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Buñuelos de Rodilla: Mexican Christmas Fritters

For Yesenia Reyes, a Heifer communication officer in Oaxaca, Mexico, Christmastime means indulging in these traditional fritters seasoned with anise and guava. The fritters are soaked with a syrup made from piloncillo, a minimally processed form of sugar that’s made by allowing boiled cane juice to harden. You can find piloncillo, sold in cone shapes and sometimes called panela, in Latin American markets.

“This is the simplest way to make a treat that surely makes many Mexicans living outside of Mexico remember their grandmothers or moms preparing them during this time of the year,” Reyes said. “If you have never prepared them, I invite you to try it. The dough is very easy to prepare and very manageable, and you can make it a day before and put it in the refrigerator. I sometimes freeze the dough days in advance and then let it thaw at room temperature the day I’m going to fry the fritters.”

The Fritters

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon butter (melted and cooled to room temperature)
  • 3/4 cup warm water or anise tea*
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or orange extract
  • Approx. 2 cups vegetable oil to fry fritters
  • powdered sugar

* To make anise tea, place 1 1/2 cups of water in a small saucepan; Bring the water to boil, then add a few anise seeds. Remove from heat, let cool and strain.

In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Form a hole in the center and add the egg, melted butter and vanilla. Stir until the mixture gives the appearance of bits of oats. Add water little by little (one tablespoon at a time) and knead (usually less than 5 minutes) until smooth. Cover the dough with a cloth and let stand for 30 minutes. Divide the dough into 12 balls and cover with a kitchen napkin.

Flour a work surface and rolling pin. Place one of the dough balls on the floured work surface and spread with the roller. Flatten the dough balls into thin circles. It’s okay to shape the dough for all 12 fritters before frying. Just space them out on a clean tablecloth. Fry the fritters in very hot oil until golden and crisp. This step will only take a few seconds. Place the fritters on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with sugar or piloncillo syrup.

The Syrup

  • 3 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 large cone of piloncillo (about 12 ounces)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6 small Mexican guavas, quartered
  • 1/3 teaspoon anise seeds
  • Peel from a quarter of an orange

Place one cup of the water and the piloncillo in a medium pot over medium-high heat and stir constantly until the piloncillo dissolves. Add the rest of the water, cinnamon, guava, anise and orange peel and bring to a boil. Simmer until you achieve the desired consistency, then strain. The syrup will keep refrigerated for up to a week.

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