Dulces: Calzones Rotos (Chilean Fried Pastries)

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Tear it up. [Photograph: María del Mar Sacasa]

Bill Cosby is famous for accusing mothers of being more interested in the condition of their children's underwear, rather than their safety, when expressing concern about their being in an accident. "I hope for my sake if you're ever in an accident that you have on clean underwear!"

In Chile, legend has it that a woman who sold fried dough in a Santiago square during colonial times was surprised by a strong gust of wind that made her skirt fly up. The big reveal: her underpants were torn. Today, the pastries she sold are still prepared in Chile. They're called calzones rotos (torn ladies' underwear) to her—and her mother's—eternal shame.

Calzones rotos are a traditional Chilean tea-time treat, usually served in winter (which down there happens during our summer months). The name, steeped in that public square scandal is reminiscent of a schoolboy's taunt or an excerpt from Humbert Humbert's diary, but most think it refers to the shape of the fried dough (I happen to think they resemble bowties).

I searched for additional information on the name, but was foiled. As to their provenance, there was an article by a Chilean chef who said the pastries were of Belgian origin (makes sense, Belgians do like to fry things and Chilean desserts are strongly influenced by European ones). A more interesting item, though, came from a Chilean blogger who, like myself, had a Nancy Drew-like curiosity. An old aunt told him the calzones rotos were of Hungarian descent, and I did find a recipe and photo that matched! If anyone speaks Hungarian, please translate: szalagos farsangi fánk. Google Translate and other online resources suggest they're called "tape carnival doughnuts" or "tape doughnuts." I hope they're not right because I have a clear picture of a tapeworm in my head.

The dough for calzones rotos is made by hand (I tried the mixer but found the dough difficult to work with), a mixture of flour, confectioners' sugar, baking powder, eggs, egg yolks, butter, lemon zest, and cognac, brandy, or pisco. I went against the current and added an extra egg to the ingredients—the dough was easier to handle and yielded more consistent results than "adding water as needed."

A Chilean friend says she finds calzones rotos a bit dry, but I politely disagree. More than doughnuts or funnel cake, they're really fried cookies. She probably just takes them for granted. Plus, they're served warm and dusted with confectioners' sugar.

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