Picarones are addictively good, and not just because they are fried dough. They have an intriguing spicy sweet flavor, kind of like a spice cake, but they are crispy and warm and dripping with syrup. They are probably an adaptation of buñuelos, but they evolved into something quite different and unique.The runny dough is shaped into lopsided rings and deep fried. Experienced picarón makers use only one hand to throw perfect rings of dough into the oil, but don't worry if it takes some practice before your doughnuts are rings. The practice doughnuts will taste just as good.
- 1 pound uncooked pumpkin, or 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
- 1 pound sweet potatoes
- 3 Cinnamon sticks
- 2 teaspoons whole anise seed
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup Pisco or other brandy
- 3 cups flour
- 1 quart vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
- 1 orange
- 2 limes
- 1/2 cup water
- Fill a large pot with water, and bring to a boil. Add 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons anise seed, and 1 teaspoon cloves to the water.
- Peel the sweet potatoes, and cut into large chunks. Cut the fresh pumpkin (if you are not using canned) in large chunks as well.
- Add the sweet potatoes and fresh pumpkin to the boiling water and cook until soft. You will need to remove the pumpkin first, as it will cook faster. Strain and reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and let cool.
- When the pumpkin and potatoes are cool enough to handle, mash them or run them through a food mill. Let cool. You will need 3/4 cup sweet potato purée and 3/4 cup pumpkin purée.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the 1/2 cup of cooled (slightly warm, not hot) reserved cooking water. Let rest for 5 minutes.
- Add the eggs, salt, cooled sweet potato purée, cooled pumpkin purée, and the Pisco and mix with the dough hook attachment until well mixed.
- Add the flour gradually, and mix with the dough hook until smooth, about 5 minutes. The dough should be stretchy and smooth, but sticky. If it is very liquid, you can add up to 1/2 cup more flour.
- Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, or about 2 hours.
- Juice the orange and limes and reserve juice. Place the molasses, sugar, orange rind, lime rinds, orange juice, lime juice, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon cloves, and 1/2 cup water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring.
- Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until mixture thickens slightly. The consistency should be similar to pancake syrup, and it will thicken more as it cools. Strain to remove the orange and lime rind and spices.
- When the dough has risen, heat the oil in a pot to 350.
- Wet your fingers in salted water. Form the doughnuts by grabbing a small handful of dough and stretching it into a ring around around a couple of fingers, then tossing the dough quickly into the oil. Cook briefly, 20 seconds or so, and then flip the doughnuts using the handle of a long wooden spoon.
- Cook the doughnuts in the oil until they are golden brown (about 30 seconds longer), then remove them to a paper towel lined plate.
- Serve immediately, drizzled with the warm syrup.
Tip: Doughnuts can be kept warm in a 200 degree oven for up to 1 hour.