Posted on January 02 2015
Yes! Churros! Going to school in Southern California has 1 benefit; the theme parks. I must have gone to each theme park a hundred times. Who cares if Los Angeles Unified squeezed 40 kids into each classroom and who cares that I only went to school half of the year (this school year system is now illegal in Los Angeles). I got to live every kids dream! Of course, this was before the internet and playstation. The first time I went to Disneyland in Southern California I was in 3rd grade. I only remember one thing about Disneyland. The churros. I spent my entire budget on churros. I was a hungry, strong, full (fat), little girl with purchasing power.
That day I must have eaten 20 churros and back in those days churros were really long. It was my 3rd grade victory and greatest memory.
Like most Mexicans, I thought churros were Mexican. But soon I learned that most sweet things are Spanish, Indian or stem from Medieval cuisine. The churro is the most popular fried sweet of all Latin America. I can proudly stand before you and say that I have eaten churros in 11 Latin American countries and Spain. Should there be someone that challenges me to a churro-thon, I accept.
This treat can be traced to 1540, an Italian chef serving in a French court created a similar concoction for baking (pate a choux) and at some point the French began to fry it (beignet) as well as the Spanish. The Spanish brought it to the New World and now every Latin America country has their own version.
Churros in Ecuador.
The most important thing in the life of the churros is that they be consumed within 10 minutes of removing them from the deep fryer, while they are still warm and crispy. Any self respecting churro maker will make them when they are ordered. This is why a great churro, like a great doughnut, can never be packaged for a long shelf life.
This is a churro maker in Colombia.
My favorite churro is The Basic- dense, crispy, star shaped, straight, dusted with sugar and Mexican cinnamon (aka ceylon). Meant to be eaten on it's own. No dipping sauce.
My least favorite is The Works-churro stuffed with dulce de leche, topped with dulce de leche and fudge, sprinkled with M&M's.
This is a popular vendor in Brazil.
My 'I will eat it if you put it in front of me' churro- anything in between the top two.
My favorite country for eating churros- Peru. They add pumpkin, spices, sauces, and dip them in spicy syrups. But in a natural way ... not in a crazy way like the Brazilians. They have an impressive array of churros. Read my 7 Churros of Peru post.
Churros in Peru that are partly made with yuca flour and called yuquitas.
In Cuba I have seen them filled with guava sauce while in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru they can be topped or filled with a dulce de leche, cajeta, arequipe or sweetened condensed milk. In Brazil, the most intense churro consuming culture, I have seen them filled with dulce de leche, topped with dulce de leche and finished by sprinkling candies on top.
Woman selling churros stuffed with dulce de leche in Peru.
Eating a long crispy churro in Mexico or California while taking a stroll is common, while in Spain they are served in restaurants or chocolaterias and are meant to be enjoyed while sitting down with friends and to facilitate dipping them in a sauce. Most people may look for churros at panaderias (bakeries) but that would be like searching for beignets in a patisserie- most bakeries don't like to fry.
El Moro in Mexico City is the most famous churreria in the Americas, established in 1935. They offer a variety of hot chocolates and serve churros in both the Spanish and Mexican manner. You can watch them make churros and it is worth the visit since it’s such a classic gem.
Mexican chocolate and churro at El Moro in Mexico.
Spanish churros (or porras depending where you are in Spain) are curved, sometimes smooth (no star shape), light, airy, thin and accompanied with a chocolate dipping sauce. Without this sauce the churros are really sad and not edible. It is literally a fried dough. Like a fried doughnut without sugar. Like ice cream without sugar. It's just a fatty, sad thing in your mouth.
In Spain you can find churrerias almost anywhere and it is definitely meant to be a social activity. Below is the average serving for one person; I love churros but not even I can get through that pile.
Some stores sell “churro mix”; it comes included with a plastic star tip and pastry bag. If you are the kind of person that doesn't keep flour in the kitchen this is a reasonable direction.
These churro carts fry on the spot and you can get a churro for about $2-3usd with the option to get filled churros; cajeta, fruit jam or chocolate. This cart is at the Fruitvale Bart stop in Oakland.
If you are on the other side of the states you can visit La Churreria in NoLita NYC, this is a Spanish style churreria that offers dipping sauce and filled churros. They are more than happy to toss your churro in cinnamon and sugar and they serve beer.
