Origin: Spain and other origins.
Suspiro de monja, which in Spanish means "nun's sigh" is a typical Spanish fritter whose origin goes back a few centuries and is another one of Spain's characteristic desserts that was originally created by nuns. Spain has a large number of desserts in its gastronomy that owe themselves to nuns and convents, and these are often the best places to find examples of these desserts. The story of how this dessert got its name is a little more murky.
In Spain the legend says that while the nuns were preparing some buns using choux pastry dough (a typically French pastry) one of them expelled some wind and the others nuns burst out laughing. One of them dropped a bit of choux pastry in a container with boiling oil, and voilá, the fritter was born.
Though possible (stranger things have happened), it is more likely that they are called suspiro de monja due to its lightness, some people say its texture is so light it is like eating air. However these desserts got their name, they have certainly become a favourite across the country. Despite being heavenly in creation though, they are devlish in calories and should really be enjoyed only as an occasional treat!
Suspiro de monja is not as easy to find as other desserts or Spanish dishes, as it's not usually served in restaurants, or supermarkets. To these days it remains more of a homemade dessert, or else they can be bought in some bakeries, but most of all in Spanish cloister convents (in Spanish), where they keep their rich pastrymaking tradition. So why not help keep the rich pastry heritage of Spain alive by having a go at making these little treats yourself.
A similar version of suspiros de monja can be found in Argentina, although the sweet has an interesting and mixed history in the country. In Argentina, anti-clergy anarchists changed the name of the sweet to 'bolas de fraile' or 'balls of weakness' as they wanted to get back at the harsh regimes imposed by the Catholic church. However, the dessert was too tasty for it to disappear from its existence in the country, and so the name stuck.
If you ever take a language course in Spain, be sure to ask the locals where to get good suspiro de monja, especially from a convent, since they are the best. However, for those who would like to try at home, the recipe can be found below.
This isn't a difficult recipe to make, but you should bear a few things in mind. To get the right consistency and to make sure that the dough fries properly, you should roll the dough so that is about the thickness of a finger. Do not fry too many of them at a time as they need space in the oil in order to cook well. It is best to make them in batches. Also, hot oil can be very dangerous so do take care when frying these treats.