Throughout my young age, I have been convinced that the beignet au fer my Grand-Ma was making were one of the deepest gastronomic heritage our region of Switzerland ever had and of course… I was wrong.
What triggered my brain cells to awake at this busy time of the year is Chef Jorge Gonzalez from our sister hotel in Mexico City who made it happen. When he sent us his menu and recipes, there was Bunuelos. Another name I couldn’t pronounce otherwise than with a thick French accent into an approximate proper word. I asked our Chef, who is highly experienced in Mexican food, what it was; and I was told it was flat pieces of dough, deep fried and dusted with sugar. He was right.
Yet, when we mixed the dough, it was liquid, pretty much to the level of a pancake dough. My colleagues showed me the dough, asking me how do we roll this into discs! A quick look on Google gave us the answer, Bunuelos are also made fried on iron. And there I was with our Assistant Pastry Chef telling me this was Chinese with the Sugar Rings (糖環), me claiming it was Swiss with our Beignet au Fer and Chef Gonzalez telling us it was Mexican! I loved it and needed to find the truth behind it. Everything has a story and so these fried dough must have had one.
After plenty of researches, it was clear: It was neither Swiss nor Mexican, but it was indeed from China… some 10,000 years ago!
Of course, it wasn’t in the form we know it today, i.e.: fried on a hot metal. But it was fried dough in different forms. It’s during the Neolithic era at approximately 12,000 BC that pottery saw its birth and from these heat proof containers, cooking of food became possible such as boiling or deep-frying; I know: this is A LOT of history packed in a few lines, but so we are in the context now.
It’s during the 7th century that the art of deep frying dough moved from China to Japan and got developed into a very fashionable way to eat, notably with tempura. In the 14th century, traces of deep fried dough were to be seen in Portugal and it’s only during the 16th century that this way of cooking became widespread in European cuisine. And so it was the birth of frying as we know it today explained in 154 words!
The iron for deep frying are available in local market and it’s an easy snack to make.
Chef Jorge Bunuelos
- 100 gm Melted Butter
- 350 gm Cake Flour
- 60 gm White Sugar
- 10 gm Baking Powder
- 1 pc Mexican Vanilla Bean (or any other, but it sounds more authentic like that! :) )
- 3 pcs Whole Eggs
- 600 ml Fresh Milk
- Mix all the ingredients together as a smooth dough and let it rest for half hour.
- Heat the oil at around 185 Celsius and prepare your iron.
- Mix the dough a little before using.
- Deep the iron in hot oil for about 10 seconds and then in the dough, just enough not to cover the top of the iron.
- Then, deep fry the dough in the hot oil and after a few seconds, shake the iron a little to have the fried dough fall off the iron.
- Fry the dough until golden brown and flip it half way trough to have an even color.
- Take it out and place it on a kitchen paper to absorb the extra oil.
- Once cold, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and enjoy!
I believe my Grand-Ma would be very proud seeing me doing these today, even if it’s 糖環! :)