Christmas is coming up and you know what that means….
PRESENTS!!!—say my kids.
In all seriousness, my children have no idea why we celebrate Christmas. Not that I’m all religious and stuff (clearly I’m not, otherwise my kids might have a clue about the Christ part) but how did I raise such jackanapes whose only concerns are the bazillion presents they asked Santa for (including an IPAD, an IPOD, and a horse—sorry Suri Cruise, not gonna happen).
I found a lovely Christmas book by Margaret Wise Brown at the library last week and brought it home for the children. Margaret Wise Brown, of Goodnight Moon fame, knows a thing or two about retelling a tale in a way kids can understand so I thought it would be a good introduction to the nativity story. After reading the book we talked about how Christmas is like a birthday party for Jesus and we give each other presents to celebrate his birthday and to honor him. And then I patted myself on the back for a job well done and checked “teach kids about the real meaning of Christmas” off my to-do list.
The next day the topic came up again as the four of us were eating lunch when the Professor mentioned something about church, or God, or I don’t know something religious (I wasn’t really listening) and Louisa said in a shocked manner, “Is that why you picked out that book? Cause it’s about Jesus?” “Christmas isn’t about Jesus, it’s about Santa Claus!”
I don’t know where I went wrong but it has taken a very dramatic turn for the worse because I’ve actually heard myself saying things like, “If you guys don’t start behaving, Santa’s not going to bring you any presents! I mean none!!” Which is a total freakin’ lie because everyone knows the only folks Santa doesn’t bring presents to are lonely adults and poor people. Santa’s nothing like Jesus, I’ll tell you that much.
This would be much easier if Christmas could be a little more like Thanksgiving and center itself around food. Now that I can talk about. Take these crispy little buñuelos for example. In Mexico these are a Christmas staple. You’ll see stacks of these puffy fried pastries on food carts and in vendor’s stalls ready for shoppers to scoop up for their Christmas parties or simply to snack on as they stroll.
Most of the time they are served drenched in a sweet piloncillo syrup but these I’ve loaded with crunchy sugar and toasted anise seed. They are a crumbly, delicious mess and you must make them this holiday season. They may take a bit of a commitment but they are, without question, much easier than explaining Christmas to your children.
- 2 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup orange juice
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup lard, cut into small pieces
- 1 tablespoon toasted anise seeds
- 2 cups vegetable oil, for frying
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine flour, the 1 tablespoon of sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the middle and add the orange juice and eggs.
- Begin mixing on low for 1-2 minutes. Slowly add pieces of lard, a couple at a time. Once all the lard has been added, increase speed to medium and knead 10-12 minutes.
- Butter a large bowl and add the dough to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 1 hour.
- Remove dough from bowl and divide into 12-15 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and cover them with a clean kitchen towel.
- Roll each ball into a circle as thin as possible. Try to get them the width of construction paper without tearing. Let the circles sit out on the counter to dry slightly, about 30 minutes.
- Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set aside. Heat oil in a large frying pan until hot, but not smoking. Add one dough circle at a time to the oil and fry until brown on one side, about 4 minutes. Carefully flip and brown the other side. Transfer buñuelo to the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with about 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1/8 teaspoon of anise seeds while still warm. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Eat immediately or let cool completely then store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.