Gluten Free Sonhos Portuguese "Christmas Dreams"
These gluten free Sonhos “Christmas dreams” are a deliciously light and fluffy gluten free puffed pastry that are coated in a light sprinkle of cinnamon sugar that everyone is bound to enjoy.
Portugal is one of my favorite countries that I have ever visited so it is fitting that I am beginning this Cook Around The World For Christmas series with a popular Portuguese Christmas recipe.
The first time I visited Portugal I knew that it would be a country that we would return to over and over again. I immediately felt connected to the laid-back atmosphere and incredible food culture that in many ways reminded me of Italy.
One thing I immediately realized when visiting Portugal is that the Portuguese take their pastries very seriously. You wont have to look far before stumbling across a Portuguese bakery, and if there is one dessert the Portuguese do very well it is pastry. So when I was looking for a recipe to highlight Portuguese Christmas food culture, I really didn’t have to look very hard before coming across these Sonhos.
Sonhos can best be described as a puffed pastry that is fried and then immediately drenched in a cinnamon sugar coating. The word Sonhos translates to “dreams”, which I’d say is a pretty good description for how these pillow-y soft treats taste. Sonhos are a dessert that is enjoyed throughout the year in Portugal, but is especially popular around Christmas time and can usually be found on the table on Christmas Eve.
When I was researching traditional Sonhos recipes I found that many families seem to have different variations of their own, but for this recipe I opted to make them gluten free and I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out. Sonhos actually are incredibly simple to make once you get the hang of it and require few ingredients, which make them a fun and simple recipe to make around the holidays.
When making the Sonhos it is important to make sure that you get the oil you will be using to fry the pastry very hot before you begin. This will help your Sonhos cook evenly and give the dough that wonderful crisp outer layer, while maintaining a soft and pillow-y center. When I first began making these Sonhos I ended up removing them from the frying pan too quickly, and the center was left slightly under cooked. To avoid undercooking the Sonhos make sure to leave them in the frying pan until a deep golden color forms. They also will feel pretty light when removing them from the pan, so if the Sonhos still feels dense they may need to fry a little longer.
While I saw that some people would use a pastry bag to drop the Sonhos dough into the frying pan, the traditional way of making these round pillow-y puffed pastries is to take a spoonful of dough on a teaspoon, and then using another teaspoon scoop the dough back and forth between the spoons until you have a ball that you can drop into the frying pan. Once you get the hang of it this process goes really fast and you will be enjoying your Sonhos in no time.
I hope you enjoy these sweet Sonhos “dreams” and that they bring a little taste of Portugal into your home this holiday season (or whenever you choose to make them).
Sonhos Portuguese Christmas Dreams
Makes ~ 20 pastries
1 cup water
2 strips of a lemon rind
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ tsp salt
1.5 cups gluten free flour (I used bob’s red mill)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
½ cup sugar
4 cups vegetable oil (for frying)
In a medium size saucepan over medium-high heat add water, lemon rind, vanilla, butter, and salt to pan and bring to boil.
Once boiling reduce heat to low and add flour, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough begins to form a ball and doesn’t stick to the walls of the pan.
Remove dough from heat and place in a mixing bowl.
Allow dough to cool for 2 minutes. While dough is cooling place 1 quart of vegetable oil in a medium size sauce pan over medium-high heat that you will use to fry your sonhos.
Once your dough has cooled slightly begin to add the eggs into the dough. Beat the eggs into the dough one by one until a smooth dough forms (I used my kitchenaid for this step which made this process a whole lot easier).
Once your dough is ready and your oil is hot, take two teaspoons and scoop a dollop of dough into one teaspoon. Scoop the dough back and forth between the two spoons until you have a ball of dough that you can drop into the oil.
Allow the dough to fry in the oil until you see it turn a deep golden brown.
Remove from oil and place on a towel to soak up the extra oil.
Once slightly dried, roll the sonhos in a small bowl with cinnamon and sugar.
Serve immediately, if possible, as they taste best warm.