21 December 2016

5.08 Sopapillas w/ Cajeta - Party Food - Intermediate

Up to the final entry of FoodPoint Fiesta already! And what better way to end it than with something sweet?

I discovered cajeta while I was researching foods for this season. It's a thick, rich caramel very similar to dulce de leche, with a couple of notable differences which I'll cover further down. The real challenge was finding some way to use cajeta that didn't deviate too much from the season identity.

I'd already cooked churros way back as a bonus in Season 1, so what other options did I have? A little more research turned up sopapillas, a lesser-known fried-dough treat that can be paired with dishes both savoury and sweet

Put them together and you get a surprisingly satisfying combination.


I've seen a lot of people around the internet refer to this as "Mexican caramel" or "Mexican dulce de leche".  As mentioned above this is a fair assessment, however in order to explain the differences between cajeta and dulce de leche you first need to examine what it's made from.

1L goat milk
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla pod

Whereas dulce de leche would use cow's milk, cajeta uses goat's. Goat milk is more stable for the purposes of this recipe, plus it has a slightly tangy note that stops the caramel from being too cloyingly sweet.

The bicarbonate of soda is the real hero of this recipe. It causes a chemical reaction that lowers the boiling point of the milk, meaning that you're able to leave it simmering for a long time without it reaching the point where the milk would split.

In this recipe I tend to use pink salt, but you can really just use whatever type you prefer.

Cinnamon is also not something you would find in a typical dulce de leche, and it adds a pleasant, subtle warmth to the caramel. If you can't get a stick, just use a teaspoon or two of ground cinnamon.

You can also use vanilla paste/extract/essence instead of the pod if it's easier.


1. Get yourself a saucepan with a volume of at least 3 litres. (May seem like an odd start to a recipe, however the reason will become apparent later). 

2. Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds. Place this into the saucepan along with the cinnamon, sugar, and salt.

3. Measure out a couple of teaspoons of the milk and place aside for later in the recipe, then pour the rest into the saucepan and stir everything together to start to dissolve the sugar.

4. Place the pot over a medium heat until it just starts to simmer, then turn the heat off completely.

5. Add the reserved milk to the bicarbonate of soda and mix together, then pour this into the saucepan while stirring continuously. (WARNING: It will immediately start to fizz and expand, so go right to Step 6!)

6. Keep stirring the mixture to ensure it doesn't bubble over, it will take a few minutes for the bubbles to subside. (This is why you need such a large saucepan for such a small amount of mixture. I personally wouldn't exceed a saucepan with 4 litre volume as this could cause issues for the rest of the recipe, but anything smaller than 3 litres will probably result in a mess and a need to start again.)

7. Once the bubbling has subsided, turn the heat back on - this time to medium-low - and simmer the mixture for approximately 1 and a half hours, stirring every 10-15 minutes so it doesn't catch on the bottom of the pan. (As it simmers, you will see it getting darker and thicker.)

8. When the mixture reaches the consistency of pouring custard, remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla pod, then keep on stirring until thick.

9. Pour into a serving bowl and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving. (It will be incredibly hot right out of the pan. TIP: This stuff is awesome with just some plain vanilla ice cream!)

Yields approx. 250ml (1 cup) of cajeta. It may not seem like a lot, but a little bit goes a long way.


Wikipedia says "a sopaipilla, sopapilla, sopaipa, or cachanga is a kind of fried pastry and a type of quick bread served in several regions with Spanish heritage in the Americas".

Basically, it's a semi-sweet, doughnut-like pastry. If you don't douse them with icing sugar, cinnamon and honey (or cajeta) then they are savoury enough to be dunked into spicy meat dishes.

2 1/2 cups plain white flour
1/2 cup milk, warm
1/3 cup water, warm
50g lard, cubed
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Oil (for deep frying)
Icing sugar and cinnamon (for dusting, optional)

Instead of goat's milk, this time you'll want ordinary cow's milk.

If you don't want to use lard (for some bizarre reason) feel free to use vegetable shortening instead.

Finally, I would use regular table salt for this recipe instead of pink salt.


1. Place all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix together until dispersed.

2. Add the lard (or shortening) and rub into the dry ingredients until you're left with something that resembles bread crumbs.

3. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, then pour in the wet ingredients and mix until everything starts to come together into a dough.

4. Scatter some flour onto a bench and turn out the dough. Knead for 5-10 minutes or until smooth and springy. (You can use a benchtop mixer with a dough hook if you prefer, however it's not a particularly demanding job.)

5. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap with clingfilm and leave to rest for 20-30 minutes.

6. Once rested, dust with some more flour and cut the dough into quarters.

7. Roll each quarter out into an oblong shape approximately 1/2 centimetre thick, then slice each oblong into 6 fairly uniform square or rectangular shapes and place aside until needed.

8. Preheat your deep fryer oil to 190°C (370°F).

9. Take a piece of dough and place one edge into the oil. Once it starts bubbling, let it go. When the dough floats to the top, flip it over so that it rises evenly. Continue to fry while turning occasionally until golden brown, then remove from the fryer and drain on some paper towels. (It takes approx. 3-4 minutes for each sopapilla to cook.)

10. Repeat Step 9 in batches until all the dough is cooked.

11. Serve while still warm. If you're going the sweet route, dust with some cinnamon and icing sugar. Traditionally you can also drizzle them with some honey, but that's not necessary if you and serve with the cajeta.

Makes approx. 24.

A video of these recipes is available at https://youtu.be/ZXRdexIqNds.

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