Cañas are a traditional dessert from Spain. There are many variations on the basic recipe, the one I wanted to share with you today was given to me in a town called Alagón that is near the city of Zaragoza in Northern Spain.
The recipe only has four ingredients, two of which are olive oil and wine. As I said, I will be explaining the basic recipe, and I would suggest you start there….but I would also encourage you to experiment with different oils and wines…… Perhaps given the season, a lighter flavoured oil, and a bit of grated orange rind in the mixture together with a little orange liqueur? The combinations really are only limited by one’s imagination!
Although I present the dessert as is, in the traditional manner, they can also be filled with whipped cream or with custard.
Anyway, back to the basic recipe. This really is a traditional recipe and a great talking point for your next dinner party. The dessert gets its name from the canes (cañas in Spanish) that are used to form and fry the dough. If you can get a good cane of around 2cm diameter, then just cut off pieces around 10cm long. Half a dozen pieces should be enough. A good wash and they are ready for use. Don’t throw them away after use, they can be re-used many times.
The alternative is to use some other fire resistant material. There are metal tube moulds on the market that would work perfectly well.
As for the wine, I chose a Sweet Muscatel wine from the local bodega. Living in a village sometimes means a limited number of retail establishments. Here for example there is no computer shop, no clothes shops or indeed supermarket. This village makes up for this however with a humongous wine cooperative. It is by far the biggest building in the whole village.
Many foreign visitors here have been surprised to see that here we buy wine by the litre. I pop in from time to time with a 5 litre bottle and they fill it up for me from a pump, just as if it were at a petrol station! Swedish co-workers in particular were surprised as they mentally compared it to their government controlled Systembolaget shops, the only shops in Sweden allowed to sell alcohol.
My thoughts turn to the UK governments intent to implant a sugar tax to help people reduce their sugar intake. I have to doubt whether increasing the cost or availability of products deemed dangerous has ever really worked. I doubt it really reduced the number of smokers in the UK and I would question whether the introduction of the Prohibition (of alcohol) in the United States really accomplished its goals. I can’t help thinking that educating to the dangers of smoking and alcohol, have in the end had a greater effect on reducing consumption than taxing or prohibition ever have.
I suspect that families in the UK will still buy sugary drinks even though they cost more and again we will be penalising responsible consumers. If our governments want to treat us like children then perhaps a better education into what is a balanced diet would be the more appropriate route. But taxation has a couple of advantages, is so much easier to apply and of course it does fill the government’s coffers!
Anyway, back to my use of muscatel wine and back to the recipe:
Cañas de Alagón
Makes about 16 cañas:
100ml Sweet white wine
100ml Olive oil
Mix together the wine, oil and sugar.
Add in enough flour to make a soft dough, mixing by swirling your open fingers in the mixture.
You might not need all the flour, or indeed require a little more. The dough should be supple and soft but neither too soft nor too hard.
Cut the dough in half, then cut each half again to make quarters. Cut each piece in half again making eight pieces then in half yet again to make sixteen. This should be fine for medium thickness canes that are about 10cm long.
Flatten out the dough slightly in the palm of your hand, making a rectangle that will go around the cane. Press to join the two ends together forming a ring around the cane. Roll the cane, dough and all, on a lightly floured surface. As you press and roll the dough will flatten and thin covering all the cane.
Ensure the dough coats the cane as evenly as possible as this helps when frying. If the dough is unevenly spread the canes will tend to stay heavy side down in the oil and fry unevenly.
Rolling the dough out is not as difficult as it sounds and the dough is pretty forgiving. If it is not to your liking just pull it off the cane and try again!
Fry in a good quantity of hot oil, either in a well filled frying pan or a deep fat fryer. Turn the canes occasionally to ensure that they are well browned and crisp on all sides.
Leave to cool for about 5 minutes on absorbent kitchen roll before carefully sliding out the cane.
Dust with icing sugar and cinnamon to serve.
The recipe might sound a bit fiddly with the canes, but it is well worth a try. The dough is very flexible and easy to mould around the canes. Just get it as even as you can without any joins and they will come out fine.
tsp – Teaspoon – 5ml
tbsp – Tablespoon – 15ml
2016 Lincoln W. Betteridge