Fried dough. In America, they make doughnuts. In Mexico (and many other countries), they make buñuelos. In Italy, they make crostoli. Fried dough plays a part in many cultures’ culinary traditions, and the recipes for this treat are as varied as the people who make them. They range from savory to sweet, and come in all shapes and sizes.
When I was filming for Lidia Celebrates America, I had the pleasure of celebrating Christmas Eve Mexican American-style. Buñuelos are traditionally made for Christmas and New Year celebrations. They’re made of deep-fried dough with a hint of anise, and topped with any number of sugary toppings, powdered sugar and honey being some of the most common. In Mexico, buñuelos are shaped as pancakes, balls, and twisted strips.
One of my favorite Christmas sweets is the Italian incarnation of the buñuelo: Crostoli. Try making these with your family this holiday season.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
¼ cup milk
½ teaspoon salt
2¼ cups flour
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons dark rum
Zest of 1 lemon, grated
Juice of 1/2 lemon
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
In the top of a double boiler, melt the butter, then add the sugar, milk and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, butter-milk-sugar mixture, whole egg and egg yolk, rum, lemon zest and juice. Mix until the dough is soft but not sticky, 10 to 15 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, cut the dough in half and roll out each piece to form a rectangle 1/8-inch thick. With a fluted cutter, cut the dough into 1 x 6 strips and form each one into a very loosely knotted bow.
In a deep fryer or deep, wide skillet, heat the vegetable oil just short of the smoking point and fry the bows in batches, turning them once, until golden brown. Transfer to paper towels to drain, allow them to cool and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.