Churros are one of the irregular ways of using the choux pastry: it is being piped directly into hot oil and cooks in there until done and golden brown. As a result you get light, airy and hollow pastries with crisp exterior. Churros are well recognized for their cinnamon sugar coating, it really stars here giving plain pastry a very light cinnamon flavour, and a little sugar adds an extra crunch and just right level of sweetness. Traditionally churros are served with hot chocolate sauce or dip, it is thick, rich and pudding-like.
History is divided on how exactly churros came to exist. Some say they were the invention of nomadic Spanish shepherds. Living high in the mountains with no access to bakeries, the Spanish shepherds supposedly created churros, which were easy for them to cook in frying pans over fire. Lending credibility to this version of history is the fact that there exists a breed of sheep called the “Navajo-Churro”, which are descended from the “Churra” sheep of the Iberian Peninsula; the horns of these sheep look similar to the fried pastry.
Another story says that Portuguese sailors discovered a similar food in Northern China called “You Tiao” and they brought it back with them. The Spanish learned of the new culinary treat from their neighbors, and put their own spin on it by passing the dough through a star-shaped tip which gives the churro its signature ridges.
Whether Spanish shepherds, Portuguese sailors or the Chinese get the credit for inventing the churro, it was the conquistadors who introduced them to Latin America. Since then, the modern day churro has undergone various reincarnations including guava-filled churros in Cuba, dulce de leche-filled churros in Mexico and a cheese-filled version in Uruguay. [source]
Straight or spiral-shaped, with or without a dusting of cinnamon and sugar, dipped in chocolate or just plain, churros, in all their creative variations, are loved by millions of people all around the world. I encourage you to try them making at home, too 🙂
The recipe makes 45 4.7-5″/ 12-13 cm long churros.
- 1 c + 1T/ 8.8 oz/ 250 ml water
- 1 stick/ 3.9 oz/ 110 g unsalted butter, chopped
- ½ t vanilla sugar
- ½ t salt
- 1 c/ 4.8 oz/ 135 g all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- vegetable oil for frying
In a small saucepan, add the water, butter, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, letting the butter melt completely. Remove from the heat and add all of the flour and stir virgorously with a wooden spoon until flour is fully absorbed and you get a dough that will form a ball. Return the saucepan over low heat and, stirring the dough with the spoon, cook it for another 2-3 minutes (this step helps to evaporate extra moisture in the dough). Remove the pan from heat and let dough cool for 10-15 minutes.
It is easier to continue mixing the dough with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Alternatively it may be done by hand, using a wooden spoon.
Transfer the slightly cooled dough to a bowl of a stand mixer. Add the 2 eggs with mixer on low and knead the dough until fully incorporated and smooth.
In a separate small bowl lightly whisk the remaining egg with a balloon whisk. Add a little of it (about 1 T) to the dough and continue mixing on low until fully incorporated. Probably you won’t need all of the egg. The dough should be thick, spread just a little and keep its shape well. To test the dough for readiness, run your finger through the dough to the bottom of the bowl, if the dough joins back slowly – it is ready.
Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with a star tip.
Fill a big heavy-bottomed saucepan or deep frying pan with vegetable oil at least 2″/ 5 cm high. Set it over medium heat and bring to 345ºF/ 175ºC. Line a large plate with a few layers of kitchen towels.
Pipe ~5″/ 12-13 cm long dough pieces directly in the hot oil and cut the end near the tip with a scissors or butter knife. Cook until golden brown, about 2-2.5 minutes per side. Alternatively pipe strips of dough onto parchment paper squares (make sure to smooth the ends with a wet finger) and carefully put them in the hot oil dough-side-down, removing the parchment paper after 1-2 minutes and continuing to cook the churros until golden brown all around.
Remove the churros from oil with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the prepared plate. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- ¼ c/ 2 oz/ 50 g sugar
- ½ t ground cinnamon
In a medium bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Toss the churros in the mixture.
Hot chocolate sauce (optional):
- 3.5 oz/ 100 g bittersweet chocolate
- 1/3 c + 1T/ 3.5 oz/ 100 g heavy cream
- 2 T maple syrup
Ad all the ingredients to a small heat-proof bowl and melt them over hot water bath or pulse in a microwave oven (with 30 second intervals, stirring the mixture well before pulsing again) until smooth and glossy.
Serve churros with hot chocolate sauce. The churros are best eaten on the day of making.