Dessert Sopapillas For Your Cinco de Mayo Celebration

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on May 5, 2012


If you visit a Mexican restaurant in North America, then more than likely you are going to find sopapillas (pronounced so-pa-pee-yas) on the dessert menu. Sopapilla means  bread soaked in oil, and although we are trying to avoid a greasy result, it is basically a fried, sweet dough that is then paired with a variety of dipping sauces or rolled in sugar. It is a treat that is enjoyed throughout parts of South America in places like Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Uruguay and was made popular in the US in both New Mexico and Texas. Depending on where you are, you may also notice that sopapilla is also spelled sopaipilla but pronounced in the same way. I had seen the sweet variety at many restaurants that I had visited over the years and it was always such a lovely treat…you just can’t go wrong with a warm fried dough that is either tossed in a cinnamon sugar (that is sometimes a little spicy) or topped with honey.

More recently I have seen them served with some lightly sweetened whipped cream, chocolate sauce or caramel sauce like dulce de leche on the side. Any way you serve these, they will always be a hit. Today, I served mine with a quick kahlua flavored syrup that I made since I was all out of honey and it was really delicious!

Some recipes use whole eggs and baking powder for the leavening of the dough, but I prefer to use yeast with a little baking powder. Ideally, when these hit the oil, they should puff up and create an air pocket in the middle, and using the yeast makes this fullproof. If you are going to be using this recipe for your place of business, then simply using the yeast keeps the cost of the dough less expensive, since you are not adding eggs but just a little milk and oil to add to the tenderness of the dough. The other trick which will help them puff more is not to roll the dough out too thin…keep it at about ¼” and then cut them into the traditional triangle shapes. Once you have cut them into shapes, cover them with plastic wrap and allow them to sit on your counter while you heat up the oil. They will continue to proof and this will also help them puff even more.

Dessert Sopapillas (makes about 18 pieces)

1 cake of fresh yeast (.6 oz) or 1 packet of rapid rise dry yeast

1 ¼ cups warm milk

3 cups flour, plus a few more tablespoons for the counter when you roll them out

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus a little more for bowl when proofing

Cinnamon sugar topping**optional

Honey topping**optional

Powdered sugar topping**optional

First make the kahlua syrup and set aside if you are going to be using that. Also have the other toppings ready to go so that the hot dough can be tossed into them when ready. Next, begin with adding the yeast to the bowl of your stand mixer and add the warm liquid. You can either add all milk, part milk and part water or all water. The more milk you add the more tender the dough will be. Using a whisk, dissolve the yeast completely then add the oil. Add the flour all at once and then add the sugar and salt. Using the paddle attachment, combine everything together and beat for about 5 minutes until dough pulls away from the sides. Place the dough on the counter and make sure that it is smooth and no longer sticky. The amount of flour required may be affected by the weather. If it is humid you may add less flour, if it is dry you may add a little more. Place this dough ball into a lightly greased bowl, cover and let proof in a warm place for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour. When you’re ready to roll out the dough, remove the dough from the bowl and place it on the counter.

Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a large rectangle about ¼” thick.

Trim the edges, cut into squares and then into triangle

Once they have been cut into the desired shapes, cover with plastic wrap. At this point, heat up your oil on moderate heat, and use a test piece to make sure that it has come up to temperature before you begin adding the triangles.

Add the triangles of dough and fry until golden brown. Once they are ready, drain them onto a paper lined plate and then toss them into your favorite toppings then enjoy!

Kahlua Syrup

1 cup sugar

¼ cup water

1/3 cup corn syrup

1 cinnamon stick

3 pinches of ground cinnamon

4 cardamom pods

½ cup kahlua (add last)  

Add all of the ingredients (except the kahlua) into a small stock pot and cook until the syrup begins to bubble slowly. This should take about 5 minutes on moderate to high temperature. The syrup will not take on any color, these slow bubbles indicate that you have reached the soft ball stage. At this point, remove the pot from the stove and add the kahlua, and use a wooden spoon to stir everything together to make sure it is all incorporated, and then set aside until donuts are ready.

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