinnamon sugar. You can find the flaky, paper thin cinnamon sticks in the Latin aisle of your super market. The cinnamon sticks should break apart easily into paper-thin strips. Don't use the hard cinnamon sticks often used for crafts. Separate the cinnamon sticks into thin flaky layers, and pulse in a blender. Stop pulsing when there are still some sliver-like pieces of cinnamon mixed in with the finely ground cinnamon. Mix this cinnamon with sugar for your buñuelos, but use this freshly ground cinnamon in any of your recipes that call for cinnamon. Start heating your skillet, grab your apron and make buñuelos to celebrate the holiday season!
Servings: 2 dozen buñuelos
Buñuelos are a great party food because traditionally, you break off a piece, and leave the rest for someone else to finish. These make great gifts, too. Fry a batch, break them into large pieces, and fill cellophane bags or gift tins. Your friends will thank you.
4 cups all purpose flour, extra for dusting rolling surface
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening
1 ¼ cup boiling water
vegetable oil for deep frying
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoon fresh ground cinnamon stick (ground in blender)
Special equipment: electric skillet (optional)
1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Add shortening, and using your fingers, rub shortening into flour until well blended. Make a well in the center of flour mixture.
2. Pour 1 cup boiling water into the well, and stir flour into the water. Not all flour will be incorporated. Add the remaining ¼ cup of boiling water, and mix until dough forms. If dough needs a little more water, add a tablespoon at a time.
3. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough until elastic and smooth, 3-5 minutes.
4. Pinch off a ping pong size piece of dough, and using your hands, shape into a ball. Repeat with remaining dough, and transfer dough balls in bowl, loosely covered with a dishtowel. Let sit for 30 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, in a heavy bottom pot or electric skillet, pour oil to a depth of 1-inch. Heat on medium-high heat or until oil reaches 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with paper towels. Have a pair of tongs nearby. In a small bowl stir sugar and cinnamon together, and set nearby as you will work quickly after each buñuelo is fried.
6. On a floured surface, using a rolling pin, roll a dough ball into an almost transparent circle, about 7-8-inches in diameter. Lift from surface and gently stretch dough circle an additional inch. If it tears, just pinch back together, do not reroll.
7. Heated oil is ready when a small piece of rolled out dough sizzles when it touches oil. Working with one buñuelo at a time, place rolled and stretched circle of dough into oil. Buñuelo will sizzle and puff up. Use tongs to gently press the center, allowing to puff up but pressing dough into oil to evenly brown on the bottom side, 30-60 seconds. Flip buñuelo and brown the other side, 30-60 seconds.
8. Lift from oil, drain well allowing oil to drain back into skillet. Transfer to paper towel liked baking sheets. Immediately sprinkle each side generously with cinnamon sugar. Let cool, and repeat with remaining dough balls.
Do Ahead: The dough can be made one day ahead, shaped into balls and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before rolling out.
Completely cooled buñuelos can be stored in an airtight container, or stacked in a cake dome at room temperature for up to 1 week.