FRIED FILLED SPELT PUFFS WITH HONEY & ANISE GLAZE
Simplicity is easy to cite and hard to define, yet it finds tangible form in Altamiras’s hands. For these filled puffs he made a dough from simple ingredients – flour, eggs, salt and water – for fried pastries breaking with courtly cookery in two ways. Firstly he used no soft lard to enrich his dough and secondly he did not fry his puffs in melted lard: one or the other detail was present in every one of Martinez Montiños’s various buñuelos. Instead he turned to “a large pan of hot olive oil”, which fitted with Lenten eating guidelines, but was also, perhaps, how his mother had fried puffs. For sure, however, he knew he was returning to foodways popular in al-Andalus and among the Moriscos who farmed olives near his hometown until their expulsion in 1610, and equally he knew that he was eschewing gestural Christian cookery. Once Altamiras had heated in the oil, each scoop of dough would have created four high-rise puffs, “like bonnets”, with plenty of space for filling. Today one has to improvise with spoonfuls, or dough from a piping bag, or from an olive-oil pourer. The results are excellent, especially when made with bread or spelt flour, both with high-gluten content, which allows puffs to keep their shape, to fill well and to resist sogginess. Yes, the frying adds additional calories, but the texture is far more luscious than baked puffs, just as it is for fried empanadillas. (If you cut a small hole in the centre for the last few minutes of frying time you can ensure the dough cooks through inside.) Altamiras suggested savoury “fish or diced meat” fillings, presumably since these were pastries for fiestas, easy to serve a crowd, but he also had sweet versions tossed in sugar or finished with a honey and anis glaze, an ideally still around in many hispanic food cultures. I like to fill sweet ones with an almond paste, as for Altamiras’s stuffed eggs, and a small chunk of poached or caramelised pear, a combination like those of earlier confectionery writer Miguel de Baeza, then add the honey and anise glaze – and serve with a short, intense coffee.