This is one of the easiest and yummiest fried desserts to make. Called by a variety of names, elephant ears, also known as orejas, literally "ears", or bunuelos, if you are in Mexico, are a crispy fried dough that is coated with sugar and cinnamon. Orejas are usually sold at fairs and other outdoor events. Orejas are very similar to funnel cakes, which is another yummy fried treat sold at state fairs, except that they are traditionally made much thinner and crispier than funnel cakes. Orejas are also usually topped with granulated sugar and cinnamon, whereas funnel cakes usually come covered with confectionery sugar. In the picture on the left, you can see what a traditional oreja, (or bunuelo), looks like.
Because I prefer doughy pastries to crispy pastries, I like to make my orejas thicker so that they will be doughier, as you can see in my first picture at the top of this post. This recipe will make a crispy or doughy elephant ear, it just depends on how thin or thick you make the dough when you roll it out. To get a very crispy elephant ear, roll the dough balls until they are very thin. To get a thicker oreja, do not roll the dough out as much.
Traditional oreja recipes generally use manteca, or lard in English, which helps to make the pastry very crispy and crunchy. As much as half a cup of lard is often used. Because I have never been a fan of using so much fat, especially when it's manteca, I use smaller amount in this recipe. It's up to you how much to use. If you make these just once a year for a special occasion for a bunch of people, I would suggest using the half cup of lard to make them authentic. If you make these every month for your kids, (or yourself!), whenever you get the craving for them, I would use a smaller amount.
4.5 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup of lard (manteca)
1.5 cups milk
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. active yeast
oil for frying
cinnamon and sugar to coat (or any other topping you desire - strawberry preserves are great too!!)
- In a pot over medium heat, melt lard with the milk, salt, and sugar.
- Once the fat has melted, remove pot from heat immediately and let it cool from hot to warm.
- When the mixture is warm, add in yeast, mix a little, and then let sit until yeast begins to froth and bubble.
- Once yeast is bubbling, add in flour a little at a time until a non-sticky dough is formed.
- Cover dough in a greased bowl and let rise for 30 minutes.
- Once dough has risen, pinch dough off into about 18-30 small balls.
- Knead the balls into the appropriate thickness desired, kneading more for thinner, crispier orejas, and kneading less for thicker, doughier orejas.
- When rolled into the desired thickness, pinch the dough in the middle to form an ear shape and place onto a plate.
- Once you have formed little "ears" out of all the dough balls, fry each for about 1-2 minutes per side in oil at a temperature of 375 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about medium- high heat if you are using a skillet on the oven.
- Make sure to keep an eye on the ears as they fry because they can burn easily if the oil is too hot.
- Place fried orejas onto a napkin or paper towel -lined plate to drain off excess oil.
- While still hot and wet with oil, roll orejas in the sugar-cinnamon mixture to coat and place on a plate.