The working title for my book is Evangelina’s Journey. It chronicles the life of Evangelina De León, a thirteen year old girl who lives a comfortable life rich with tradition and culture on a sprawling ranch in northern Mexico. The first half of the book establish her life before the Revolution threatens her and her family. She lives with seven of her eight siblings (the eldest is married and lives nearby), two loving parents and her grandfather (Abuelito).
There are numerous scenes in the book with food, and it’s no surprise why. In my own life I’ve been surrounded by exceptional cooks – my mother Belinda and both my grandmothers – Abuelita (first name Adelfa) and Grandma (first name Evangelina). My Grandma also had housekeepers who lived with her during the week in south Texas and went back to Mexico on the weekends. One of them, Lupita, made the most incredible plate-size tortillas de harina (flour tortillas) I’ve ever eaten. Every morning she’d bring them out hot and flaky and we’d slather them in butter and eat them in silence – too busy chewing and savoring to talk to each other.
In one chapter of Evangelina’s Journey, Evangelina and her sister Elsa smell buñuelos cooking inside and bound up the porch steps to eat them while they’re warm. Buñuelos are similar to tortillas only thicker, deep fried and covered in cinnamon sugar. They’re similar to the “elephant ears” you might find at the State Fair, only better.
Here is a recipe I’ve used a number of times with great success.
3 c flour
1 T baking powder
1 T sugar
1 T salt
3/4 c milk
1/2 c butter or margarine – melted (I’d go with butter)
oil for frying
In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl beat 1 T sugar, eggs and butter. Stir in milk. Add milk mixture to flour. If dough is too dry add a few more drops of milk (or do what I do and add a drop or two or three of Mexican vanilla). Knead dough until it is very smooth. Shape into balls a little bigger than a golf ball. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes. This step is important – do not skip it! If you don’t let it rest long enough each ball of dough will not roll out nicely into a large disk and instead, “spring back” until it’s small and rubbery.
Heat 1″ oil (canola or corn) in a large skillet. Make sure it’s nice and hot before putting any dough in there. You should be able to hold your open hand 4-5″ over the oil and feel the heat. (Don’t touch the pan!)
Roll out each ball on a lightly floured board into very thin 6″ circles. I also flour the rolling pin. Fry each disk until golden brown, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar while warm and EAT. These can be frozen. Cool and wrap with sheets of wax paper between each (or plastic wrap) and seal tightly in a Ziploc bag before freezing. Defrost, separate onto a baking sheet (minus the wax paper!) and place in a 350 F oven for a few minutes to crisp.