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Every culture has a long tradition of flat breads dating back to indigenous times. In some parts of South America, particularly Uraguay and Argentina, the fry bread known as tortas fritas is the time-honored way of quickly and cheaply making flat bread, in a sweet or savory style. Before frying these flattened discs in oil to a golden brown, the dough is formed of readily available ingredients: flour, salt, butter, baking powder and some water.
Tortas fritas bear similarity to other Native American-derived fried breads, though they are not typically as airy as the others. Beignets, from the French-American bayou of Louisiana, resemble this recipe in texture and taste. According to the From Argentina With Love food blog, some Argentinians and Uraguayans actually use the term sopaipillas when describing tortas fritas, available with a range of added ingredients. This term apparently derives from the Iberian word xopaipa, which literally means "oil-soaked bread."
The ingredients used for basic tortas fritas are standard bakery items, in a globally accepted blend. This is perhaps the reason for the recipe's longevity. A common recipe for making a dozen uses 2 cups (about 250 g) of flour, 1 tsp. (less than 5 g) of salt, 5 tbsp. (about 76 g) of butter, 0.66 cup (nearly 250 ml) of warm water and 1.5 tsp. (about 7 g) of baking powder. The dough is mixed in this order: flour, baking powder, salt, softened butter and then water.
This dough ball, when malleable, is kneaded and split into a dozen pieces, each of which is formed into a tiny ball. These will grow when left to rest for about 15 minutes, and then each is flattened. Before frying, many chefs will cut tiny cross-hairs in the center of the tortas fritas to keep them from inflating during cooking. These are fried in hot oil and then dried on paper towels.
Before serving, many sprinkle the tortas fritas liberally with sugar. Others are left plain for pairing with meals. Any of these breads are suitable for slathering in dulce de leche, butter or jam — or all three at once. Often, this dish is augmented to create a range of flavored flat breads that look but do not taste like the original recipe. A common Chilean embellishment is adding pumpkin to the dough. Some also add sugar to the dough, creating a flat pastry that does not need any further dressing.