These anise seed-infused pumpkin and sweet potato doughnuts are deliciously addictive and very easy to make. Picarones are a popular snack all over Ecuador and Peru, and are traditionally accompanied by “chancaca,” a sugarcane syrup. They work very well served piping hot with honey or sugar syrup, or even maple syrup if you prefer. The sweetness of the sweet potato and pumpkin combines beautifully with the spices, black pepper, and salt, topped off with a drizzle of golden honey.
– 2 medium sweet potatoes, about 9–10oz (250–275g) total, peeled and cut into large chunks.
– ½lb (250g) pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into large chunks.
– 1 tsp salt.
– ½ tsp crushed anise seed.
– 2 cups all-purpose flour.
– 1 envelope (¼oz) active dry yeast.
– freshly ground black pepper.
– oil for deep frying.
– honey or maple syrup to serve.
Step 2: Drain off any excess liquid, and mash the sweet potato and pumpkin together to form a smooth purée. Season with the salt, anise seed, and pepper. Transfer to a large bowl, then stir in the flour. In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over ¼ cup warm water and stir to mix. Set aside for 5–10 minutes until the yeast bubbles. Add to the sweet potato mixture to make a fairly firm dough, adding more water or flour if necessary. Cover and let sit for 2 hours in a warm, draft-free spot until the dough has puffed up to almost double in size.
Step 3: Heat the oil for deep frying. To test if the oil is hot enough, tear off a small ball of dough and shape into a ring by pressing it flat in your hands and making a hole in the center with your thumb and forefinger. Gently drop the doughnut into the oil, being careful to avoid any splattering from the hot oil, and fry until golden brown on both sides, turning once during the cooking. Drain on paper towels. Taste and adjust the seasoning of the dough—it may need a little extra salt or some more anise seed. When you are happy with the seasoning, form the rest of the dough into rings, and fry in batches until pale golden brown on both sides, again turning once during cooking.
Step 4: These are best eaten at once. Serve piping hot with honey or maple syrup for drizzling over the top.