Cooking Like a Mexican

 Cooking Like a Mexican

Buñuelos

Strolling through the bustling streets of Mexico during the Christmas season is an immersive experience, engaging all the senses in a delightful holiday symphony. Among the vivid sights and sounds, the aroma of Buñuelos wafts through the air, casting a magical spell that instantly heralds the joyous festivities. These iconic Mexican delights have secured a special place in the hearts of the nation, transcending regional boundaries to become a cherished part of the country’s cultural identity. 

The tale of Buñuelos stretches back to the colonial era when the Spanish conquistadors introduced these delectable treats from the Old World to the shores of Mexico. While the precise origins of Buñuelos remain shrouded in mystery, their presence is not unique to Mexican culture alone. Similar renditions of fried dough immersed in syrup or dusted with sugar can be found across various countries and cultures, each offering its unique twist on this universally beloved delicacy. From the French beignets to the Greek loukomades, from the Italian coffee to the Polish rosettes and the Indian jalebi, the common thread of adoration for these delectable morsels runs through the global culinary tapestry, transcending geographical boundaries and cultural nuances.

The historical evolution of Buñuelos can be traced to early culinary practices during the medieval period, with traces of its existence dating back as far as the 12th century. The Arab influence from the time of the Crusades played a pivotal role in shaping the early iterations of Buñuelos, with reports of a fried dough concoction known as isfany immersed in boiling honey, a precursor to the modern-day rendition. Over the centuries, the recipe underwent a series of adaptations and modifications, eventually finding its way into the hearts and kitchens of Mexican convents during the colonial era.

Among the notable convents that contributed to the assimilation of Buñuelos into Mexican culinary culture, the San Jerónimo Convent stands as a beacon of historical significance. It was within the walls of this hallowed sanctuary that Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a towering figure of intellect and creativity, resided during the latter phase of her illustrious life. Sor Juana’s legacy transcends her monastic life, as she emerged as a distinguished poet, playwright, and scholar, etching her name in the annals of Latin American colonial literature. Despite the societal constraints imposed on women of her time, Sor Juana’s insatiable thirst for knowledge and her relentless pursuit of scholarly endeavors remain a source of inspiration and admiration for generations to come.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and the San Jerónimo Convent in Mexico City are intertwined in a captivating tale that resonates with the rich tapestry of Mexican history and literature. Born in the mid-17th century to a family of modest means, Sor Juana’s profound intellect and thirst for knowledge set her on an extraordinary path that would leave an indelible mark on the literary landscape of the Hispanic Baroque era.

Sor Juana’s early years were marked by an insatiable appetite for learning, leading her to write her first poem at the tender age of eight. Despite facing numerous societal constraints, including limited access to formal education, her brilliance shone through, captivating the attention of none other than the viceroy of New Spain, Antonio Sebastián de Toledo, marquis de Mancera. Invited to the viceroy’s court as a lady-in-waiting, Sor Juana’s intellectual prowess soon caught the eye of renowned scholars, further cementing her status as a luminary in the realm of arts and letters.

Amidst the vibrant cultural milieu of colonial Mexico, the San Jerónimo Convent emerged as a focal point of spiritual devotion and intellectual exchange. Sor Juana’s decision to take her vows and enter the convent marked a significant turning point in her life, providing her with the much-needed freedom to delve deeper into her scholarly pursuits. Within the walls of the convent, she found solace and a space for contemplation, dedicating herself to an array of academic and creative endeavors that would later shape her profound literary legacy.

The San Jerónimo Convent, where Sor Juana resided during the later years of her life, served as a sanctuary for both spiritual introspection and intellectual exploration. Sor Juana’s multifaceted talents, coupled with her profound impact on colonial Mexican culture, continue to reverberate through the annals of history, immortalizing her as an emblematic figure of Mexican literature and feminist thought. Her enduring influence has solidified her status as a national icon, revered for her literary contributions and her steadfast commitment to advocating for the role of women in the pursuit of knowledge and scholarship.

Ingredients:

  • For the Dough:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • For the Syrup:
  • 1 cup piloncillo (Mexican unrefined cane sugar), grated, or dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions:

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Make a well in the center.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, milk, water, and melted butter together. Pour the wet ingredients into the well of the dry ingredients. Mix until a smooth dough forms. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes until it becomes elastic. Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  • While the dough is resting, prepare the syrup. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the piloncillo or dark brown sugar, water, cinnamon stick, orange zest, and ground cinnamon. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the syrup thickens. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Divide the dough into small balls. On a floured surface, roll out each ball into a thin, round disc, about 6-7 inches in diameter. The secret here is to make them as thin as possible.
  • In a large frying pan or skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Fry the dough rounds one at a time until they puff up and turn golden brown, about 1-2 minutes per side. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the buñuelos to a plate lined with paper towels to drain any excess oil.
  • While still warm, generously drizzle the syrup over the buñuelos. Serve immediately and enjoy the crispy, sweet indulgence of this beloved Mexican delicacy.

Read you at ale.borbolla@dev.gringogazette.com, enjoy!