Sopapillas are total decadence for me. You’d think after concluding a stomach-swelling multi-course meal of chips and salsa, queso, guacamole, tamales, rice, beans and enchiladas that it would be impossible to find room for just one more dish. But I can never refuse a warm, steamy basket of this sweet, fried bread, dusted with cinnamon sugar and drowning in honey.
When I was little, sopapillas meant special occasions. Because my mom always had amazing cakes and cookies at home, we seldom ordered dessert when dining in restaurants. But if it was my birthday, I would insist on having sopapillas. It was always a huge presentation, with the waiter wielding a sopapilla stuffed with a lit candle while the restaurant’s mariachis sang “Feliz Cumpleanos” at the top of their lungs. Never mind the chocolate cake waiting for me at home, this was the way to celebrate!
This last Thanksgiving, my whole, extended family left the farm and went into town to eat an excellent Tex-Mex meal at San Miguel’s in McKinney, TX. It had been a long time since I’d eaten sopapillas, especially as they aren’t on menus here in New York City. With a farmhouse filled with pies, however, I just sadly assumed sopapillas were not an option on this outing. But as a waiter is inclined to suggestively sell, it was little surprise when ours asked if we’d like to order this delectable treat.
After his query, the table was silent. As I’ve said, my family just doesn’t order desserts. It killed me to not shout out, “Yes, yes, I need a sopapilla!” but I kept my mouth shut as I didn’t want to appear disrespectful towards my grandmother’s baking bounty. Thankfully, my uncle was not so shy and he saved me from my delicious dilemma by saying, “Of course! We’d love some sopapillas!” So my family shared a small order, and after that first sticky bite into the soft, honey-drenched dough, we all agreed: sopapillas are sweet heaven indeed.
If you’ve never had one, sopapillas are a big puff of light, crispy and slightly chewy fried dough, perfect for catching pools of honey. I’d never tried making them before, but after I found a recipe, I realized it was within my range. You make a sweet, yeast dough, let it rise, and then roll it, cut it into triangles and fry them for a couple of minutes. When I threw the first one into the pot, it was like magic watching it puff up and quickly transform from flat dough into an airy, golden delight.
I don’t think I’ll be making these every day, but I’m thrilled I discovered how easy it is. The dough was very pliable and yielding. And I was hesitant about frying them in a big pot of sizzling oil, but they cooked fast with nary a hiss or a splatter. The recipe yields about 18, depending on how large you cut the triangles. And they are a real crowd pleaser, sure to impress anyone with your deep-frying prowess. If you don’t like sweets, you could serve them savory like they do in New Mexico, stuffed with beans and green chili. But I won’t have anything to do with that—I prefer my sopapillas topped with cinnamon, sugar and honey. For me, they’re total Tex-Mex dessert decadence. And I’m just pleased that I no longer have to go to Texas to taste this sticky, soft, sugary treat.
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Oil, for frying
- Sugar, for dusting
- Cinnamon, for dusting
- Honey, for serving
- Mix the yeast with the warm water and let it sit for 5 minutes.
- Combine the flour and salt. Add the butter and sugar to the yeast/water mixture and then slowly add to the flour and salt.
- Knead for 2 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic.
- Rise in a covered, greased bowl for 1 hour or until dough is doubled in size.
- After dough has risen, punch it down, and on a floured surface, roll it out into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle. Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut out 3 inch squares, and then cut squares on the diagonal into triangles.
- Heat up 3 inches of oil in a big pot to 375° F. Fry 2 triangles of dough at a time in the oil for one minute on each side. The dough should puff when it hits the oil.
- Remove the sopapillas from the oil with a slotted spatula and place on a paper-towel lined plate, sprinkle with with cinnamon and sugar, then serve hot with honey.