If an American donut had a baby with a French beignet, it would be the Chilean sopaipillas!
Sopaipillas are usually served as dessert. However, you can also serve them as savory appetizers before a bigger meal.
The Chileans like to make them mainly during winter, and especially on rainy days.
I’ve had the chance to sit back and eat them with a cup of tea while the rain was pelting my window — trust me, nothing feels more satisfying!
In this article, I’ll discuss everything you need to know about sopaipillas: origin, recipe, toppings, etc. Let’s see!
Origin and Overview
Sopaipilla doesn’t have a definite meaning in Spanish. Historians believed that the word was derived from “sopaipa”, which is Arabic for “bread dipped in oil”.
The Spanish colonizers introduced the word and the recipe when they arrived in Chile in the 1500s.
In essence, sopaipillas are nothing but fried dough. They often have a crusty exterior enveloping a tender, hollow interior, which can be filled with different stuffings.
Much to my delight, sopaipillas are pretty common in various countries in the Americas. You can even find them sold in the streets of New Mexico.
However, the version that comes from Chile is unique for having chancaca syrup (unrefined sugar and molasses), orange, lemon, and cinnamon.
Some Chilean families like to add cooked squash or pumpkin to the dough, which adds a distinctive orange color and special sweet taste.
But you can skip this part if you want your sopaipillas to be more neutral.
Here’s a list of the ingredients you’ll need to gather.
- 1 small sugar pumpkin
- 4 cups of flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons of butter
- 1 bottle of vegetable oil for frying
How to Make the Chilean Sopaipillas
To keep the recipe looking nice and tidy, I’ll divide it into three sections: cooking the pumpkin, making the sopaipillas, and preparing the topping.
1. Cooking the Pumpkin (Optional)
Like I said earlier, adding cooked pumpkin isn’t mandatory; you can prepare a plain dough if you want to have bigger freedom with the toppings later on.
Step 1: Cut the Pumpkin
Get a sugar-pumpkin (or squash) and cut it into quarters. Make sure to remove the hard stem and base to leave the soft, sugary parts.
Afterward, scoop all seeds and strings with a spoon. I like to keep these seeds to roast them later — they’re my favorite snack for Netflixing and chilling!
Step 2: Bake the Pumpkin
Grab a wide, deep casserole and grease it well with vegetable oil. Then, place your pumpkin quarters inside with the cut-side facing upwards.
Brush some olive oil over the flesh to prevent it from burning. You can also pour an inch of water into the saucepan to ensure a steady temperature increase.
Set your oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the pumpkin for 45 minutes. The goal is to make it soft enough to be pierced with a fork.
Step 3: Scoop the Flesh
Let the pumpkins sit for a while to cool down. Then, scrape the flesh with a spoon.
If you have a potato ricer, use it to mash the flesh and soften it to easily blend with the dough later on.
2. Making the Sopaipillas
In this section, we’re going to make and fry the dough.
Step 1: Add the Ingredients
In a large bowl, stir 4 cups of flour with 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt.
If you prepared a cooked pumpkin, add the mashed flesh to the mix.
If not, you can substitute with 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar. Then, add 1 tablespoon of butter or vegetable oil.
Afterward, start adding water gradually while stirring with the other hand.
You don’t want to flood the ingredients since this will mess up the final texture. Keep doing that until the dough forms a solid, sticky ball.
Step 2: Knead the Dough
Take the dough out of the bowl and place it over a floured pastry board. Keep kneading the dough until it doesn’t stick to your hands anymore.
You may need to sprinkle new flour once the dough picks up the old amount.
If you haven’t kneaded dough before, don’t worry; it’s super simple. All you have to do is push the dough over the flour, rotate it a quarter turn, fold it widthwise, and push again.
Step 3: Let It Rest
Once the dough becomes smooth enough, put it back into the bowl and cover it with a damp paper towel. Give it about 20 minutes before picking it up again.
In case you’re wondering, resting the dough allows the gluten to reform, which is crucial for the final flavor and texture.
In the meantime, pour about 2 inches of vegetable oil inside a deep saucepan and preheat it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
I suggest getting a thermometer to perfectly gauge the temperature since sopaipillas can burn pretty quickly.
Step 4: Roll and Cut
Get your dough back on the kneading board after sprinkling new flour. Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough until it’s about a quarter-inch thick.
Afterward, use 4-inch cookie cutters to cut your dough into small pieces. Round cuts aren’t mandatory, though; feel free to cut them however you want.
Step 5: Fry
Start laying the cut dough into the hot oil. The dough will typically sink to the bottom before coming back up.
With a skimmer, drizzle some oil over the top surface to get it nice and puffy. After about two minutes, flip the dough to fry the other side.
Each sopaipilla should have a uniform golden-brown tone.
Once that happens, grab the sopaipilla with a skimmer and place it over a plate that’s lined with paper towels to collect excess oil to drip.
3. Preparing the Topping
The topping choice is where you’ll get to showcase your true culinary skill; there’s no right and wrong here.
The most basic option is powdered sugar. Put 2 tablespoons in a small strainer and tap it over your sopaipillas. I like to do that when they’re still hot since the temperature melts the sugar into the crusty surface.
If you want to take it up a notch, you can fill the hollow interior with honey.
To do that, tear the corner of each sopaipilla and drip the honey with a spoon. Be careful while ripping the corner, though.
You don’t want to apply too much pressure, or else you’ll completely crush the whole sopaipilla.
How to Make the Chilean Chancaca Syrup
Like I said earlier, some Chilean families like to drip their sopaipillas in the chancaca syrup to add a special touch.
If you want to try it, cook jaggery powder and water in a saucepan and set the temperature on high.
After the mix thickens, add orange peel, 2 garlic cloves, and 1 cinnamon stick. Let that mixture simmer on medium-low until you get a shiny, thick syrup.
After it cools down, strain your syrup to remove the hard ingredients. You can store it in the fridge or use it right away.
The best thing about sopaipillas is their impeccable versatility.
I discussed the sweet recipe since it’s the most famous one, but you can unleash your culinary skills by trying different savory toppings.
Remember, your dough needs to rest before rolling and cutting. If you skip this, your sopaipillas will lack a crucial part of their texture and taste.
To learn more about Chilean food, read 17 of the Tastiest Traditional Chilean Dishes.
And as always shop or online store for imported Chilean foods and drinks!
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