Friday, October 1, 2010

Chocolate con Churros

While on a bike tour in Paris, I met a mom from Houston and her college-aged daughter who had just finished studying in Germany. Mom complained to me that many of her daughter’s fellow travel companions had learned little about German history and culture other than the tradition of biergartens, where they spent most of their time.

I understood her dismay, but in the kids’ defense, I pointed out that one could argue that drinking decent beer and eating delicious bratwurst could be considered an enriching experience. I just applaud the kids for not seeking out Subway or Pizza Hut - the chosen fare of many of the students I studied with in Spain. I’m still shaking my head over the farewell dinner several students organized for our group at the Madrid outpost of the Hard Rock Café chain. I passed on overpriced, crappy burgers.

Which is not to say that I certainly couldn’t have better or more fully appreciated my time in Spain. I admit I was more often interested in spending afternoons on the beaches of the Costa del Sol than exploring the beautiful churches in Andalucía. I was certainly more enchanted with touring the bodegas and tasting sherry in Jerez than with the magnificent ancient Roman aqueducts in Segovia. And I loved wandering through the amazing Prado and the Museo Reina Sofia is an all time favorite, but I skipped visiting Ferdinand and Isabella’s graves.

While I may have missed the boat on a few historical highpoints, I did do a pretty good job of partaking of Spanish cuisine and wines. I was lucky enough to lodge with a few Spanish families and the Señoras were amazing cooks, one and all. Between the Señoras' delicious home cooking and the helado carts on every street corner, I never went hungry. But somehow I missed the churrerías, which I so regret. I didn’t discover churros until later in life and I’ve been kicking myself ever since that I didn’t taste this wonderful treat while in the motherland.

Of course, had I discovered the churrerías, the weight I gained over my summer in Spain would have probably have doubled. That extra ten pounds I came home with was worth every slice of jamón serrano but god help my thighs had I met the churro.


These churros practically melt in your mouth. They’d be great on their own but a chocolate sauce accompaniment is traditional in Spain and I’m not one to flout tradition (or pass up chocolate). A quick Google search turned up this recipe. Between Rick Bayless and Oprah, I figured I couldn’t go wrong. Aran at Canelle et Vanille also has a lovely looking, albeit more ingredient intensive, recipe. Rick’s version was a cinch and all of the ingredients are readily available in most home pantries. Churros are fairly easy to prepare (similar to a pâte à choux) but you’ll need a bit of courage to face the boiling pan of grease required for frying. You have to make sure the oil is hot enough but not too hot or the results will be disastrous either way. I highly recommend using a candy thermometer so you can eye the temperature closely. Prepare the chocolate sauce first because you’ll want to have everything ready to eat as soon as the churros are cooked. They’re not very good cold and don’t reheat well so be prepared to pig out!

Churros
adapted from Rick Bayless’ recipe on Oprah.com

2 T vegetable oil + additional oil to fill your pan to a depth of 1 inch, for frying
1 T sugar + 2/3 c to roll the churros in
Salt
1 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t cinnamon, preferably freshly ground
1. In a medium-small (2-quart) saucepan, combine the oil, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt with 1 cup water. Set over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add flour all at once, stirring vigorously until mixture forms into a thick, smooth-textured ball. Let the dough cool in the pan.
2. To cook the churros, heat oil in a large pan (a cast-iron skillet is recommended) over medium to medium-high heat to about 375° degrees Fahrenheit. Monitor the temperature closely with a thermometer and adjust as needed. Scoop the dough into a heavy-duty pastry bag fitted with a 3/8-inch star tip. Hold the bag a few inches above the hot oil and press out a 3-inch length of dough and use your fingertips to pull the dough free from the tip. Cook a test churro, turning occasionally, until it is deep golden brown- this should only take about 2 to 3 minutes if the oil is at the correct temperature. Remove the test churro to drain on a paper towel until it cools a bit and  then break it open to check for doneness—it should be just a little soft inside but not doughy. If the temperature of the oil is too low, the churros will take a long time to color and may burst apart before they're brown. If the oil temp is too high, they'll brown too quickly and won’t cook through.
3. Press out and fry the churros 4 or 5 at a time, draining each batch on paper towels. Spread 2/3 cup sugar over the bottom of a baking pan and mix in optional cinnamon. Roll churros in the sugar mixture while they're still warm. Serve immediately with the chocolate sauce. 


Chocolate Dipping Sauce
recipe adapted from Diana’s Desserts at Dianasdesserts.com

4 oz chopped dark chocolate
2 c milk
1 T cornstarch
4 T granulated sugar 
1. To make the chocolate sauce, place the chocolate and 1 cup of milk in a sauce pan and heat on low. When the chocolate has melted, dissolve the cornstarch in the remaining 1 cup milk and whisk into the chocolate with the sugar. Cook on low heat, whisking constantly, until the chocolate is thickened, about 5 minutes. Add extra cornstarch if the sauce does not start to thicken after 5 minutes. Remove and whisk smooth. Pour into cups for dipping churros.

4 comments:

  1. I cannot go without churros and croquetas whenever I'm in spain! luckily the bf is spanish so his mother spoils me with everyother spanish dish, including an amazing PAELLA!!!

    I think he will love me even more if I learn this recipe!! Thank you! xx

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  2. @Moodswings Aren't you a lucky girl! A bf with a Spanish mama is a keeper. I have to admit, though, the Spanish mamas I stayed with always made paella upon my arrival and leaving so I ate so much over that summer that it was a few years later before I had a taste for it again. Hope you try these churros- very simple and delicious!

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  3. I'm quite sure than churros could cause a significant increase to the size of my thighs! They look amazing with the chocolate sauce.

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  4. @Lisa is Cooking- I'm sure your thighs can handle some churros as active as you are! One spin class would probably burn off a half dozen churros - hmmm, maybe I could use churros for motivation to workout more.

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