In today’s culinary world, there is no shortage of new and innovative options – but if we’re honest – at Christmas time we still look forward to those comforting classics that make us feel at home among friends and family. Here are four simple recipes for traditional Mexican desserts that will transport you home and wrap you in the spirit of the holiday season.
Buñuelos (Fried Dough Fritters)
A Mexican Christmas classic, these fried dough fritters have their origins in the Middle Ages and landed in Latin America with the arrival of the Spanish. There sweet and salty treats have become a favorite dessert not only here, but also in Colombia and much of South America. If you want to spoil your holiday guests with some homemade tradition, here is a recipe for buñuelos de viento deliciously dusted in cinnamon and sugar.
Makes 15 buñuelos
- 1 cup of milk
- 2 eggs
- 20g sugar
- 2 pinches of salt
- 250 g wheat flour
- Enough oil for frying
- Mix of sugar and ground cinnamon, to taste
- Beat the milk, eggs, sugar, and salt. Add the flour little by little until it is well integrated and knead into a smooth and elastic dough. Let it rest for 30 minutes and then transfer it to a flat surface, separate and roll out 15 pancake-sized portions.
- Heat a saucepan with a sufficient amount of oil. When it’s hot, but not smoking, dip a fritter edge into it, remove it and carefully touch it. If it’s hot, but not burning, the oil is ready for frying. Or, using a thermometer, heat the oil to 125°C/250°F.
- Dip the fritter into the oil without submerging it for about 60 seconds or until browned and then flip it using metal tongs. Once the fritter is lightly browned all over, remove it from the oil, drain any excess oil, and place onto a paper towel.
- Dip or dust the fritters in the cinnamon sugar and serve.
Hojarascas (Fallen Leaves)
In the north of Mexico, hojasrascas are known mainly around Coahuila for being served at weddings, but they are also a traditional dessert during the holidays. The preparation method depends on which part of Mexico you find yourself in. For example, according to the Larousse Culinary Encyclopedia, in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, the dough is prepared with flour, egg yolk, butter, lard, and piloncillo honey scented with cloves, cinnamon, and anise. In Nuevo León, the ingredients include sugar, cinnamon, vegetable shortening, vanilla, and milk. Once baked, these “fallen leaves” are tossed in sugar and ground cinnamon. This recipe, from Chef Nayeli Reyes’ YouTube channel Viva la Cocina, offers a blend of the two.
- 60ml water
- 260g flour
- 50g sugar
- 225g butter
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- 2 pieces of clove
- 1 ½ cups of sugar with a tablespoon of cinnamon powder to coat the cookies
- Begin by making an infusion of water, cinnamon stick, and cloves. Let it simmer over low heat for approximately 10 minutes until the cinnamon and cloves begin to release their aromas. Strain and set the infusion aside to cool.
- Beat the butter and sugar until creamy, making sure the texture is soft and fluffy. There should be no lumps.
- Add the flour and the infusion, alternating between them until the flour is gone. Mix well but be careful not to overbeat the mixture.
- Portion the cookies out using a cookie cutter, cookie gun, or your hands to form small balls.
- Place them on cookie sheets lined with waxed paper.
- Bake at 180°C/350°F for approximately 15 minutes or until they are golden on the bottom.
- Mix the sugar with the cinnamon powder and coat the still warm cookies in the mixture.
Jericalla (Jalisco custard)
This dessert comes from the city of Guadalajara and is commonly confused with flan, for it has the same ingredients of eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. There are many origin stories, but the best known is about a nun born in Jérica, Spain, who cooked for orphaned children at Hospicio Cabañas in Guadalajara. The nun mixed together the ingredients and put the dish in the oven, but since she was dealing with so many children, the cooking time went long, burning the top of the dessert. Thus was born jericalla with its sumptuous burnt milk flavor. Here we recommend a simple and tasty recipe for this tapatío delicacy.
Makes 6 servings
- 3 cups of milk (720 ml)
- 1 stick of cinnamon (5 g)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (15 ml)
- 6 egg yolks (120 g)
- ¾ cup sugar (150 g)
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 6 ½-cup baking molds
- Container larger than the molds (deep lasagna pan or tray) for the water bath
- Boil the milk with the cinnamon and add the vanilla extract.
- Lightly beat the egg yolks with the sugar, combine with the milk and cornstarch, and strain.
- Pour the strained mixture into the baking molds. Pour boiling water in the large pan so it reaches halfway up baking molds. Bake in the water bath at 160ºC/325ºF for 30 minutes or until the jericallas are cooked through.
- To brown the surface, place them under the broiler of the oven.
Tip: Larousse Cocina recommends adding a piece of orange peel and a piece of lemon peel to the milk and cinnamon mixture for a more fragrant custard.
Gelatina de Ponche de Frutas (Fruit Punch Jello)
As we get closer to the arrival of Christmas, we can almost taste that warm and comforting fruit punch. But why not take it a step further than the traditional posada beverage and turn it into an alcoholic jello? That’s right, the red wine gives it that necessary “piquete” (shot) and the form makes it ever so easy to share. No cups required!
- 1 l water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 chopped green apple
- 1 orange, sliced
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 cup dried apricots
- 1 bottle of red wine (750 ml)
- 1 cup of honey
- 5 tablespoons of grenetina (unflavored gelatin)
- Mix the grenetina into ½ cup of water and set aside.
- Heat the rest of the water and wine with the cinnamon, orange, sugar, and honey until it starts to boil.
- Add the fruits (apple, raisins, dried apricots) and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Strain the red wine punch.
- Add the grenetina mix and combine until completely dissolved.
- Pour into a jello mold and refrigerate for a couple of hours or until set.
- Slice it into cubes and share this delicious red wine punch jello with friends.