If you are ever in Los Angeles, this guy sells churros by the pound. He sets up every Saturday morning near Central and Olympic. It is impressive to see him make them; his recipe is from Guadalajara, Mexico which claims to have the best recipe in Mexico. Although he is using a monstrous churrera (purchased in Guadalajara), you can find mini churreras online for about $25.
Making churros is not difficult nor time consuming, you just the know how and a churrera. The con is that it tends to use a lot of oil, although sometimes I use only enough oil to cover the churro about 75% and it has given good results. Since I try to use minimal oil, I also use my smallest pot and that means my churros are little; about 3 inches long. My Disneyland long churro days are over. When I make churros at home I use this basic recipe: flour, water, milk, and salt. Some recipes use butter, oil and add eggs; this is ok too. Adding eggs and butter makes them very light. Other recipes will add a cinnamon stick to the boiling water and some vanilla. This works as well.
Step one: boil liquids, remove from heat, add flour. Stir fast to create a ball of dough (you can let a machine do this for you; mixer or processor)
Once the dough is smooth and has cooled put in your churrera or pastry bag. You can also use a strong plastic bag with a small hole.
This is one style of a made-for-home churreras; they are like cookie shapers. This is the one I have, it's inexpensive and easy to use.
Before you decide on how to shape your churros, look below. The churros on the left are what I wanted my churro to look like in terms of size. Every churro I piped in this size exploded. This one flew to the other side of my kitchen. Temperature and time changes made no difference. The churro size on the right is my recommendation if you don't want your churro to explode.
Since my dough is strong I can pre pipe them and have them ready to fry. I have also frozen the churros at this step; place them in the freezer to cool for about 15 minutes then remove and toss them in a plastic bag and freeze for up to 3 months. When you want to fry them let them sit at room temperature until they thaw.
Your house will smell like fried oil. Oil temperature should be 350-375F, drop your churro one at a time (they tend to stick if you do more), watch it, smile, turn it over until it’s golden brown. I made the churro below using very little oil and it was successful; sometimes I use enough to cover the entire churro; it’s up to you.
Remove from oil to paper lined plate for a few seconds to drain excess oil then toss in cinnamon sugar.
Sometimes your churros will be deformed. That’s ok. They will still taste great. Churro deformity happens when the churro is too thick. I suggest making them as thin as possible, not bigger than the width of your finger. Churros explode in the hot oil if your churro is too thick. This is very dangerous. The churro will explode and splatter hot oil on your ceiling, stove and hopefully not on you. Don’t stick your face above the pot. I have tried many churro recipes, many shapes, many temperatures. The only way I have been able to avoid exploding churros is by using a thin star tip to pipe my churros (no bigger than the width of your thumb).
My churros are on the pale side sometimes; it doesn't mean they are not cooked; it means that my temperature was too low. But I did realize that my churros never really reached the golden orange/brown color that I so often saw in other churros. After many travels and many questions; it was revealed that many churro vendors add orange food coloring to give this tint. If you added a whole egg, you would also get this tint. It's up to you.
The Churro Board of Ethics and Accountability does not allow me to publish a churro dipping sauce recipe but if you would like to wander over to my Peruvian Manjar recipe, which I think is the easiest way to make a dulce de leche, I would not get into trouble. I am somewhat against dipping churros into things.
Churro recipe (feeds 1 Arcelia)*
- Boil 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 cup of milk, pinch of salt.
- When it has come to a boil, remove from heat and add: 1 cup of flour. Mix fast and allow to come together like a dough. It will be very hot so you can’t use your hands. Use a wooden spoon or you can do this with a mixer.
- Allow to cool a bit then put in your churro maker or plastic bag with cut tip.
- Put a heavy pan on the stove and add a few inches of oil (or add a lot of oil, it's up to you); allow to reach 350-375F (very hot).
- Drop a little piece of dough to test; it should start to boil quickly but not burn.
- Pipe the churro into the pan and allow to brown, rotate. Once it has browned all around remove and put on a paper towel for a few seconds before tossing in the cinnamon sugar (1/2 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon).
*This recipe makes about 10, four inch churros.