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From New Mexico - flavorful breads you may never have tasted

Try some of the breads from New Mexico to start your new year off with a change. They go well with many foods and make an interesting addition to almost any kind of food for family or company meals.

Flour tortillas, sopaipillas, Indian bread, and New Mexican corn bread are some of my local favorites that cooks in other regions of the country may not have made.

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Flour tortillas, the bread of the Southwest, are most versatile. They are served warm with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with eggs, soup, chili, stew, and steak.

Although supermarkets in New Mexico, Arizona, and California carry flour tortillas, many people prefer to make them at home. Homemade ones are fresher, lighter, and tastier than store-bought tortillas, and they're easy to make.

Sopaipillas, puffy and hollow, crisp and soft, are usually made in restaurants, probably because they must be deep-fried. For this reason, homemade ones seem extra special, even to Southwesterners.

They are made with a basic biscuit dough, and the frying can be done either in a deep fryer or in two inches of oil in a frying pan. Traditionally, they are served with honey along with the rest of a meal.

Stuffed sopaipillas are also popular. One side of the bread is slit open and filled with refried beans, browned ground beef, onion, and cheese, then served with a taco or red or green chili sauce.

Pueblo Indians make Tewa tacos by cutting sopaipilla dough into eight-inch rounds, frying them, and topping them with beans, browned meat, onions, cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato, and chili sauce. One of these tacos makes a full meal. Whole Wheat Tortillas 3 cups whole-wheat flour 1 cup white flour 2 teaspoons salt 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 cup shortening or lard 1 1/2 cups hot water

Sift dry ingredients together. Cut in shortening until mixture is crumbly. Stir in water gradually, using only enough to make dough pliable but not sticky.

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On floured board, knead dough for 5 minutes. Make balls of dough the size of an egg. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rest at least 15 minutes.

Roll each ball into thin 7-inch circles. Bake on ungreased, hot griddle. Allow 1 minute to each side of the tortilla. Overcooked tortillas are tough.

The preferred and tastiest method for reheating tortillas is directly over a low gas flame. Simply lay the tortilla on a burner grid and move it around every few seconds to avoid burning any one spot.

The tortilla toasts lightly, becomes pliable and, to many people, more delicious. Or you can reheat tortillas on the griddle. Wrapping tortillas in foil and reheating in the oven makes them damp and gummy. Sopaipillas 4 cups white flour 1 tablespoon baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon sugar 2 tablespoons shortening or lard 3/4 cup warm water Oil for deep frying

Sift dry ingredients together, then cut in the shortening until the mixture looks crumbly. Add enough water to make a firm, smooth dough. Knead dough briefly. Cover dough and let it rest at least 15 minutes.

While heating oil in frying pan or deep fryer, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Cut into 3-inch squares. Fry in hot oil until sopaipillas are golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Indian Bread 6 cups white flour 1 packet dry active yeast 2 teaspoons salt 1 tablespoon sugar 1/4 cup oil 2 cups hot water

Stir dry ingredients and yeast together. Slowly stir in oil and hot water. If dough seems dry, add a little more water and mix until dough comes together in a firm ball. It is a bit firmer than other bread doughs. Knead for 10 minutes, using additional flour as necessary.

Put in greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, then punch down. Let rise and punch down three times in all.

Shape dough into two round loaves. Place on greased baking sheet. Let rise until almost doubled.

Bake at 350 degrees F. 45 to 60 minutes. Every 5 minutes during first 20 minutes of baking, open oven door and spray bread a few times with a spray bottle of water.

This introduces steam into the oven and lets the bread rise better and develop a finer crust. New Mexican Corn Bread 2 tablespoons oil 2 cups corn kernels, briefly chopped in food processor 3 eggs 1 cup sour cream 1 cup yellow cornmeal 1 cup green chili, chopped 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Put 2 tablespoons oil in 10-inch cast-iron frying pan.

Set in oven to heat while you mix bread. Combine all ingredients; mix thoroughly. Pour into well-heated frying pan. Bake 45 minutes or until firm.

New Mexican corn bread is good with winter soups and stews. With its extra corn, green chili, and cheese, the bread is almost a main dish. Cut in small squares, it is a tasty party hors d'oeuvre.

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