Rick Cooks Home Sopaipillas

This is Chilean energy food. Not for the sedentary, it packs fiber and carbohydrates in a sweet and satisfying winter teatime snack.

It's not to be confused with the Mexican sopaipillas we know in the Southwest and call "sopa'pillas." The Southwestern sopa'pillas are squares of white flour dough fried in vegetable shortening and served with honey or syrup and powdered sugar, and eaten as a dessert, similar to the New Orleans beignet. It's a flat version of the more popular round buñuelo.

The Chilean sopaipillas are made with flour, squash and lard, fried, and served with an unrefined cane sugar syrup flavored with citrus peel and cinnamon. It's served in late afternoon (during tea time) in the wintertime (when the squash is available), to carry the laborer or student through until the end of the day.

The Chilean recipe calls for cooked squash; canned pumpkin makes a perfect substitute. The syrup is made by dissolving a block of unrefined sugar in water; in Chile this is called chancaca and in Mexico it's piloncillo or panela. If you can't find any of these, use a mixture of molasses and water. The syrup recipe is based on one chacaca block and will make enough syrup for four dozen sopaipillas.

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*Makes 12-16 sopaipillas, or 4 servings*

2 c flour
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
8 oz canned pumpkin
½ c lard, melted

*For approx. 4 dozen sopaipillas, or 16 servings*

400g (14 oz or 1 block) chancaca
3 c water
1 c sugar
1 t vanilla
1 cinnamon stick
2 rinds lemon or orange peel

Make the syrup by heating the water in a saucepan until boiling. Add the chancaca and sugar and dissolve. Reduce heat and add the vanilla, cinnamon stick, and lemon peel. Simmer while making the sopaipillas.

Blend the flour, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center and add the pumpkin and half of the lard and form into a dough. Add more lard as needed to form a smooth dough.
Roll the dough to 1/8" thickness and cut out 3" rounds using a muffin ring. Fry in hot oil until golden. Drain on paper towels.

Serve the sopaipillas like dollar pancakes, covered with chancaca syrup.