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Picarones: A Step-by-Step Guide to Peruvian Donuts

Introduction

Picarones, a traditional Peruvian dessert, are deep-fried donuts made from a combination of sweet potatoes and squash, and seasoned with anise and cinnamon. These delicious treats are typically served with a drizzle of chancaca syrup, a rich brown sugar sauce infused with orange peel and spices. Originating in the Spanish colonial era, picarones have become a beloved part of Peruvian cuisine, enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. In this article, we'll provide you with a step-by-step guide to making these mouthwatering Peruvian donuts at home.

Ingredients

For the Picarones:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed sweet potato
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed squash (such as butternut or kabocha)
  • 1 packet (7g) active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon anise seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil for frying

For the Chancaca Syrup:

  • 1 cup chancaca or dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 strip of orange peel
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon cold water

Instructions

  1. Prepare the Sweet Potato and Squash Puree: Peel and cube the sweet potatoes and squash. Boil them in a pot of water until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain the vegetables and let them cool before mashing them together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  2. Activate the Yeast: In a small bowl, dissolve 1 tablespoon of sugar in 1/2 cup of warm water (approximately 100°F or 38°C). Sprinkle the active dry yeast over the water and let it sit for about 10 minutes, or until it becomes frothy.
  3. Prepare the Dough: In a large bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, anise seeds, ground cinnamon, and salt. Add the mashed sweet potato and squash, mixing until incorporated. Pour in the activated yeast mixture and stir until a soft dough forms. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour until it becomes manageable.
  4. Let the Dough Rise: Cover the dough with a clean cloth and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
  5. Prepare the Chancaca Syrup: In a saucepan, combine the chancaca or dark brown sugar, 1 cup of water, cinnamon stick, cloves, and orange peel. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. In a separate small bowl, mix the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of cold water until smooth. Slowly add the cornstarch mixture to the syrup, stirring constantly until it thickens. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the syrup cool.
  6. Fry the Picarones: In a deep frying pan or pot, heat about 2 inches of vegetable oil to 350°F (180°C). While the oil heats, use your hands to shape the dough into rings, making a hole in the center with your fingers. Carefully lower the dough rings into the hot oil, frying them in batches to avoid overcrowding. Cook the picarones for about 2-3 minutes on each side, or until they are golden brown and crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the picarones from the oil and place them on a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil.
  1. Serve the Picarones: Arrange the picarones on a serving platter and drizzle them generously with the chancaca syrup. You can also serve the syrup in a separate bowl for dipping. Enjoy these scrumptious Peruvian donuts while they are still warm for the best flavor and texture.

Tips and Variations

  • For a smoother dough, you can use a food processor or blender to puree the sweet potato and squash mixture until it is completely smooth before incorporating it into the dough.
  • If you can't find chancaca, you can substitute it with an equal amount of dark brown sugar or even jaggery for a slightly different flavor.
  • To add a little extra flavor to your chancaca syrup, try including a few drops of pure vanilla extract or a splash of rum once it has finished simmering.
  • If you're short on time, you can prepare the dough and chancaca syrup in advance. Store the dough in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours, and store the syrup in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.
  • For a lighter version of picarones, you can try baking them in the oven instead of frying. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C), place the shaped dough rings on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Keep in mind that the texture will be slightly different than the traditional fried version.

Conclusion

With this step-by-step guide, you can now make delicious picarones at home and share a taste of Peruvian culture with your friends and family. The combination of sweet potato, squash, anise, and cinnamon creates a unique and irresistible flavor that sets picarones apart from other donut varieties. Paired with the rich chancaca syrup, these Peruvian donuts are a delightful treat that's sure to impress your guests and satisfy your sweet tooth.

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