It must be, to make it all the way from Madrid to Mexico City. Churros are gloriously of that street, offered at roadside stands throughout the Spanish-speaking world (and in a few fortunate outposts beyond), delighting pedestrians with crunchy bursts of sweetness. To those unfamiliar, think of a cinnamon donut, except crisper and lighter. Absolutely sublime, and we haven’t even talked about the silky dipping sauce yet…
As with much of what found its way to the western hemisphere, churros originated in Spain and, in addition to being deliciously satisfying, must’ve been a good way to use up sugar and fat (oil) in advance of Lent. From there they gained understandable popularity in the colonies, including in Mexico, which developed its own variation. The New World also made its own indispensable contribution, in the chocolate sauce. After all, cacao is from the Americas, and chocolate descended from chocolatl, an Aztec preparation. Again, more on this later.
The version on which this entry is based may be found in the Cook’s Country Cookbook, and is named “So-Cal Churros“. What makes them “So-Cal,” as opposed to “Mexican” or “Spanish” is unclear, though whatever the reason, they’re wonderful. The lightness, the crunch, the sweet tingle of cinnamon…wow.
First, start with a fairly basic egg dough, which is piped through a pastry bag:
After they firm up a bit in the fridge, it’s time for the hot oil:
After that, more or less, they roll around in a pile of cinnamon-spiced sugar and then… ecstasy? Not quite yet.
For the ultimate indulgence, something which elevates this beyond “mere” street food, eaters dip churros in smooth, molten chocolate. Most preparations, including the Cook’s Country recipe, call for a nice creamy chocolate, which is a beautiful touch. However, today’s entry honors (ahem…supposedly) the Mexicans who developed churros and the Aztecs who invented chocolatl by spiking the chocolate with cinnamon and a bit of hot sauce. This produces a chocolate more after the Mexican fashion, and it’s magnificent, whether on churros or by itself.
It’s a good thing that the street is so long, stretching from Europe to the Americas, else all that crunching would deafen. It’s the sure sound of happy eaters, of perfect contentment.
For the dough:
- 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons butter
- s tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups flour
- 2 eggs
- 2 quarts vegetable oil
For the coating:
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the chocolate sauce:
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce, optional (*1)
Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment paper and spritz it generously with cooking spray. (*2)
For the dough, combine in a large saucepan the water, butter, sugar, vanilla and salt. Bring to a boil over a medium flame. Turn off the heat and stir in the flour, all at once, with a rubber spatula. Stir thoroughly until no streaks of flour remain.
Transfer the dough to a stand mixer bowl. You’ll need the spatula for this, as the dough is quite substantial. Be careful too, obviously, as the dough was boiling only a couple minutes prior.
Anyway, fix the mixer with the paddle attachment and beat it at low speed for a minute, to loosen it and to draw down the temperature. Increase the speed to medium and add the eggs. Beat until thoroughly incorporated, about a minute.
Transfer the warm dough (*3) to a pastry bag fitted with a wide “closed star” tip (shown below, next to a quarter, for your reference):
Pipe the dough in six-inch lengths onto the baking pan you prepared, using scissors to snip off the dough when it reaches appropriate length. Refrigerate uncovered for 15 minutes to an hour. (*4)
While the dough chills, make the coating by combining well the sugar and cinnamon in a medium, wide bowl.
Line a second baking pan with parchment paper. Apply cooking spray and place the pan in a 200-degree oven.
In a large saucepan or medium stockpot pour the oil to a depth of one-and-a-half inches. Heat over a medium-high flame until the oil reaches 375 degrees.
Carefully add the churros, up to six at a time, rotating them frequently with a wooden spoon to ensure they cook evenly. Cook for about six minutes, until the pastries are uniformly golden-brown. Transfer the churros to a plate lined with a triple layer of paper towels. Thirty seconds should be sufficient to wick away any excessive oil, then transfer the churros to the baking pan in the oven, to keep them warm until you’re ready for them.
Repeat what’s in the above paragraph until you’ve exhausted your supply of chilled dough.
Working with one pastry at a time, roll each still-warm churro in the cinnamon-sugar, being sure it’s generously coated. Shake it gently to dislodge any excess powder.
Make the dipping sauce by combining the chocolate chips and the cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Cook at medium power for 30 seconds. Remove the bowl and stir together the chips and the cream. (*5) Stir in the vanilla extract and, if using, the cinnamon and the hot sauce. Dip the churros in it and enjoy!
1 – As mentioned in the intro, cinnamon and hot sauce give the dip a little Mexican flair. Of course, it’s quite tasty without it, but even better with.
2 – i.e., Pam and the like.
3 – The warmer the dough, the easier it is to manipulate. As the recipe unfolded and the dough cooled, forming it became more difficult, but it certainly wasn’t impossible. Obviously not; see the pictures above.
4 – Try to use the full hour. Just as churro dough is easier to pipe when it’s warm, the pastries are firmer and are more cooperative when they’re cold.
5 – This will seem to take forever. The first time I made a ganache, which this is, essentially, I stirred for, like, 1,756 hours (OK, it was more like two minutes, but it felt as though an eternity unfolded). Nothing but lumpy chocolate milk.
Still, I persisted and then, suddenly, a miracle. Everything came together, giving me a bowl full of satin. Sweet, creamy satin. Have faith, for you too shall master ganache!