Veracruz’s answer to India's puri is the gordita inflada (“puffed-up little fat one”). In talking about them, most people leave out the “inflada,” which can be confusing since the name “gordita” by itself refers to a motley family of different tortilla-like masa cakes. They are eaten in some form or other in many parts of Mexico, but everyone knows that Veracruz state is headquarters for the most varied and delicious one.
Gorditas are easier to eat than to describe. The basis of the dough is always corn masa, usually combined with at least one other starchy ingredient wheat flour, mashed plantain, mashed beans. Gorditas can be sweet (though not very) or savory. What all kinds have in common is that they puff up in cooking — a little or a lot, depending on the technique and shape. When griddle-baked, they expand just enough to be easily split when they come off the heat. Some of the thicker ones may puff in the same modest way when fried, but thinner fried gorditas, like these, absolutely balloon in front of your eyes. Gorditas infladas, the flaky puri-like ones given here, are not meant to be filled at all.
You may think that getting a gordita inflada to inflate takes eons of practice. Not at all: If the oil is at the right temperature and you have a large spoon handy to keep flicking the hot fat over the upper surface, they’ll puff as if by magic. The following dough is for basic gorditas infladas as commonly made around the port city of Veracruz and the Sotavento region. It uses a combination of masa, wheat flour, and mashed plantain that produces a pliable, subtly flavored, and easily puffed dough. The cooks of the region often shape their gorditas by hand into rounded ovals, which does take a little extra skill; I’ve opted for round ones made with a tortilla press.
Please note that the recipe calls for a chunk of plantain at the last stage of ripeness, black and thoroughly softened. If you have to use one that is still a little hard and starchy, soften it as follows: Increase the amount of milk to 1/2 cup; simmer the milk and sliced plantain in a small saucepan for about 15 minutes. Let cool and proceed as directed below.
Purée the plantain in a blender with the milk. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the mixture with the masa, 1/4 cup of the flour, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. With your hands, mix the ingredients into a dough; work in more flour, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, just until it has a smooth, somewhat pliable but firm consistency. Taste for salt and work in a little more if desired. Shape the dough into about 12 ping-pong-sized balls and keep them covered with a damp cloth as you work.
Press out each ball of dough into a 5-inch round; place them on baking sheets lined with parchment or waxed paper.
Pour oil into a deep-fryer or deep heavy skillet to a depth of about 1-1 1/2 inches. Heat to 375 degrees F, or until a morsel of dough sizzles on contract. Have ready a large cooking spoon and a slotted spatula or skimmer. Slip the gorditas into the oil, one at a time. They will sink to the bottom at first, then come to the top. As the gordita rises to the surface, start flicking spoonfuls of the oil over it to make it puff evenly. Fry without turning for about 20-25 seconds; it should be darker than lightly golden. Turn and fry for about 10-15 seconds more. At once lift out with the skimmer, letting as much oil as possible drain back into the pan. Set on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Watch the temperature carefully as you work and adjust the heat as necessary to maintain the oil at 375 degrees F.
It’s impossible to predict just how long it will take a gordita inflada to deflate. But they will be at their most tender, and most irresistible if eaten hot, hot, hot, as they come out of the pan.