Sopapillas Anyone? Can you fry in a clay cazuela?
I am often asked, “Can you frying in a clay pot?” and it’s a complicated answer. Not all stove top safe, clay pots handle high heat and boiling oil to high temperatures well.
Lots of post conquest Mexican foods are fried in vegetable oil or pork lard at high heats so decided to tested one of my Mexico City purchased cazuelas. I selected this pot particularly for its thin walls and light glaze on the inner surface because it would be a bit more resistant to absorbing the oil into the clay walls. This clay pot did the job well with it being able to reach high heats… but did absorb a lot of oil into the clay and the frying process changed the actual coloring of the clay pot permanently which is an interesting but a predictable outcome.*
Side by side I compared a clay cazuela to oil frying in a metal pan and the cazuela made as fine a fried sopapilla using the same batter. I did this to see if I noticed any difference in the quality or speed of cooking of oil in metal or clay. I had the same results from both! Of course I always think everything is better tasting cooked in a clay pot and it sure looked prettier and authentic during the preparation. You be the judge and enjoy some yummy sopapillas while you are at it.
* More notes on cooking with deep frying oil in a Mexican cazuela clay pot.
If you decide to cook with a lot of oil in a clay pot you will want to carefully select your pot. If this Mexican cazuela had not been glazed on the inside I would have not used this pot to fry. I found the light glaze was a bit light for frying and made me anxious while first using it over the high gas flame. I only filled the 5 inch tall cazuela with 1.5 to 2 inches of oil which was sufficient for frying the sopapillas just perfectly at a good high heat. I usually do not use much soap when washing out my clay pots but in this case used a little soap when cleaning particularly on the unglazed bottom of the pan to make sure oil was not remaining on the bottom next time I cooked with the pot. The pot now has a more dense feeling over all and is a lot slicker for cooking other items so it has been seasoned with oil more than most of the clay cookware I use. Every clay pot can have a special use due to the way you season and treat that vessel. This pot is now one I use for cooking items that like oil for brazing and when I fry tortillas, potatoes and other oil related cooking. Looking forward to trying other clay pots with oil to test their properties and will keep you posted. Please share your experiences!
TIPS: Don’t make your sopapillas too thin, and put them in pre-heated oil. Start flipping them as soon as you put them in the oil. They will puff up higher. I also store extra dough in the fridge for up to a week and make sopapillas whenever the mood strikes.
Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a fork or pastry cutter
Add the sugar... here I used an unrefined sugar. Granulated sugar will do fine.
Add the warmed cup of milk.
Mix together to create a bread like dough. If a bit wet add more flour to you have a good even, not too sticky dough.
Divide the dough, Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for about 15 minutes..
When the oil is at a high temperature. Bubbles up when a little drop of water is added to test. Add the thin square of dough and gentle tap and flip in the oil to make it puff up and fry on both sides. Remove the sopapilla when golden, drain on a paper towel and be prepared to serve immediately.
Break off about half the dough from one piece and place on a floured surface and roll out to about an 1/8 of an inch. Cut into squares.
Dust with powdered sugar or serve honey. Another option is to fill the sopapilla with a savory filling as a light main course.