Monday, May 12, 2008

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

This weekend's unrelenting April showers that have overstayed their welcome into May, take me back to some fond...and some not-so-fond memories of Patagonia, which—as my host Mom described it best—has such unpredictable weather that the "Meteorologists can go ahead and wipe their asses with their weather maps because they'll be more useful that way."

So I don't miss the guarantee of at least a few hours of precipitation per day, more days than not, out of a week, but I did always love the hollow sound of the rain hitting hard against the tin roof of the corrugated peach-colored home where I lived, as I listened from my dimly lit bedroom, planning lessons for the next day.

During those times, I could imagine the Antarctic, Pacific and Atlantic winds all clashing at the southern tip of the continent, fighting to bring the next erratic burst of weather tearing through Punta Arenas-- a downpour, snowstorm, howling winds or cool fresh air and sunshine with clouds moving quickly in the sky. During those times, I could, in a very real way, feel my physical location on the Earth—or at the "ends" of it, to be exact.

Yes, the rugged Patagonia climate has left its indelible imprint on me। It is true that when it rains, it pours—but in Patagonia, chances of seeing a rainbow afterwards, or a few rainbows at the same time, even, are common. And of course, the one that came to mind today, chances of Sopaipillas on a rainy day are just as high.

A traditional Chilean rainy day comfort food, I remember Sopaipillas as if they were a childhood memory: only I was a teacher, not a student, coming home from school to find a heaping bowl of warm, fried doughy delights sprinkled with powdered sugar, made from scratch by the weathered old hands of the family nanny.

Not that sugary fried dough was good for my diet- or lack thereof- as I accepted without question the pure red meat and white carb diet that my host family was kind to offer me. But now that I've been home, I've forged a solid, if ineffective, friendship with the gym.

So when it started raining in Baltimore, I faced a choice. Wishing away the rain as well as the pounds I'd set out to drop, the Sopaipillas won. And everyone loved them.

Here is a quick and easy recipe:

Sopaipillas with Honey and Cinnamon Sugar

2 cups flour
1 tsp. Baking powder
1 tsp. Salt
1tsp. Sugar
2 tbsp. Vegetable oil
2 tbsp. Heavy cream
1/2 cup warm water
Cinnamon and Sugar


In a large mixing bowl add flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Stir to blend. Add oil, cream and water. Knead to make a dough. Turn out dough mixture on a floured surface and knead. Let dough mixture sit for 30 mins.

Heat 3 in of oil in a saucepan or deep fryer at 375 degrees. Roll dough into an approx. 12x9 rectangle at 1/8 in thick. Cut into 3 in squares. Add squares to hot oil 2-3 at a time. Allow them to puff, then fry to a golden brown. Drain well and serve sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and drizzled with honey.

Makes about 2 dozen Sopaipillas.

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