Hispanic Heritage
Sweets for the Sweet

Sweets for the Sweet
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.7

     challenging words:    abuelos, Alfenique, Bunuelos, cajetas, canela, caramelize, Chongo, chongos, Empanadas, flan, guayabate, mangate, queso, sopaipilla, sopaipillas, traditional
     content words:    United States, New Mexico, Traditional Mexican, When Europeans, New World, In Nuevo Leon

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Sweets for the Sweet
By Jane Runyon

1     Have you ever eaten in a Mexican restaurant in the U.S.? If you have, you have probably looked at the dessert menu. In the United States, you usually find fried ice cream, sopaipillas, or flan on the menu of a Mexican restaurant. Fried ice cream is usually a scoop of ice cream rolled in corn flakes and then deep fried. Sopaipillas are made with sweet dough. The dough is rolled out and cut into squares. The squares are placed in hot oil to cook. While in the oil, they puff up like a sofa pillow. That's where the name comes from. When the dough is a golden brown, it is taken out of the oil and drained. When it's time to eat a sopaipilla, you bite the corner off and coat the inside with jam or honey. Flan is custard. The top of the custard has been covered with sugar. The sugar is then burned to caramelize it.
2     These are all very good desserts. But they are not the best that Mexico has to offer. As a matter of fact, it is believed that the sopaipilla was created in New Mexico. It is not a native Mexican dish.
3     Traditional Mexican desserts take advantage of what nature has to offer in the different regions of the country. Most of the recipes were brought from Spain. One of the native additions to the desserts has been chocolate. Chocolate was used by the Aztecs before the Spanish arrived. When Europeans came to the New World, they brought their own additions to the recipes. Milk, eggs, and flour were a welcome addition. Wonderful fruits were also native to Mexico. They were soon added to recipes that were already rich in flavor.
4     Two ingredients used to add sweet flavor to desserts are special to Mexico. Cinnamon is just a bit different from what is found in the States. This cinnamon is called canela. It is lighter than what you find north of the border. It also has a floral taste. Vanilla is also a truly great ingredient found in Mexico. The vanilla flavor is extracted from vanilla beans that are found in a pod. It is difficult to find, but it is well worth the search.

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