Picarones With Fig Chancaca Syrup
“You could say that picarones are like a sweet potato-and-squash doughnut, but that doesn’t pay enough respect,” says Hender Gonzales. “Doughnuts are, what, Dutch? This is something we Peruvians came up with ourselves.” Gonzales’s version, which they doled out during their pop-up at Ursula in Brooklyn, is made of a sweet potato–based dough that’s fried until crispy and soaked in spiced syrup. The syrup is sweetened with chancaca (also known as piloncillo and panela), which is a type of unrefined whole cane sugar that you can find in most Latinx grocery stores, in the Latinx section of supermarkets, and online.
- Bring apple, orange zest, cinnamon stick, cloves, chancaca, figs, granulated sugar, aniseed, and 1¼ cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally and scraping bottom of pan, until reduced by about a third, 40–50 minutes. Strain syrup into a medium bowl; let cool.
- Do ahead: Syrup can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.
- Add sweet potatoes to pan; cook until fork-tender, 17–19 minutes. Remove sachet and drain sweet potatoes, reserving ¼ cup cooking liquid. Let cooking liquid cool slightly.
- Whisk yeast and sugar into reserved cooking liquid, then whisk into purée. Add flour and ¼ tsp. Diamond Crystal or Morton kosher salt. Mix with a wooden spoon until a sticky dough comes together, about 5 minutes. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in volume, about 1 hour, or chill overnight.
- Stir remaining 1 tsp. Diamond Crystal or ½ tsp. Morton kosher salt and ¼ cup water in a small bowl until salt is dissolved. Dip your hands in salt water, then punch down dough. Pinch off a golf-ball-size piece, roll into a ball, and flatten slightly. Push your thumb through the center to create a hole. Carefully slide into oil. Stick chopstick or skewer through hole and spin doughnut around to widen hole slightly and set shape. Fry until deep orange-brown and crisp, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Repeat process with remaining dough, dipping your hands in salt water to prevent sticking and adjusting heat as needed to maintain oil temperature. (Pan should fit 3 or 4 doughnuts at a time.)
- Generously spoon syrup over doughnuts to coat.
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