Monday, November 1, 2010
SAINTS' BONES AND CRULLERS FOR DAY OF THE DEAD
Instead of Halloween, in Spain there are two holidays in a row—November 1 is Todos los Santos, All Saints—a real holiday when businesses and schools are closed. November 2 is Día de los Difuntos, Day of the Dead. Once village folk believed that spirits roamed on that night, so the faithful kept a night-long vigil in the cemetery. Now it’s an occasion for honoring the dear departeds with visits to cemeteries. Flower sales soar on these two days. And, while I don’t have any statistics, I bet more roasted chestnuts are sold on these chilly evenings than on any other night.
Also traditional for these autumnal holidays are batatas asadas, roasted sweet potatoes; buñuelos, fried crullers or doughnuts; rosquillas, anise-flavored buns; arrope, a sweet made of boiled grape must; panellets, pine-nut studded almond sweet, and huesos del santo, saints’ “bones”. The bones are confected of sweet almond marzipan, filled with a sweetened cream of egg yolk, sweet potatoes or chocolate, and coated with a white sugar glaze. Unlike some of Mexico’s Day of the Dead breads, these really look nothing like bones!
María Jesus and Remedios paired up to make the buñuelos. The batter was made with bread starter dough from a village bakery, flour and water. After fermenting for five hours, it was ready to go. They filled a deep cauldron with olive oil—best, said María Jesus, because it can be reused once or twice—and heated it with a lemon wedge. When the lemon is blackened, you know the oil is hot enough. María Jesus shaped the buñuelos, patting the stretchy dough into patties, putting a thumb through the center to make a hole and dropping them into the oil.
With a long-handled skimmer, Remedios turned the buñuelos in the bubbling oil and, once golden, skimmed them out to drain on a tray. She scooped them into cones of coarse paper to hand to waiting public.
Makes about 26 crullers.
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups water at 115º
1 tablespoon olive oil + additional to oil the bowl
1 teaspoon salt
4-5 cups all-purpose flour
olive oil or vegetable oil for frying
3/4 cup sugar
Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water in a mixing bowl. Stir. Let set until the yeast begins to bubble, 5 minutes.
Add the olive oil and salt. Begin stirring in the flour, adding 4 cups.
Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead the dough for at least 5 minutes, adding the additional flour as needed to make a soft dough which doesn’t stick to the board. Gather the dough into a ball.
Oil a bowl, put the ball of dough into it, then turn the dough so it is coated on all sides with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and put it in a warm, draft-free place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
Punch down the dough. With lightly oiled hands, divide the dough into balls about the size of a walnut and place them on an oiled sheet.
Heat the oil in a deep skillet to a depth of at least 1 1/2 inches. Heat olive oil to 355º; vegetable oil to 370º.
With lightly oiled hands, flatten a ball of dough into a patty, put a thumb through the center to make a hole and place it in the hot oil. Continue shaping and frying the doughnuts, frying three or four at a time. Turn the crullers in the oil.
Remove them when they are puffed and golden-brown on both sides. Drain briefly on paper towelling.
Have ready a shallow tray with the sugar. While crullers are still hot, dredge them in the sugar. They are best eaten when freshly made, as they do not keep well.