November 1st is All Saints’ Day. It’s a national holiday here in Spain and since it falls on a Sunday this year, Monday is also a holiday. This means the grocery stores will be closed for two days, (luckily this time we’re prepared…we have enough toilet paper to last until next week). Most people will head out of the city to their pueblos. Before leaving town, they’ll stop to pick up flowers to place in the cemetery and they’ll also buy a tray of the traditional pastries, buñuelos de viento; puffs of fried dough filled with various sweet fillings. (Read more about All Saints’ Day in Spain here)
Buñuelos de viento are more like French beignets than Mexican style buñuelos. It all starts with the same dough used to make cream puffs, eclairs and Spanish style churros, which, thankfully, most people refer to as pâte à choux no matter where you are. Making pâte à choux is really simple and it’s the foundation of many sweet and savory pastries. Baker Bettie has an excellent series of posts on her website. I used her basic dough recipe and filled my buñuelos de viento with a simple microwave pastry cream found on Chocolatisimo, a Spanish website with a nice video which demonstrates how to make the buñuelos and the pastry cream. You don’t have to understand Spanish to understand what’s going on in the video, especially if you refer to the instructions I give you and the photo tutorial from Baker Bettie.
There’s nothing particularly difficult about making the fritters or the pastry cream, although it can be intimidating if you haven’t done it before. Pick a time when you can work undisturbed, assemble and prep all the ingredients before starting and take your time. The first time I made cream puffs for Christmas, I had a few moments of “I’ve made a huge mistake” but the results were great!
You’re going to need a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan or dutch oven to make the dough. You can use a mixer to beat in the eggs, but a wooden spoon and elbow grease works fine. You’ll also want a medium saucepan or skillet deep enough to hold a couple inches of oil for frying, plus a plate lined with paper towels to drain the fritters as they come out of the oil. To make the pastry cream you’ll need a heat proof bowl and towel or hot pad for removing it from the microwave. A pastry bag and tip will be helpful for filling the buñuelos, but a plastic baggie with a corner cut off will also work.
- 1 cup whole milk
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- large piece of lemon peel (not the white part)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon (or one stick)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla (or the seeds from half a pod)
- 1 cup water
- 1 stick of butter, cut into small pieces
- generous pinch of salt
- 1 cup flour (I used regular flour)
- 4 large eggs
- oil for frying (I used sunflower oil)
- ½ cup sugar mixed with 2 - 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon for dusting the buñuelos
- Combine all the ingredients for the cream in a microwave safe bowl. Whisk well, making sure to incorporate the sugar.
- Microwave on high for two minutes. Carefully remove from the oven. Whisk well.
- Microwave on high for two more minutes. You may notice clumping, but the whisk should take care of them.
- Microwave for one more minute. You may notice the cream beginning to boil. Be mindful of the steam. Remove the lemon peel and cinnamon stick if used. Whisk well until smooth and creamy.
- Allow to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and press into the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Store in the fridge for up to a week. You'll want to whisk it before using.
- Heat the water, butter and salt together in a large heavy saucepan or dutch oven.
- When the butter is melted and the water begins to boil, reduce the heat, then add the flour all at once. Stir until a ball forms. Remove from the heat.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each egg is completely incorporated into the dough before adding the next. (You'll be able to tell. With each egg the dough becomes shinier and starts to look like a really thick batter.)
- Set the batter aside while you heat oil in a medium saucepan. You'll want the oil to be about 2 inches deep. [The oil is ready when it shimmers and a small amount of dough sinks and then immediately rises back to the top. The temperature is important because the steam that forms inside the buñuelo helps to cook it from the inside. If too hot, it will brown too quickly and the interior will be raw. Too cool, and they'll be greasy.]
- Use a couple of spoons to portion the dough and fry in batches, turning once or twice. The dough will puff up as it cooks. The time it takes to cook depends on the size of the fritters and the temperature of the oil. Mine took 3 - 4 minutes.
- Drain the cooked buñuelos and toss or sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
- Serve right away or use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut a small hole and fill with the pastry cream.
- These are best eaten right away or at most the day after. They'll get soggy, but will still taste good.
My buñuelos are irregular in shape, which is how I think fritters should be. If you’d rather yours be round, like the professional version shown below, make them smaller and use the spoons to form the shape before dropping them into the oil [hint: dip the spoons into the hot oil to help prevent the dough from sticking].
If, after reading the directions you’re thinking, “Ain’t nobody got time for that” check out Tangier Island Fried Biscuits for something similar, but easier to make.