‘Never Fail’ Sopaipillas! Check Out These Nostalgic Flavors From The San Luis Valley

January 3, 2020

The self-published high school cookbook was intended as a gag gift for a white elephant exchange.

“It’s supposed to be funny prank things, stuff you’ve pulled out from storage,” chuckled Roz Gallegos. “And so it was a joke about who got it.”

Courtesy Roz Gallegos

But as Gallegos and her family pored through the tome from Antonito High School, they got more than recipes for Watergate Salad and albondigas soup. They got homesick for Colorado’s San Luis Valley. Naturally, it had to be shared with residents and ex-pats on the Forgotten Southern Colorado Facebook page — and the memories came flooding in.

“Because it's going home,” Gallegos explained. “Now that we have social media, we're connected again. And so when we bring these things up, it's going home through your food. You're connecting. ‘Oh you're so and so's cousin!’ and ‘Oh you were at that funeral!’ and ‘Oh my gosh, remember this cake Mrs. Salazar made?’ and it's going home.”

Gallegos, a teacher in Colorado Springs, grew up on a ranch in the valley and, like many of her friends, she moved away.

“So many people had to leave the valley for generations for work, for education, to survive,” she said.

The Antonito High School cookbook was published in 1986 and is fat with treasures like dueling Sopaipilla recipes. One was labeled “Never Fail.” It was an obvious place to start — “...because it's a no fail,” Gallegos quipped — and soon they were in deep. 

“It was a taste-a-thon. Are we trying Mrs. Salazar's sopaipillas or are we trying Mrs. Ulibarri’s sopaipillas? So we tried those and it was a tie. We couldn't decide whose were better.”

What really caught Gallegos’ eye were the many different recipes for biscochitos, all seven of them.

“So seven different families chiming in about biscochitos!” Gallegos exclaimed. 

To the uninitiated, a biscochito is a cookie, which she describes as a more refined snickerdoodle with cinnamon and sugar. It’s also the official state cookie of New Mexico.

“This is the cookie you have at a wedding,” she said. “This is the cookie you have at a funeral. This is the cookie you have at a graduation. This is the cookie you have to celebrate the birth of Christ. This is THE cookie.”

As the family baker, Gallegos plans to try the recipe for piñon puffs soon, made with pine nuts, vanilla, and plenty of butter. But her real hope is to get the cookbook republished as a fundraiser for Antonito High School, which was the mission of the original.


Never Fail Sopaipillas

4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. vegetable shortening
1 cup milk
vegetable oil for frying

Sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into large bowl. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles cornmeal. Stir in milk until mixture forms a firm dough. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Let reset 2 minutes. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick; cut into squares or diamonds.

Heat oil in deep saucepan or deep fat fryer to 375°. Fry a few at a time, turning often so they fry evenly until golden brown. Remove from oil wth slotted spoon to a paper towel to drain. Serve with butter and honey or cinnamon.

Biscochitos

1 cup sugar
2 cups lard
1 tsp. anise seed
2 eggs
6 cups sifted flour

3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup whiskey

Cream lard with hand thoroughly; add sugar and anise seed. Beat eggs and add to lard mixture. Blend until light and fluffy. Sift flour with baking powder and salt; add to first mixture. Add water and whiskey and knead until well mixed. Roll out 1/2 inch thick or less and cut into fancy shapes. Roll each top of cookie in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Bake in a moderate oven until slightly browned.

Pinon Puffs

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla flavoring

2 cups sifted cake flour
2 cups pinon nuts, shelled and broken into pieces
powdered sugar to dust

Cream the butter. Add the sugar and beat until well blended. Add salt and vanilla. Break pinon nuts and add to flour, then add to butter mixture and mix well. roll into balls the size of a walnut. bake at 300° for 30-45 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar while warm.

Taco Salad

1 head lettuce
4 fresh tomatoes
1 cup grated cheese
1 avocado
1 (5.5oz) bag flavored Doritos

6 oz. French dressing
1 lb. hamburger
1 onion, chopped
1 cup kidney beans
taco seasoning

Mix salad ingredients. Fry hamburger and onion. Add kidney beans and 1 package taco seasoning. Add hot ingredients to salad ingredients. Top with Doritos.


For our series “The Kitchen Shelf,” CPR News wants to know about other local Colorado cookbooks and we want your help. Whether your cookbook is collecting dust on a shelf or is a butter-stained countertop workhorse, take a picture of the cover and tweet @cprwarner or email it to news@cpr.org. We’d love to share more of these family recipes and the stories behind them.