Homemade Sopapillas

This past summer, I went to New Mexico for the first time. My friends Jeremy and Erin were getting married in his hometown of Albuquerque, and our group of college friends (and respective significant others) decided to follow up the wedding weekend with a few days in nearby Santa Fe.

This was my first time in the southwest, and I was instantly smitten with the colors, the spicy food, and the delicious dry heat that wrapped around my shoulders and kept my hair looking its absolute best.

I talked about that dry heat A LOT during that trip. So much so that my friends would just cut me off and say things like,

"Yeah. The dry heat. We KNOW, Alejandra."


During this trip, we explored the town, did a bit of shopping (my favorite souvenirs included a cowboy hat and a book of TOTALLY TRUE-no-matter-what-Eugene-says ghost stories), and even spent one luscious night dining inside of a candlelit teepee on the grounds of our Native American-owned hotel.

This is us, pretending we were filming the opening credits to our own sitcom:

I also used the opportunity of being in the Southwest to dress like this as much as possible:
That's my friend Matt, who used the opportunity of being in the Southwest to burn tan his forehead as much as possible.
We paid several visits to the local 5 and Dime, where they sold everything from books and greeting cards to dried chiles and culturally authentic gear like this:

I spent most of the trip walking around the town center with a massive bag of kettle corn that I shoved into my mouth by the handful.

I can also guarantee that about a cup of that popcorn ended up going down the front of my dress.

(That's how I bring the boys to the yard)

But the most significant event at all for me during this trip was the discovery of the deliciousness that is the sopapilla.
Now I'd actually had sopapillas--or at least their East Coast version--in the past. What I knew as sopapillas never really excited me--bits of crunchy fried dough drenched in cinnamon sugar, served on top of a puddle of melting ice cream, topped with too-sweet berry syrup or chalky chocolate sauce.  They were often served as dessert at Mexican restaurants--the kind of thing that nobody ever ordered, but which somehow ended up on our table as a gift from the house.

A gift that nobody wanted.

But on our first dinner out in Santa Fe, a basket of large puffy triangles appeared on our table along with a little pot of honey.

"What's this?!" I asked excitedly as I grabbed at the basket. "Is this a dessert? A side? Am I allowed to eat it now?"

The friends with more Southwestern experience explained that the puffy sopapillas are meant to cut the heat of the spicy food and can be eaten either way. Soft, puffy, and still hot out of the fryer, they were amazing. We tore into them and poured in the honey. I promptly pushed aside whatever green chile-topped dish I'd ordered and spent the rest of the evening concentrating on the sopapilla basket.

The day after Thanksgiving, I woke up craving sopapillas for no real reason in particular. There hadn't been very many desserts at dinner and so I think I woke up feeling carb-deprived, but still too lazy to have a go at making them.

Amazingly enough, Eugene volunteered.

"Just give me a recipe," he said. "I'll do it."

I gave him a recipe from Homesick Texan that I had bookmarked ages ago, and he got to work. We had to tweak it a bit as the dough came out a bit dry and crumbly, so we upped the butter and water, but the results were fantastic!

Puffy, golden, soft--just as lovely as I remembered.

We made about half a batch (freezing the rest since it was too much for even this indiscriminate carb-luster to indulge in at once), and spent the day on the couch dipping them in honey while watching things on Netflix.

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Homemade Sopapillas Recipe
Adapted from a recipe by Lisa Fain, Homesick Texan

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)
1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
3 tablespoon of butter, melted
1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring your surface
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Vegetable, canola, or coconut oil for frying
Honey for serving

Whisk together the yeast and warm water and let sit five minutes until frothy. Whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the melted butter into the yeast mixture, and pour into the flour. Knead with your mixer or by hand for about five minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic. Add a bit more water or flour as necessary.

Form the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl, lightly covered with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm spot until doubled in size.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and roll it out into a 1/4 thick rectangle. Use a pizza cutter or knife to cut into triangles.

Pour 3 inches of oil into a heavy bottomed pot (such as a dutch oven) and heat to 375 degrees. Fry dough triangles in batches about 1 minute on each side or until puffed and golden, adjusting the flame as you go to keep the oil temperature above 350 degrees. Drain on a paper towel-lined surface and serve hot with your favorite honey.

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