I’m a major procrastinator. Which explains why by the time I got around to frying something in oil, Chanukah was pretty much making its exit. As long as you have an excuse to go ahead and pour a full bottle of oil into a pot, bring it to a boil, and drop items into it that you then eat, I suggest you get to it. And if you’re going to be frying anything, I’d cast a vote for churros.
I have rather vague memories of my childhood. A friend of mine can clearly remember incidents that happened when she was three or four, which she recounts vividly, down to what the adults in the frame were wearing, their hairstyles and the tone of their voices. Me? Not so much. I do, however, remember churros. Admittedly, these memories date back to when I was ten or eleven, but if we lean ever so slightly from fact to fiction, I can shrink down to four or five.
It goes like this: we’re at the mall- L.A.’s Westside Pavilion to be exact- and Zack and I are tagging along as our mother shops. Our outings usually included a visit to a toy store whose entrance had a second, tiny door just for kids. Once inside, we were greeted by stacks of science-fair type games and solar systems dangling from the ceiling. Next came a visit to a stamp store, narrow and cramped, its walls lined with hundreds of rubber stamps ranging from practical to whimsical. Before heading home, we would step into Gelson’s, a large grocery store right in the parking lot, cold air jolting us as we walked through the automatic doors. Let’s rewind a little, though.
The Westside Pavilion is an open-air mall, and old-fashioned carts selling trinkets and snacks dot the pedestrian areas, amid fountains and tall palm trees. The churros cart, with its golden, just-fried churros dangling from hooks behind a tall glass case, never failed to seduce us. I remember the churros being extra large, and the sound of the vendor placing a crisp napkin in his palm before grabbing one and handing it over to me.
Whether or not you have childhood memories of churros, you’ll want to make these. Golden and warm, the churros are crisp as you bite into them, quickly giving way to an airy interior, the cinnamon flavored sugar lingering on your lips. A warm chocolate dipping sauce takes this treat over the top. The dough comes together in less than 15 minutes, with ingredients you probably have on hand. The frying takes a bit of time, though, so it might be nice to have someone to talk to while you wait, and, more importantly, it might prevent you from polishing off an unhealthy amount as you fry away on your lonesome. Not that this is a confession.
Homemade Churros with Warm Chocolate Sauce
The batter for these deep-fried treats comes together really quickly. Drain on paper towels, roll in cinnamon sugar and serve warm.
For the Churros:
canola or vegetable oil, for frying
1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
For the Chocolate Sauce:
5 oz (150 grams) dark chocolate, chopped or broken into chunks
1 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons sugar (optional)
1. Fill a large pot with enough oil to measure approximately 2 inches deep. If you have one, attach a candy/deep fry thermometer to the side of the pot (if not, don’t worry).
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Set aside.
3. In a medium saucepan, melt butter, water, 1 tablespoon sugar and salt over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and add the flour all at once. Stir quickly with a spatula until the mixture is lump-free and begins to form a ball (about 30 seconds). Remove from heat and transfer the dough to a large bowl.
4. Using a spatula, mix the eggs into the dough, one at a time, stirring thoroughly after each addition. If it looks impossibly lumpy and messy, don’t worry! Keep stirring, the mixture will come together smoothly before you know it.
5. Spoon the batter into a large pastry bag fitted with a large open star tip (Joy used Aceto 829, I used a Wilton 1M). Alternately, you could use a strong Ziplock bag, snipping one end with scissors (you won’t get the ridged edges, but I’m sure it will still taste great); or you could just drop spoon fulls of batter into the hot oil (as Bittman of the NYT suggests).
6. Heat the oil, over medium heat, to 350F. If you have a thermometer, awesome. If not (and I didn’t), just test the oil once it seems warm by dropping in a small ball of batter (if the ball sink, it’s not warm enough; try again in a few minutes). The ball should float and sizzle immediately, browning evenly (if it starts to smoke or gets dark too quickly, the oil is too hot).
7. Once your oil is ready, carefully pipe the dough into the oil, using a pair of kitchen scissors to cut the dough into segments.
8. Fry dough for 5-7 minutes, turning the churros once as they begin to get golden. When they are a deep golden brown, remove churros from hot oil and place on a plate lined with paper towels. After slightly degreased, toss in cinnamon sugar and place on a serving platter. Serve warm.
To make the chocolate sauce:
In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Place chocolate chunks in a medium bowl. Pour the heavy cream over the chocolate, and allow to stand for a minute before whisking thoroughly. Add sugar if desired, to taste. Serve warm.
Churros are best served just after they are fried, and while they are still warm (although I can’t say I didn’t enjoy them the following morning, reheated for just a few minutes in a 350F oven).